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Jerry Costello

Leaving a Baby in God’s Hands

This is a story about the church. Our Church. It might be a Christmas story, because it has a baby in a manger. It might be an Easter story, because it has the happiest of endings. Or it might be an everyday story; you never know.

                Best of all, it’s a true story. We have that on the word of the man who told the story: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York. He told it in the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., at the National Prayer Vigil for Life, and it goes like this:

                A mother left her newborn child in the manger of a nativity scene last December in a church near her home in Queens, New York—Holy Child Jesus Church in Richmond Hill, in the Diocese of Brooklyn. The mother, a young Mexican woman, told her story to a reporter a week later; let her take it up from there:

                “I was so afraid, and, all alone in the house, suddenly went into labor. I must have been in excruciating pain for at least two hours…Finally the baby, a boy, came out. He didn’t cry at first, so I was afraid he was not all right. I didn’t know what to do…I wrapped him in a clean towel and started to look for someplace safe and warm…

                “I just knew if I left him in God’s hands, my baby would be okay. So, I ran into my church and put him in the empty crib. Then he started crying. I just hoped he was warm enough. I hid in the back of church, knowing Father would find my baby and the people would care for him. They did.”

                The mother was just 18, a child herself, in this country just a few weeks—lonely and frightened enough to leave her baby in the care of strangers. But as she said, the church was there. Cardinal Dolan, telling the story, considered some of the other possibilities.

                “She could have been going to a parish which she found cold, unwelcoming and impersonal, where she did not feel safe, and where she would not have been inclined to turn in her crisis.

                “Or, in those fretful minutes after her baby’s birth, she might have run to a church only to find it bolted-up, with a sign on the door outside telling her—probably in English—to come back during office hours. Thank God that scenario remains only a ‘might-have-been.’”

                The baby was named Jose—just like Joseph, the husband of Mary.  Alerted by a cry, someone found the child right away. Couples from the parish asked to adopt little Jose, but according to Father Christopher Heanue, speaking for the church, that much wasn’t clear right away. If she found employment, the mother might keep the child, she said. What was clear, said a woman from the neighborhood, was that a loving community had given him its welcome. “This little boy is always going to be a part of this church,” she said.

                Cardinal Dolan capped the story with a perfect ending, one that captured the child’s true destiny.           

                “Jose was never more at home than in the empty manger of their parish nativity scene,” he said. “Because he, too, is a child of God.”


For a free copy of the Christopher News Note OPENING YOURSELF TO GOD’S GRACE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: