Body of preterm baby found in Virginia pond prompts prayers, resource reminders

A sign for the Gabriel Project, which offers help and accompaniment to pregnant mothers, is pictured on the front lawn of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Catholic Church in Westwood, Kan. Gabriel Project was one of the resources pointed to by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Va., March 13, 2024, after the body of a preterm baby was found in a pond in his diocese. (OSV News photo/Megan Marley)

(OSV News) — Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, expressed “great sorrow” after the body of a preterm baby was found in a pond in Leesburg, Virginia, on March 11. He called on the faithful to pray for everyone involved in the incident, offered burial services and also drew attention to the resources the diocese offers to women in crisis pregnancies.

“I learned today of the unsettling discovery of the body of an unborn baby described by police as a ‘late-term fetus,’ found in a pond in Leesburg,” he said in the March 13 statement. “The Diocese of Arlington has made it known that we are willing to assist with the proper burial and committal of the remains.”

He called for “the faithful of the diocese and all people of goodwill to join me in prayer for the child’s mother and for anyone involved in this incident.”

Bishop Burbidge highlighted diocesan efforts to assist women facing difficult pregnancies. “Through its parishes, ministries and parishioners, the Diocese of Arlington encourages all women who find themselves in unexpected or difficult pregnancies to seek assistance through Project Gabriel ( or 703-841-3810), Catholic Charities ( or 703-973-0129), or the nearest Catholic Church,” he wrote.

The Leesburg Police Department said in a March 12 statement that they were “alerted at approximately 4:33 p.m., by a community member who discovered the body of a late-term fetus in the pond behind Park Gate Drive, NE in Leesburg. Emergency services responded promptly, and the area was secured for further investigation. The fetus was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia, for an autopsy.”

Leesburg Police Chief Thea Pirnat called the situation “deeply tragic,” urging anyone with information to come forward, “not just for the sake of the investigation, but also to ensure that those in need are provided appropriate medical attention and services.”

The police department also reminded the community that “there are resources available for individuals who may find themselves in distressing situations, including options for the safe and anonymous surrender of newborns under the Virginia Safe Haven laws.”


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