Baby Agnes Doe continues to inspire respect for life

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Annual march slated for this Sunday

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Baby Agnes Doe continues to inspire respect for life

Emily Wagner

Emily Wagner

Emily Wagner

The shrine to Baby Agnes Doe still stands today in Oak Grove Cemetery in Tyrone.

It was a cold winter night in 1987 when a dog found the body of a baby girl abandoned near the backyard of a home near Kerbaugh Road in Bellwood. The child’s body had been stuffed into a plastic bag.

It was the kind of thing that rocks a small community.

“I was reading a magazine about finding a baby that had been abandoned and then days later I heard about it reading the [Tyrone Daily] Herald,” said Knights of Columbus member Pete Kreckel. The Knights asked for permission to give the infant a proper burial. They had chosen the name Agnes, after St. Agnes, patron saint of young girls.

Several months later, Baby Agnes Doe was given a funeral and laid to rest in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Tyrone on June 20th, 1987.

Your job as a parent is to love, care and nurture your child… it’s very special that the Knights of Columbus still honor her very short life.”

— Nick Lovrich, health teacher

According to Kreckel, the remains were never identified. He remembers that priest Father Joseph Strittmatter said the Mass at the funeral. “He said, if all of us could accomplish in our lifetime what Baby Agnes did in two days of her lifetime …” recalled Kreckel. “I carried her coffin up the steps of St. Matthew’s Church.”

The area where Agnes is buried is now known as “The Home of the Holy Innocent,” a grave site for Baby Agnes and other unwanted babies. The site was renovated in 2006 as part of an Eagle Scout project; it now includes a memorial statue and benches.

Baby Agnes has become the focal point for the yearly Respect Life March, a 1.25 mile walk from St. Matthew’s Church to Agnes’ gravestone, which publicly expresses the respect for life in all stages.

The march will take place once again this Sunday beginning at noon, and many Bellwood-Antis students from St. Joseph’s Parish are attending.

Kerry Naylor, an English teacher and BluePrint advisor at Bellwood-Antis, was a part of the first march. He remembers many young people being there. “It felt like we were really a part of something,” he said. “We were all united in saying we need to have respect for human life and dignity.”

Twenty years after Baby Agnes’s discovery, the Pennsylvania state police renewed the efforts to identify her, but have so far been unsuccessful.

Bellwood-Antis health and physical education teacher Nick Lovrich, who was an altar server at Agnes’ funeral, said the experience still affects him today. “Being a parent now, I don’t know how anyone could do that to their child,” he said. “Your job as a parent is to love, care and nurture your child… it’s very special that the Knights of Columbus still honor her very short life. It should make people realize how lucky they are.”