And baby makes 101 . . . to wear family’s heritage baptismal gown

Photo Caption: Wearing his family’s hertitage gown dating back to 1902, Patrick Benjamin Baxley is baptized by Msgr. Albert Hallin at St. Joseph’s Church, Ivesdale. (To view more photos, click camera icon at left.)

By: By Jennifer Willems

IVESDALE — Patrick Benjamin Baxley was accompanied by many holy men and women when he was brought to the baptismal font at St. Joseph’s Church here last Saturday by his parents Nathan and Sharon Baxley of Sadorus.

Some of them were in the “Cathedral of the Cornfield,” but most of them were there in spirit only as Patrick became the 101st child to wear the baptismal gown that has been used by his father’s family since 1902.

“It’s kind of an anchor to know your faith goes back that far,” Nathan, 35, told The Catholic Post. “The history of the Catholic Church is thousands of years old. That’s too big to latch on to sometimes. But people I know have been doing this for a long time. That’s very reassuring.”

Crowding around the baptismal font on May 22 were Patrick’s five siblings — Noah, 8; Marie, 6; Calvin, 5; Molly, 3; and Dominic, 19 months — who also wore the white garment in their turn, as did his father, his aunt Emily Polonus and five cousins, his grandmother, Celene Baxley of Pesotum, and his great-great-aunt, Celestine Magsamen of Monticello.

During the baptismal rite Msgr. Albert Hallin, pastor, gave young Patrick two more traveling companions for his journey of faith: St. Joseph, the patron saint of the parish, and St. Rita of Cascia, on whose feast day the baptism was held.

While they were not baptized in the heritage gown, godparents Ray and Betsy North entered its history by holding on to it as Msgr. Hallin said that Patrick had become “a new creation in Christ.”

“See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity,” he prayed over Patrick. “With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”

Two of the first children clothed in the garment, which was made by Theresa Temple Schumacher, would go on to be ordained priests of the Diocese of Peoria. Father Lawrence Schumacher was baptized in the gown on Jan. 11, 1902, and Father John Schumacher followed on Sept. 26, 1906.

In the ensuing years, the responsibility for caring for the gown has passed from mother to oldest daughter. The current caretaker, Celene Baxley, recently had some of the lace replaced and learned how to whiten the fabric. In between baptisms it is loosely wrapped in tissue paper and stored in a large box.

“I almost didn’t recognize it,” Nathan said. “I find it a real testament to my mom and her mom that this has been handed down. It would have been easier to put it in a box and forget about it but they didn’t. I’m proud that they have made it available to people.”

“It’s neat how not only the heritage of the physical garment but the faith it represents being passed down through so many generations,” Celene said. “I hope all the others baptized in it keep praying for those who are coming in. We’re counting on it.”

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