New York Mass offers hope to couples after miscarriage, infertility

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A Catholic Mass in New York City is offering hope and healing for couples suffering from infertility or miscarriage. The event, organizers said, began in response to a need.

“Infertility and miscarriage are often a very hidden loss, and couples can suffer them in silence and isolation,” Father Hyacinth Grubb, O.P., director of Dominican Healthcare Ministry, told Our Sunday Visitor. “It can be very difficult to find support, or even a recognition of what they’ve lost, even as these situations are more common than you might expect.”

“Grieving ought to be both personal and communal, which is why funerals are public, but since these losses are hidden, the couples who suffer them can endure a much more difficult and less peaceful grief,” he added.

This year, the annual St. Gianna Mass will take place on May 8 at the Church of St. Catherine of Siena in New York City at 6:30 p.m. ET. Hosted by the Dominican Healthcare Ministry, together with the Archdiocese of New York and the Gianna Center for Women’s Health and Fertility, the event is named after St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who refused medical treatment that would have endangered her unborn child. Today, she is the patron of mothers, physicians, and the unborn.

The event will include the veneration of St. Gianna’s relics and a reception with the opportunity to privately meet with English- and Spanish-speaking health professionals from the Gianna Center who specialize in infertility.

“My hope is that the couples who attend the Gianna Mass, or who unite themselves to it from afar, leave with a renewed confidence in the Church’s support for them in their trials,” Father Grubb stressed.

“I hope they find a recognition of their loss and a Christian community which is ready to grieve with them, especially in the context of the Mass and its healing graces,” he added. “And I hope that the presence of physicians from the Gianna Center will be a tangible promise of the Church’s commitment to their healing.”

The 2023 Mass marks the first St. Gianna Mass since 2019 after organizers paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Father Grubb said, they are looking forward to resuming it annually.

Ahead of the event, couples may submit private intentions that will be remembered at the Mass through the Dominican Healthcare Ministry website.

‘You need not bear this alone’

Father Grubb encouraged couples suffering from miscarriage to seek support from the Catholic Church.

“Couples who have suffered miscarriage should ask their local pastor for support,” he recommended. “He can offer a funeral or memorial Mass, and even a small or private Mass is an expression of the Church’s compassion and a promise of Christian hope.”

He added: “You need not bear this burden alone.”

The priest also emphasized support available for those struggling with infertility.

“Couples who struggle with infertility are bombarded with advertisements for invasive and morally unacceptable treatments like IVF,” he recognized. “The Church doesn’t abandon them but offers better alternatives through organizations like the Gianna Center, where physicians seek the root causes of symptoms and look for real healing, instead of covering up symptoms with artificial hormones or expensive and immoral treatments.”

For Catholics not sure how to find those organizations locally, Father Grubb recommended that they start by asking their pastor or searching their diocesan website.

A personal encounter

Father Grubb revealed that he has encountered parents mourning the loss of their child.

“I work in hospital ministry, and so I encounter couples when called to the hospital immediately after losing their child,” he said. “It’s a surreal moment, full of indescribable grief and quiet shock.”

He called the Church’s rite of blessing for parents after a miscarriage — which features an excerpt from the Book of Lamentations — the only fitting response. He cited the passage: “I have forgotten what happiness is, I tell myself my future is lost, all that I hoped for from the Lord … but I will call this to mind as my reason to have hope: the favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent.”

The Church, he said, should embrace couples grieving miscarriages or struggling to conceive.

“As a Church, we should not be afraid to engage with these losses, because they are so prominently part of our sacred history,” he urged, before pointing to specific examples.

“Think of how many couples in sacred Scripture struggled with infertility, from Abraham and Sarah all the way down to Elizabeth and Zechariah,” he said. “Think of how many parents lost children, starting with Adam and Eve losing Abel. That continues in the saints of the Church, up to St. Gianna in the mid 20th century.”

He concluded: “I’d like couples who suffer these trials to see themselves as part of the suffering of the Church throughout the ages, sharing an intimacy with the saints through their loss, and I’d like other Christians to welcome them in that light.”

Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.

Katie Yoder

Katie Yoder is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.