Lily’s Gift, named for the flowers of scripture and an infant, Lily, who never took her first breath, offers support to parents who receive prenatal diagnoses including a variety of conditions such as: genetic syndromes, heart problems and spina bifida.
The organization began in 2013 and is modeled after Be Not Afraid (BNA), a private non-profit corporation that supports families who receive prenatal diagnoses and trains local organizations to do the same. The Office for Persons with Disabilities, the Office of Life and Family and Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia partner in this ministry.
Lily’s Gift offers a free services focusing on meeting the needs of families who have received a prenatal diagnosis by connecting them with trained volunteer peer ministers and professionals. Ongoing care is provided via birth plans, referrals to community supports, compassionate guidance through anticipated grief, neonatal and stillbirth care, and medical decision making.
Lily Anna’s Story
Kate and Gaetano Chetta, received the news that their 22-week-old pre-born daughter had serious health complications the same week they discovered the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s new poor prenatal diagnosis ministry in their parish bulletin. At that time, the organization did not have a title. It was later named for their daughter as they were one of the first families helped.
The Chetta’s parish encouraged them to call one of the former mentors, Sister Kathleen Schipani, who reached out to them immediately.
“Sr. Kathleen spent hours talking with us, praying with us at the hospital; she helped us think about how to memorialize Lily Anna; she gave us a medal for Lily; she took her time and was very thoughtful,” remembered Mrs. Chetta. The professional photography non-profit Now I Lay me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) also took free remembrance portraits for the family, in accord with its mission.
“The best thing we got out of Sr. Kathleen’s ministry was knowing that someone was praying for our daughter and us,” added Mr. Chetta. He was astounded at the vast network of people who emailed with prayers.
Lily was stillborn at 26 weeks in April 2013. About a month later, Sr. Schipani contacted the Chettas and asked them to pray about using Lily’s name for the organization. They put it off until her due date in August when someone gave Mrs. Chetta the Bible verse: “Consider the lilies of the field…”
“We shouldn’t have any anxiety in our lives because God is with us. That gave us so much comfort,” recalled Mrs. Chetta. “In some ways it’s hard because there’s a lot of reminders of sadness, but we find a lot of joy in memorializing our daughter. As a mom, one of my biggest fears is people forgetting her. It’s amazing that a 26 week old baby could have such an impact.”
The Chetta’s identify themselves as pro-life and were saddened by the advice they received from a doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania who said if he were in their situation, he would abort.
While only 4 to 5 % of mothers (more than 100,000 nationwide) receive a prenatal diagnosis, according to BNA’s statistical brochure, “80% of parents choose to abort when a fetal defect is detected.”
“Think of what we would have missed: that love, sanctity and honoring the beauty and purpose of her life,” said Mrs. Chetta. “We hope and pray that Lily’s Gift reaches parents and gives them the support is gave us.”
She would tell other parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis, “You’re not alone. It’s hard, but there’s beauty and grace in the culture of life.”
“The fight for life hasn’t been so important as it is now,” Mr. Chetta added. “We’ve become the support in an organization that all life should be honored.”
The Chettas continue to participate in Lily’s Gift today.
Mr. & Mrs. Chetta with Lily Anna Chetta.