On December 28th, the Catholic Church commemorates the Feast of the Holy Innocents. They were Christianity’s first martyrs, infants killed at the decree of the wicked King Herod in his jealous search for the Christ child.

It is a tragic part of the Christmas story that might seem out of place amidst the merriment of the holiday season. And yet, this tension of Christmas joy with the agony of grief is familiar to anyone who has lost a loved one, particularly those families who have experienced the death of a child.

On October 19th, Bishop Rojas dedicated Holy Innocents Columbarium in Grand Terrace. Named for those first infant martyrs, the columbarium is intended to house exclusively prenatal and infant cremains, offering those who have lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or during infancy, a place to lay their child to rest.

Located behind St. Junipero Serra House of Formation, the columbarium was originally built in 1987 as part of Holy Spirit Monastery, which belonged to the religious Sisters of St. Benedict. When the monastery closed in 2011, the remains of the three sisters who had been inurned there were transferred to the sisters’ main community in Indiana. The diocese acquired the land from the monastery, but the columbarium remained unused.

Alfred Martini, director of the Office of Catholic Cemeteries for the Diocese, said Holy Innocents Columbarium came about in response to a need that he and many priests were seeing. Namely, that families who experience miscarriage and infant loss too often have limited options for burial.

“A lot of places won’t take a fetus under 20 weeks [because] you can’t get a death certificate.” Martini said, “So what we found was families were calling priests and saying, ‘I’ve had a miscarriage, but it’s my child. Do you have a place that we can bury them?…’”

From Inland Catholic Byte