In January, a worker at the Narragansett Bay Commission’s Bucklin Point Wastewater Treatment Facility discovered the body of a dead newborn baby in some debris. An autopsy on the male baby found the child was 19 or 20 weeks along, about halfway through a typical pregnancy at the time he was born.
Following the discovery, the Catholic Diocese of Providence extended an offer to the East Providence police, who are investigating the case, to provide a proper burial in one of the diocese’s Catholic cemeteries.
Now, the Catholic Church in Rhode Island has given the baby, named Baby Francis,” a proper funeral.
In a simple, but dignified ceremony this morning in a section of Gate of Heaven Cemetery set aside for the repose of babies, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin presided over a Christian burial service for the unborn child he named “Francis,” fulfilling a commitment he made to officials five months ago after a fetus was found floating amid the sewage at a nearby wastewater treatment facility.
A tiny white casket, with “Baby Francis 2015” inscribed on a gold plaque affixed to one end, and flanked by flowers and a small teddy bear, rested upon a portable pine altar as the burial service was conducted under a brilliant blue sky.
“Now, we must entrust the soul of Baby Francis to the abundant mercy of God so that this beloved child may find finally a home in his kingdom,” Bishop Tobin prayed before a gathering of about 20 individuals representing the diocese and its active Respect Life Office and Human Life Guild.
Despite a five-month investigation into the case, not much is known about the circumstances in which the unborn child ended up at the Bucklin Wastewater Treatment Facility on January 12, when a worker saw what at first appeared to be a doll floating amid the slurry in a collection area of the plant’s Screen and Grit Building, according to the East Providence Police Department.
At the time, the Bishop offered a “decent and proper burial” for the unborn child, also offering prayers for his parents and the situation that led them to dispose of a child in such a tragic way. The State Medical Examiner’s Office indicated the child was a male, about 19-20 weeks gestation, but could not release the body while its investigation was ongoing.
The bishop said he named the baby Francis in honor of Pope Francis and his steadfast promotion of the pro-life message and condemnation of the “throwaway culture” that includes abortion.
The bishop asked Msgr. Albert A. Kenney, his Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, to remain in contact with the authorities. On June 5, the body was released to the custody of the diocese, and was sent to the Boyle Funeral Home, which donated its services and the casket. St. Gabriel’s Call, a ministry of the diocesan Office of Life & Family, provided the flowers and gravestone that will read “Baby Francis – 2015.” The Catholic Cemeteries Association donated the burial plot.
After the baby was discovered, local resident David Pelletier, whose home in East Providence sits next to the wastewater treatment plant where the baby was discovered said he was shocked by the news, especially because there are high fences surrounding the plant.
“I don’t know how it got in there unless it went through the system,” Pelletier said.