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Bret Schundler Media Archives

"Baby Jane Doe" Is Buried With Prayers

Originally appeared in The Catholic Advocate on August 26, 1998

Newark Archbishop Theodore McCarick on Monday led a memorial funeral service for Baby Jane Doe the newborn girl found in a Jersey City sewage treatment plant in March whose remains were interred in a special gravesite at Bayview Cemetery in Jersey City.

The archbishop, together with local Protestant, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, took part in the interment service, which was initiated by Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler to emphasize the sanctity of life..

At the cemetery site, City officials installed a headstone with the engraving, "Memorial to the Forgotten." The $1,500 memorial was purchased by the city, with the help of donations from religious groups in the area.

The large plot, dedicated to Baby Jane Doe, will be used for the burial of persons who die in Jersey City unidentified or unclaimed.

"We gather together in disbelief at the fact that someone in our society could be so callous as to kill their newborn and dispose of it down a manhole cover," said Mayor Schundler.

"Life is sacred, " said the mayor. "This memorial will make sure that Baby Jane Doe is not forgotten."

Archbishop McCarick said the service was an occasion "to weep over deaths that might have been avoided if we would all recommit ourselves to a genuine respect for life at every moment of its existense."

The newborn girl, her umbilical cord still attached, was discovered on a conveyor belt amid debris filtered from the city's sewerage system on March 15 by a worker who thought she was a doll.

When the worker took a closer look and realized it wasn't a doll, he stopped the conveyor belt and called police.

Victor Rodriguez, a foreman at Jersey City's Municipal Utilities Authority Treatment Plant, who saw the body before authorities placed it in a small body bag, was quoted in news reports at the time as saying, "It was a beautiful baby. She had beautiful straight hair, a beautiful face, a little flat nose. She looked like somebody in my family."

In April, as efforts to identify the infant were unsuccessful, the mayor led a vigil service for Baby Jane Doe at the Watson Funeral Home, which donated its services, as did the Batesville Casket Company in Teterboro.

At the vigil, Father John Cryan, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Jersey City, gave the invocation. He also took part in Monday's interment service.

Our Lady of Mercy parishioners, who donated $1,000 for the funeral expenses, were among the many religious and civic groups which collected funds for the memorial. More than $3,200 was donated, according to Paul Schaeder, a spokesman for the mayor.

On August 21, a funeral service was held for the cremated remains of 47 unidentified persons who died in Jersey City. A casket containing the remains was interred at the site.


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