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Pope St. John Paul II tells us “Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good.” ( The Gospel of Life, no. 87)
For couples expecting a baby, it should be a time of joy. They choose names, share their excitement with family and friends and ready the home for the new arrival. But what if they receive the news that their baby may have a disability or a life-threatening health condition? It may be anacephaly, a heart defect, Down Syndrome, Trisomy 18 or Trisomy 13. There are few things more frightening that discovering that your baby may not be healthy.
Many times, professionals offer a gloomy outlook for the child and as a result some parents do not carry their babies to term. Often there is not a lot of information available to support the option of carrying the baby to term. A high percentage of babies who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome are terminated. When offered a service of compassionate support and comprehensive information, parents will often choose to carry to term.
Gianna Dickson was born on June 13, 2014. She lived for twenty-two minutes and died in her mother’s arms. Gianna’s parents, Kristina and John had known for months that her survival at birth was uncertain. “The diagnosis was the worst day,” Kristina shared. The Dickson’s always knew that they would carry Gianna to term. They felt alone and frightened and had many questions. They didn’t know if they should buy a car seat or a crib or other baby essentials and there was no one to ask. They found “Be Not Afraid”, a dedicated to serving those receive a poor prenatal diagnosis from someone close to them. The ministry helped them to know what to expect and how they could prepare for Gianna’s birth. “I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through this without BNA’s support,” John observed. John and Kristina received great blessings from their decision to place their trust in God and embracing Gianna’s life.
Those who have experienced an adverse prenatal diagnosis, or have lost a child due to stillbirth, miscarriage or newborn death are encouraged to consider becoming peer ministers in a new ministry of the Respect Life Office in our diocese, “Gianna’s Blessings”. It is important for parents to know that they have options when faced with a poor prenatal diagnosis. Fr. Steve Roberts states that, “This is a ministry that is greatly needed in our diocese.”
Peer ministers walk with parents throughout the pregnancy offering them encouragement and sharing their journey. Those who have not had a loss of this kind can also volunteer in a number of ways including prayer, translating, and meals. All peers and volunteers are screened and trained using the “Be Not Afraid” training model.
All those interested in the ministry or simply wanting more detailed information should contact Peggy Sheiko at the Respect Life office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have received a prenatal diagnosis and would like support please contact Peggy at email@example.com