Your God, my soul, truly lives and is the author and fountain of life.
- St. Robert Bellarmine
In 2010, we learned early in my pregnancy that our baby had Down syndrome. We feared the unknown but embraced the news with trust in God. We focused on the blessing that the Lord would choose us to raise this special child. Like most parents, we spent the remaining months of the pregnancy praying for our baby and deciding on his name. We chose Robert. That name held many family connections for us.
During an ultra-sound conducted in the second trimester, we learned that Robert had a hole in his heart. With the prognosis of needing surgery shortly after he was born, we reached out to all our family and friends to pray for our little baby still in the womb. My own prayers for our baby led me to search for the patron saint of people with Down syndrome. To my surprise, I did not find one. I had a fleeting thought that perhaps St. Robert Bellarmine should be the patron saint of individuals with Down syndrome. Just as quickly as that thought came, it left. In addition to my prayers to Our Lord, Jesus, His Most Blessed Mother, and St. Raphael the Archangel, I began to ask St. Robert Bellarmine to intercede for our baby.
Weighing in at just 3 lbs. 7 oz., our son Robert’s birth came seven weeks early. At birth, the doctors diagnosed Robert as having a blood disorder, a stroke on his occipital lobe and a congenital heart defect called a VSD, which eventually caused him to go into heart failure. Our neonatologist, also named Robert, worked on our baby for 9 hours to stabilize him. He told us our baby was a fighter and that he wouldn’t have survived in my uterus any longer. The decision that day for a C-section was our first miracle. There were many that followed. We attribute these to the many prayers and surely the blessings baby Robert received with the first class relics of St. Philomena, St. Sabina, St. John Neumann, St. Gerard, and St. John Vianney.
Robert had two open heart surgeries before he was four months old and spent 121 days in the hospital. It was a challenging time for us and our five other children but all of the prayers and love we received sustained us.
As Robert’s health continued to improve, my own personal curiosity into the life of St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church, grew. The more I learned about him, the more my devotion through him increased. I cannot express the joy I felt when my research revealed that his Feast Day is September 17. That is the day of my Mother’s birthday! She passed on November 25, 2003. I prayed to both throughout and I am confident that my mother worked closely with St. Robert Bellarmine interceding for her Grandson. The fleeting thought I once had about St. Robert Bellarmine being a patron saint of people with Down syndrome was far from fleeting now. It was always on my mind and I began to ask many priests how a saint gets designated to be a patron. All agreed that it is through prayer and word of mouth that this designation becomes known to the faithful. At a minimum, it is good to share the power of St. Robert Bellarmine’s intercession.
Desiring to do the will of God, I prayed for a sign to confirm whether Our Lord wanted St. Robert Bellarmine to be known as a patron saint for individuals with Down syndrome. I made this fervent prayer on a Saturday. The next day after Holy Mass, as I talked with two close friends, Robert, an usher who has Down syndrome walked from the other side of the church to greet us. This was not something he customarily did. We conversed and his words to us were, “I want you to know that Jesus and I talk all the time and St. Robert Bellarmine is my patron saint.” I turned to my friend and said, “That’s my sign from the Lord!”
Believing that I received my sign, I knew it was time to respond. I prayed to the Holy Spirit asking Him to please help me write a prayer for St. Robert’s intercession. Through His inspiration came three prayers; one for an expectant mother whose baby has Down syndrome, another for raising a child with Down syndrome, and the third for an individual with Down syndrome to pray. In 2011, my parish priest at the time, Fr. Leonard Klein, Director of ProLife Activities and Respect Life Committee for the Diocese of Wilmington, gave his support by reviewing the prayers and giving his approval. They were printed and distributed to all those the Lord put in my path.
With Fr. Klein's continued support, he agreed to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the Feast Day of St. Robert Bellarmine (September 17) for the intentions of individuals with Down syndrome, their families and friends. The attendance at the Mass was spectacular. Each year since then, and now in four different parishes located in four different states, Mass has been celebrated on the Feast Day of St. Robert Bellarmine for this intention.
In 2012, inspired to make St. Robert Bellarmine's intercession and patronage for individuals with Down syndrome more widely known, we developed this website.
Then, in 2014 under the encouragement and support of Fr. Greg Markey, pastor of St. Mary Church in the Diocese of Bridgeport, the MOMs+DADs (Mother of Mercy spiritual Divine Advocate for Down syndrome) prayer/support group began. Two more prayer groups are anticipated this year, one in Pennsylvania and the other in Virginia.
Through this Apostolate I have met so many wonderful families who have children with Down syndrome. Each year, one or two stories find their way back to us about how the prayers have helped either strengthen or console someone or bring together a small group in prayer. Most of us never thought we would have a child with special needs and all of us agree we would never change having a child with Down syndrome. We all concur that it is by the grace of God that we are able to be good loving parents even when times are tough. Children with Down syndrome give our families and communities so many blessings and graces that we could never imagine. They teach us how to live and how to love beyond measure. God has stretched our hearts so big with such gentleness, that we are able to raise these beautiful children with heavenly help.
We hope and pray this Apostolate will touch your heart and soul and help you to implore St. Robert's intercession for all your needs. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the Apostolate through our website. We are so grateful for all those who have helped the Apostolate grow, especially, Father Leonard Klein, Father Greg Markey and Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport.
June 2019, Robby is now 8 years old and is growing and learning so much these days. He is truly a beautiful gift from the hand of God (Jas 1:17) and we are so thankful! The love that illuminates from Robby is so pure and is a piece God Himself. His hugs and kisses are the best! I pray that all mothers who learn their baby has Down syndrome experience this joy and love of God! God bless you!