By Maria Wiering
Catholic News Service
ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — A newborn child found on the doorstep of the Cathedral of St. Paul was in good health and being cared for by local children’s services officials.
Nathan Leonhardt, a custodian at the cathedral, discovered the child Jan. 4 as he was locking the building about 6 p.m. following evening Mass. The baby was left in a plastic laundry basket between the exterior and interior doors of a church entrance.
Leonhardt and Father John Ubel, cathedral rector, cared for the infant boy in the church sacristy until emergency responders arrived. The priest said he baptized the child while waiting for police and an ambulance to arrive.
Father Ubel said he hopes the boy, whom he christened Nathan John, will be adopted by a Catholic family. He finds it significant that the baby was left at a Catholic parish. The baby was placed in the care of Ramsey County Child Protective Services.
Police are not pursuing the case as a criminal matter, said Sgt. Mike Ernster, St. Paul police spokesman. Minnesota law allows a mother to leave a newborn in a safe place within seven days of birth, such as a hospital or urgent care clinic without having to answer any questions. However, a church is not classified as one of those safe places.
Father Ubel believes, however, that the baby was left at the cathedral because the mother knew her son would be safe and cared for with the parish’s help.
When he first saw the basket with a blanket on top, Leonhardt thought someone had left laundry on the steps to the church foyer. He then heard a noise from the basket and thought it might be a puppy. When he removed the blanket, he saw the baby’s face.
“I was speechless,” he said. “I froze for what seemed to be 10 seconds, but it was probably more.”
He said the infant appeared to be recently born because he was still covered in blood and mucus and had not been washed. The umbilical cord was cut and clamped with a binder clip.
Father Ubel visited the hospital later in the evening but was unable to see the child. Police informed him that the baby was likely born slightly premature, weighed about 5 pounds, and is in good health.
The priest said he is grateful that the mother chose not to abort the baby. His is also proud of Leonhardt’s quick actions.
“The fact that this child was left off at a Catholic church is not an insignificant detail to me,” Father Ubel said. “Absent any other information forthcoming, I think it’s important that this child be given up for adoption, and there would be many willing Catholic couples who would welcome this child into their home.”
Like Father Ubel, Leonhardt also hopes the baby can go to a good home.
“They picked a good spot to drop him off,” said Leonhardt, 26, a parishioner of St. Patrick Church in suburban Inver Grove Heights. “It’s a church. We love children.”
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Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.