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Mourners gather at funeral for ‘Baby Jesse’

DUNKIRK – A Mass was held Saturday at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Dunkirk, where about 30 people came to pay their respects to “Baby Jesse,” the fetus found Aug. 29 on a beach at Lake Erie State Park.

The remains of the 18- to 21-week-old male fetus were released to the church group Monday.

“A lot of people want to know why it took so long to release the remains,” said Cheryl Calire, director of Pro-Life Activities for the Diocese of Buffalo. “But we know the State Police were very thorough in their investigation and they did a lot of testing to try to determine what happened.”

The fetus was brought to the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office by police after a family discovered the body while walking on the beach last summer.

The cause of death is listed as “intrauterine fetal demise.”

State police put out a plea for any information that would help them locate the mother or any information about the situation, but no leads came.

How the body ended up on the beach – whether it was left there or washed up by waves – has not been determined.

“These are very unusual circumstances,” said the Rev. Dennis Riter in his homily.

He said that the group did not want to condemn the mother or father of the child.

“He was named Baby Jesse because we did not want to talk of him impersonally,” Riter said.

“I reached out to the State Police as soon as I heard of the situation and offered to help,” Calire said.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Dunkirk offered its location for the Mass and a plot in St. Mary’s Cemetery on Route 60. The interment was in the area known as “The Shrine for the Unborn.”

“It was important to us that the baby be buried locally so that if the parents ever come forward they can visit the grave and pay their respects,” Calire said.

“We want people to know that we really value human life,” she said.

She was among the mourners who gathered for the solemn and dignified service with a tiny white casket, which was donated by McGraw Kowal Funeral Home.

Calire admitted she chose the name Jesse because initially she was not told if it was a boy or a girl. She said she thought of the name while in church during a Christmas service when the reading from the Book of Isaiah was about “the Root of Jesse.”

“I am so proud of all these individuals of the Catholic faith who came forward to help with this,” she said.