For years, some of the babies buried at Gate of Heaven cemetery were barely recognized there — with plastic markers that were meant to be only temporary left as the only recognition of their brief lives.
Those babies might have come from families unable to provide a marker, for whatever reason. More than a year ago, they caught the attention of one man who made it his job to make sure they were properly memorialized.
Joe Mulholland of Ocean City, Md., stood at the cemetery on Sunday, Sept. 11, and said it was his late wife, Jane, who pushed him toward the project. It was visiting Jane’s interment spot at Gate of Heaven that made Mulholland aware of the babies’ unmarked graves.
“She would have said, ‘Joe, get busy!” he said, smiling, surrounded by family and friends at a ceremony dedicating a monument for babies laid to rest at the cemetery. “She motivated me,” he said, adding that his wife loved all children but had a special affinity for babies. “It’s a great feeling” to see the project come to fruition, Mulholland said, adding, “I was only one part; there were a lot of parts to it.”
Bishop William Francis Malooly of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington presided over the ceremony, blessing both the standing monument and the small stone markers with holy oil and incense.
“Let us always remember that every life, whether brief or long, deserves to be treasured,” Malooly said during his blessing.
The ceremony came after a Mass of Remembrance at the cemetery, held each of the past 14 years on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The marker and the stones are the result of a fundraising effort spearheaded by Mulholland, with the help of his grandchildren, who helped him set up a GoFundMe fundraising page for the project on the Internet
The effort surpassed its goal and raised $8,000 — enough for the monument, as well as markers for the babies currently interred at Gate of Heaven and 25 more.