“For unto us a child is born,” Rev. Christopher Ryan Heanue announced on the parish’s Facebook page. “Let us pray for this child, for his parents and for whomever will receive him into their home.”
The identity of the baby’s mother is still unknown, though police told the New York Times that a video shows a woman arriving with the baby and departing without him. She likely entered the church between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., the period in which the custodian left the empty chapel for lunch.
Doctors said the baby had been born just four to five hours before he was found, and police told the Associated Press that he is in good health.
The baby’s origins are still being investigated, as authorities question witnesses for leads on the mother.
New York has a “safe haven” law which protects from prosecution anyone who anonymously leaves an unwanted newborn in certain designated locations, such as hospitals, firehouses, police stations and churches. But anyone seeking to take advantage of the law is obligated to leave the newborn in someone’s care or to alert authorities immediately that a baby has been left at a safe haven location, neither of which happened in this case.
While it is unclear whether the baby’s mother or someone else will face criminal charges, the congregation of Holy Child of Jesus was sympathetic to the plight of the woman seen on the video who apparently left the newborn in the manger.
“It wasn’t an abandonment,” Heanue told CBS. “It was placing him in the hands of God.”
Congregation member Lauren Shiner, who is herself a new parent, said: “She was probably just thinking that this is a safe place and that the person who would find him would do the right thing.”
Holy Child of Jesus is located in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens. Heanue, who was ordained only five months ago, told the Times that his congregation reflects a “true melting pot.”
As it so happened, the church’s nativity scene indoors had been newly-prepared by the custodian on the day of the baby’s birth — just in time for the early Christmas miracle that awaited that afternoon.