Christ Child Society marks decade of loving service here to new moms in need

Shari Paris of St. Mary Parish, Pontiac, and Patricia Grove of St. Mary of the Woods Parish, Princeville, measure fabric that will be used to make receiving blankets for the layettes prepared by the Christ Child Society of Central Illinois. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Bringing a baby home from the hospital is a joyful occasion for most families. For others, that joy can be overshadowed by stress if they are in need that places their precious newborn at risk.

For the last 10 years, two chapters of the Christ Child Society in the Diocese of Peoria have worked hard to replace that fear with hope in the form of layettes filled with baby items, as well as prayer and love.

Kathy Stomberg, president of the Christ Child Society of Central Illinois, shows Bishop Jenky fabric books that were made and donated by volunteers. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“Everything is new. That mother takes that home and she’s got this new baby that’s so wonderful and everything is new,” said Judy Hayes, a member of St. Mary in El Paso and former president of the Christ Child Society of Central Illinois. “Later on she may have to take hand-me-downs, but she brought that new little baby home with new things.”

And everything is handmade with love, she told The Catholic Post

“The Christ Child Society motto is ‘Where Love Leads to Action,” so it’s with love that we do this,” Hayes said.

Love and a firm respect for the life of the mother and her baby also drives members of The Christ Child Society of the Quad Cities. Mary Anne Dockery-Jackson of St. Pius X in Rock Island and a founding member of that chapter said they partner with the Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf, Iowa, and offer help through Layettes of Hope.

“They’re mini layettes and have a cap, a sleeper, a onesie, some diapers and a little package with a prayer card,” she explained, noting that every woman who goes there for a pregnancy test and learns she is pregnant receives one.

“It is really the clothing to bring her child home from the hospital. Women can visualize their child more when they see the clothes,” Dockery-Jackson said. “It really affirms the personhood of that new life, that new child.”

The Quad Cities chapter also provides large layettes to the Child Abuse Center in Moline for their baby showers, and to Trinity BirthPlace Center of UnityPoint, also in Moline.

A BISHOP’S REQUEST

The Christ Child Society came to the Diocese of Peoria through a request Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, made to members of the Bishop’s Commission on Women in the Church and in Society. The organization had active members in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, where he had served as auxiliary bishop before coming to central Illinois in 2002.

“I thought so much of them,” he told The Post during a recent visit to the Christ Child Society workroom at the Family Resources Center in Peoria. “They had days of recollection . . . and I used to celebrate Mass for them.”

He suggested that a chapter be established in the Diocese of Peoria to address some of the concerns the Bishop’s Commission on Women expressed about the best way to support mothers and their babies.

“It puts substance behind our pro-life Gospel — taking care of God’s little ones,” Bishop Jenky said. “I’m so happy it’s taken off. It’s simply a wonderful, good work.”

Members of the South Bend chapter hosted a meeting for the members of the Bishop’s Commission on Women and visited Peoria. Eventually a member of the National Christ Child Society paid a visit to offer guidance as the local chapters formed.

While Dockery-Jackson attended the organizational meeting in Peoria, she said there was enough interest in the Quad Cities to establish a second chapter there that would serve both sides of the Mississippi River. That happened with the permission of Bishop Jenky and Bishop Martin Amos of the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa.

Both the Christ Child Society of Central Illinois and the Christ Child Society of the Quad Cities were chartered in October 2008.

Father John Verrier, pastor of St. Joseph in Brimfield and St. James in Williamsfield, is the chaplain for the Central Illinois chapter. The current president is Kathy Stomberg of St. Anthony, Bartonville. In addition to the Peoria Circle, there are circles in Bloomington and Pontiac.

Deacon Matthew Levy of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Silvis and St. Patrick in Colona sits on the board of the Quad Cities chapter and offers spiritual guidance. Lisa Levy, his wife, just succeeded Deacon Joseph Dockery-Jackson as president.

WIDESPREAD SUPPORT

Both chapters receive support from volunteers around the diocese, who throw baby showers, collect diapers and other baby items through parish drives, and make quilts, fabric books and caps to place in the layettes, among other things.

Assembling Layettes of Hope for the Christ Child Society of the Quad Cities are (from left) Lisa Levy, president; Karen Gibbs; and Melinda Olson. (Provided photo)

Mary Anne Dockery-Jackson said every three months the clients of the Women’s Choice Center are invited to a baby shower with food, refreshments, games and decorations, just like you would find at any other shower.

“We give a large bag of clothing to each mom who requests one. That includes three sleepers, five onesies, three outfits, hats, a bib, booties, a book and information on the importance of reading,” she said. “Everything is new.”

Dockery-Jackson noted that the parishes and organizations that host the showers add personal touches that make people feel “blessed and touched.”

The board policies of the Quad Cities chapter also make it possible for two or more board members to provide for additional needs, up to $100, if they agree about it.

The Christ Child Society of Central Illinois makes layettes available to 15 hospitals in Bloomington-Normal, Canton, Galesburg, Macomb, Ottawa, Pekin, Peru, Pontiac and Spring Valley. About 40 are donated each month.

As of June, 227 layettes have been delivered to the hospitals. Last year, the chapter donated 393, and in 2016 it provided 347.

“SUCH A BLESSING”

Social services in each hospital make the determination about who receives one, often at the recommendation of the nurses.

The layettes provided by the Central Illinois chapter include diapers, three receiving blankets, three onesies, two gowns, three sleepers, as well as a “sleep sack” and laundry basket, among other things. Former president Kay Gray of St. Philomena in Peoria said the laundry basket can serve as a “safe little bed” if a family doesn’t have a crib.

The recommendation for the “sleep sacks” originated with the National Christ Child Society, but proved to be expensive to buy. So the Central Illinois chapter developed a simple pattern and sews them. That pattern and the directions now appear on the national website.

Officers of the Christ Child Society of Central Illinois who will serve for the next year are (from left) Beth Miller, recording secretary; Elaine Mills, second vice president; Therese Peck, first vice president; Marie Brien, corresponding secretary; Judy Hayes, immediate past president; Judy Weber, circle liaison; and Kathy Stomberg, president. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Hayes said the Christ Child Society has been so successful because it meets a real need, which continues to increase, and offers an opportunity for people to donate as they are able. “It’s a good feeling when you give for babies.”

If something is donated but can’t be used because it is the wrong size or something that doesn’t go into a layette, it is donated to Catholic Charities for the St. Gianna Baby Pantry.

“Christ Child is such a blessing, not only to those who receive but to those that give of their time and talents in this special ministry,” said Stomberg, president of the Central Illinois chapter.

“It is awesome to think of how many layettes have been given the last 10 years,” she said. “God has provided us with so many resources and generous contributions to accomplish our mission to reward those families that have chosen life.”

For more information or to volunteer with the Christ Child Society of Central Illinois, call (309) 677-7697 or send email to christchildsociety@gmail.com.

New members are also welcome at the Christ Child Society of the Quad Cities. Call (309) 786-2385.

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