Three Priests and a Baby

VIENNA — It was an unusual evening for the three priests at St. Mark Catholic Church in Vienna last Monday. When they were getting ready to turn in for the night at the rectory on April 24, the sound of a baby crying came from outside at about 10:15 p.m. Father Stewart Culkin, pastor, heard it from his room and Fathers Francis deRosa and Christopher Pollard, parochial vicars, noticed it from the living room. "We all converged at the front door at the same time," said Father de Rosa Alone on the doorstep was a four-month-old girl, Sadgi Gill. The priests learned later that she had been abducted from the Maple Wood Park Apartments in Manassas shortly before 9 p.m. Her mother had left her briefly in her second-floor apartment, strapped in her car seat, while she went to unload groceries from her vehicle in the parking lot. The infant arrived at St. Mark’s unharmed. "It was tragic, but obviously there were some comical aspects to it," Father deRosa told the HERALD. "We felt like three priests and a baby," he told the Fairfax Journal last week. "At first we felt bad for her. Then we thought we just might have an addition to our family. We even thought about raising her as a nun." "It was like a movie," said Father Pollard. "At first we were incredulous, and then we thought, hey, maybe someone should pick up the baby. We’re not taught about this in the seminary." The priests brought her in and called Fairfax County police. The parents are not parishioners at St. Mark’s. Father deRosa said that there is no known connection of the incident to the church. Father Pollard, who does not have nieces and nephews, held her most of the time, said Father deRosa. "He did very well with the baby." "I was born to be an uncle," said Father Pollard. "It’s my God-given innate natural ability. It was kind of an adventure to have her there." Father Culkin, for his part, said Father deRosa, was relieved that he had his two associates with him. In his nearly 29 years as a priest, the pastor said, nothing like this had ever happened to him. After the baby had been there a while, "she started getting cantankerous and needed changing," said Father deRosa. Since no diapers or formula are kept at the rectory, the priests called a pediatrician parishioner whose daughter had a newborn child, and the needed supplies were brought. For her name, "I chose Arizona, from the movie "Raising Arizona," said Father Pollard. "Father deRosa chose Clotilde and Father Culkin didn’t choose a name." "We had given thought to keeping her and even baptizing her, but three priests and a baby is not enough," said Father Pollard. "It was the subject for my homily this week. In addition to being baptized, the faith has to be taught; (one is) not to be baptized and then live life as though it had never happened." The baby was at the rectory for slightly over four hours, until the parents came to retrieve her. Since the infant’s abduction and abandonment occurred in different counties, said Father Pollard, he understood that jurisdictional problems caused some time delay. "It was a very happy ending that her parents were able to come so quickly," said Father Pollard. "It was nice to go back to bed at 2:30 a.m. and not lose any more sleep over it." "The mother was very relieved to see her baby," said Father deRosa. The parents, believing that it was God’s hand that brought the baby to the church, said, "She was in the hands of God," he recalled. Police are asking individuals with any information about Sadgi Gill’s abduction, or who may have seen a white minivan near the Maplewood Park Apartments in Manassas or St. Mark Church on Vale Rd. in Vienna to call Prince William County Crime Solvers at 703/670-3700. Calls will be kept confidential and may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2000