May 27, 2016

New memorial to the unborn makes ‘good statement on human life’

Nicholas Lam, a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, touches the head of the sculptured infant atop the new Memorial to the Unborn at St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis on May 1. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Nicholas Lam, a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, touches the head of the sculptured infant atop the new Memorial to the Unborn at St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis on May 1. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

After seven years of raising funds and planning, the Pro-Life Ministry of St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis proudly held a dedication ceremony for the parish’s new memorial to the unborn on May 1.

After the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass, parishioners and pro-life advocates gathered just outside of the entrance to the church, where Father Nicholas Dant, the parish’s pastor, blessed the new stone bench and memorial.

(Related: Archdiocese boasts several sites of memorials to the unborn)

“It fits perfectly into this alcove by the entrance,” Father Dant said. “It’s where it was meant to be.”

Margaret Stempky, head of the Pro-Life Ministry, said the project started more than seven years ago when longtime committee members and past leaders Peggy and Jerry Stawick put forth a challenge to the group.

“They asked us to commit to the idea of creating a memorial to the unborn here at St. Matthew,” said Stempky. “We did, and we slowly raised funds from our Mother’s Day roses we sell each year. It took about five years to gather enough money [before] we could then start thinking about what we wanted to do.”

The idea for the final look of the memorial came from a fortuitous exit out of a church in Virginia, Stempky said.

“Janet Cottler has been a longtime member of our group. She was visiting a grandchild in Virginia, and they said, ‘Come on, Grandma, let’s go out the side door of church.’

“When she walked outside, that memorial [like the new one at St. Matthew] is what she saw. She brought us back a picture. We fell in love with it, and knew what we wanted to propose to St. Matthew’s parish council as a possibility.”

Cottler worked with Thomas Marsh, the sculptor of the memorial in Virginia. He created a similar memorial but in a different, bronze material, making St. Matthew’s memorial an original work.

The final result was a team effort, said Stempky. The pro-life group collected more than $3,000, which covered the memorial and part of the bench. Two anonymous donors contributed the remainder of the funds. The parish men’s club paid for landscaping, which was provided by a parishioner-owned landscaping business. And parishioner-owned Feeney-Hornak Keystone Mortuary provided free consulting services that Stempky called “a God-send.”

“There was a gentleman there named Bill Mingus,” she said. “When I began this [project], I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Mike Hornak was in our parish, so the first thing I did was call his [mortuary] location and said, ‘Could someone just talk with me about what to do?’

“Bill was like an angel. He answered questions. He helped me pick out stone. I couldn’t have done it without them—all free of charge.”

Father Dant was another major supporter of the project, Stempky said. The pastor suggested the prominent location for the memorial next to the church entrance.

“I was looking for an aesthetic, pleasing place where it would fit in well,” he said. “Also, with it being close to the entrance, people would always see it.”

Stempky couldn’t be more pleased with the location.

“He very easily could have said, ‘You can put it on the side of the church or in the nature lab,’ ” she said. “It was a dream that we’d have it up front, but we never imagined that we’d get so glorious a spot.”

Larry and Mary Dougherty, members of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis, attended the blessing of the memorial. Mary is program director for Right to Life of Indianapolis and is the chairperson for her parish’s Respect Life Committee.

“It’s so important that it’s in the front of the church,” said Mary. “This beautiful memorial to the unborn is a wonderful example of what other parishes could do. It’s just beautiful.”

Judy Lam of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis also attended the blessing. She is a former member of St. Matthew Parish, and she was also a member of the pro-life committee during the fundraising and planning stages of the memorial to the unborn.

“I was just so happy for the group because I know it’s something they’ve been working on for a long time,” she said. “It was great to see it finally come to fruition.”

While Father Dant is quick to note he is fairly new to the parish and that the project was already underway when he became pastor, he is thankful for the efforts the pro-life group put forth.

“We need to keep the idea of ‘respect life’ always before our eyes,” he said. “This memorial is a good statement on human life.” †

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