St. Louis Parish in Princeton fills, opens the “Magi Baby Chest” for families in need
PRINCETON — Christmas and Epiphany are months away, but members of St. Louis Parish are imitating the generosity of the three kings by supporting a new, parish-based baby/toddler supply center called the Magi Baby Chest.
The pro-life social outreach, located in a remodeled room of the St. Louis Catechetical Center, will open to families in need for the first time on Saturday morning, Oct. 1.
Throughout September, parishioners and the wider community have been donating funds or baby/toddler supplies to stock the new outreach.
“The outpouring of donations of supplies and monetary gifts has been incredible,” said Msgr. James Kruse, pastor, speaking in a room with diaper boxes stacked high and tables filled with wipes, formula and baby food, clothing, and assorted gear and toys.
Msgr. Kruse developed the idea for the supply center during the summer while considering how the parish could provide assistance to families and “help them embrace life” following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade abortion decision. He hired parishioner Jessica Murphy, who formerly worked as a counselor at the Women’s Care Center in Peoria, to be the outreach’s part-time director.
Plans for the program were shared with the parish on Aug. 25, the feast of St. Louis.
OPEN FIRST SATURDAY OF EVERY MONTH
“The Magi theme was chosen in order to recall how (they) brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus,” said Msgr. Kruse. “The Magi Baby Chest seeks to imitate the generosity of the Magi as we distribute baby supplies to families in need,” he explained, adding that the dignity of each child and family served will be upheld in the spirit of the Christ Child.
Msgr. Kruse noted that, by coincidence, the initials of the new outreach “MBC” are also the traditional names of the three kings — Melchior, Balthazar, and Caspar.
Parishioners have responded with gifts not only of treasure, but of time and talent.
“We’ve had so many volunteers from the church sign up, which has been such a blessing,” said Murphy. The Magi Baby Chest will be open the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to noon. Families will not be asked to demonstrate need, and the supply center is open to all “regardless of religion, race, age, lifestyle, or place of residence.”
To uphold their dignity in providing for their family, visitors will be asked for a $5 donation. They will then be presented coupons that allow them to choose a limited, but significant, amount of baby supplies.
“I hope they feel very welcomed into a relaxed environment when they walk in,” said Murphy. A play corner is planned to keep children occupied while their parents “shop.”
“There’s going to be no judging,” added Msgr. Kruse. “They will show up and we’ll say ‘How can we help you.’”
The Magi Baby Chest will not provide cash or other assistance, counseling or referrals, or transportation, and will not accept government funding.
“The idea is to supplement, not a complete support,” said Msgr. Kruse.
Inventory will be taken following each distribution day to determine needs. A donation guide is available at the parish giving ideas for new, un-opened baby items. While the outreach accepts gently used baby and maternity clothes, it cannot accept used car seats, cribs, mattresses, or toys.
“A BEACON OF HOPE AND ASSISTANCE”
Those wishing to financially support the Magi Baby Chest are invited to make checks payable to St. Louis Catholic Church. The address is 616 S. Gosse Blvd., Princeton, IL 61356.
Msgr. Kruse said he has witnessed God’s hand in the efforts thus far, and believes the idea can take root in other parishes.
“I am confident that our parish will be a beacon of hope and assistance to many families who may struggle to embrace the dignity of life,” he said. “May the three Magi from long ago assist us from heaven as we strive to imitate their radical hospitality by meetings the needs of little children, just as they helped baby Jesus.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on Magi’s Baby Chest, email Jessica Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.