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Flood of emotion at Richmond Hill church where baby was found

By Gabriel Rom

When the staff of a Richmond Hill church discovered a newborn baby inside their Nativity scene, they were first shocked, then grateful.

The story has struck a chord with the public, and The Holy Child Jesus Church, at 111-11 86th Ave. has received dozens of offers from around the country to adopt the child.

On Nov. 25, church janitor Jose Morán found the infant, still covered in blood and with his umbilical cord attached, in the newly assembled crèche. He quickly alerted the parish office.

Paul Cerni, the parish office secretary, immediately called the police and his pastor, Father Christopher Ryan Heanue.

“My first reaction was shock,” Cerni recalled this week. “But that quickly gave way to the realization that this child had been put in a good location.”

Cerni and another parishioner cleaned the baby and swaddled him with towels.

“He was small, maybe about five pounds and whimpering softly, but he had color and seemed to be doing well. ” Cerni said.

“I realized that he was left here and not somewhere else. We see so many tragic stories of children found dead or hurt, but I felt confident that the baby would be treated well,” he said.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement that his office had decided not to press charges against the woman, whom he did not name, after she was located and interviewed on last week.

“The mother followed the spirit of New York’s ‘Safe Haven’ Law, which allows a parent to leave a child not older than 30 days with an appropriate person or in a suitable location where the parent promptly notifies an appropriate person of the child’s location,” Brown said. “It appears that the mother in this case felt her newborn child would be found safely in the church and chose to place the baby in the manger because it was the warmest place in the church, and further she returned the following morning to make certain that the baby had been found.”

Cerni said he has no idea of the woman’s identity, but speculated that it could have been one of the church’s parishioners.

According to security camera footage, the woman walked with the baby straight into the church.

“We are open all day, every day,” Cerni said. “She probably knew that, but who knows?”

According to police, the baby was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he remained in good condition at mid-week.

Since the discovery, Heanue has repeatedly visited the hospital. And while the baby’s future lies with the city’s Administration for Children’s Services, a family from the parish has expressed interest in adoption.

“God sends messages in these events,” Cerni said. “It’s like preparation for the return of the real baby Jesus.”

Cerni said that more than 50 people from across the country from as far as Hawaii, have also asked to adopt the child.

“We’re just a small church in Queens, and we are hearing from people all over the world.

“I’m moved,” he said.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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