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Trappist monks give free caskets to parents for children and babies

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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 12/09/22

In the midst of devastating loss, the monks’ generous ministry is a consolation to grieving families, including those who've lost children through miscarriage.

Losing a child is a devastating experience, but a little-known ministry is bringing consolation to grieving families.

The Trappist monks of New Melleray Abbey in Peosta, Iowa, have a tradition of giving away their child and infant caskets free of charge to families who need them. (You can donate here to help them continue this beautiful ministry.)

The monks’ website explains:

At New Melleray Abbey, the monks view the crafting of child caskets as a corporal work of mercy, and a way to bring some small measure of comfort to families who bear the tragedy of burying a child … The donation of child caskets to families is an important ministry of the monks of New Melleray Abbey. The monks feel this is a small way to touch the lives of people in the outside world, while remaining true to their vocation.

My friend’s experience

My good friend Rebecca lost her unborn baby to miscarriage last month, and her family was so grateful for the monks’ casket ministry.

“Trappist Caskets brought so much comfort and peace during a difficult time for our family,” she told me. “We are so grateful for this beautiful ministry.”

She told me that her husband found out about the ministry thanks to an article by Leah Libresco Sargent, “The Terrible Mercy and Love of a Child’s Casket.” When he called the monks to request a casket, they sent it right away and the family received it two days later.

Rebecca was far enough along in her pregnancy that she was able to identify and save her baby’s little body. With help from their parish priest, she and her husband decided to have a funeral Mass and Catholic burial for their baby. 

Catholic cemeteries offer options for burying miscarried babies, including an entire section for child, infant, and miscarriage loss. The monks’ casket ministry made the process a little easier.

“Unfortunately the death of a child can pose a financial burden in addition to the mental toll,” she told me. “This ministry helps to lighten any financial burden involved in burying a child or infant.”

I had the privilege of attending the funeral Mass for her baby, and it was heartbreaking to see the little casket, so tiny my friend could hold it in her hands. 

But there was something moving about how beautifully made it was. The monks craft these small caskets with so much love and care.

After the funeral Mass, another friend shared with us that she wishes she had known about the monks’ casket ministry when she suffered a miscarriage the year before. The ministry is not widely known, but it should be, as no doubt many grieving parents would appreciate receiving a casket from the monks. 

I am sharing it here so you know about it, in case you or someone you love loses a baby to miscarriage. In the midst of such devastating loss, the monks’ generous ministry is a consolation.

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