Father Jesús Mariscal helped a mother give emergency birth on church grounds in Yakima, Washington
A young priest helped a distressed homeless woman bring two young lives into the world. He shared the remarkable story with Catholic Extension, and now is wondering what God was trying to tell him through this extraordinary experience.
Father Jesús Mariscal is the parochial vicar at St. Paul Cathedral in Yakima, Washington. He stepped out of the rectory in September for what he thought would be a quick trip to buy donuts for a marriage preparation meeting with an engaged couple.
As he walked past the statue of the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, located on the cathedral grounds, he noticed a homeless woman in distress standing near it.
She was screaming frantically,
I need help! I’m having a baby!”
Father Mariscal couldn’t believe it at first. But he looked closely and saw blood at her feet. She cried out, “I’m having it now! I’m having it now!”
He called 911 and helped the woman lie down. He put his phone on speaker and placed it on the ground so he could follow their instructions.
Within seconds the woman gave birth to a baby boy. Father Mariscal handed the crying boy to the woman.
“I’m having another!” she shouted to the shocked priest.
Father Mariscal delivered the second boy. He told the 911 operator it was still in the amniotic sac, the protective membrane that surrounds a child in the womb. Father Mariscal saw the baby moving inside it.
The 911 operator told him to break it open. This proved more difficult than expected. With precious time evaporating, and no tools at his disposal, the priest was finally able to burst the sac with his hands, only to find the tiny infant wasn’t breathing.
His umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. The operator told Father Mariscal to lay the child on his side and gently tap him on the back.
After a few terrifying moments the baby started screaming and announcing his arrival into the world. Father Mariscal placed the second child in the woman’s lone free arm.
The morning air was chilly, so he ran inside to get towels. Finally, the paramedics arrived.
Father Mariscal texted the couple he was supposed to meet for marriage preparation.
“I’m sorry I’m late for our appointment. I was just helping a lady deliver twins,” he wrote.
They responded, assuming it was a joke to excuse his tardiness, “LOL Father. You don’t have to lie.”
Where is God in all this?
The woman and twin boys were taken to the hospital. The babies were born premature, at 30 weeks. Father Mariscal has visited them in the hospital. They are doing well.
Father Mariscal does not know the exact nature of the mother’s situation in life. She left the hospital a few hours after being admitted, and as far as anyone knows she has not yet returned.
“It’s a beautiful story on one side, but heartbreaking on the other,” said the priest, whose own beloved mother passed away earlier in the year.
“It was a surreal experience,” he said. “It was like something from a movie.”
“I was there holding a baby with my bloody hands, and the baby was all bloody as well, and I’m dressed in clerics. And I’m a priest in front of the shrine of Our Lady. And I was thinking, ‘What is God trying to tell me? What are you trying to tell me God? What is this about?’”
He shared the experience with parishioners at Mass the next day, who also thought the priest was telling an “apocryphal” story that has no actual basis in reality.
But the reality is that there are two new babies who have come into this world thanks to his quick thinking and action. And, although they have entered the world at a disadvantage, like Jesus, with ‘no place to rest their heads,’ these children have hope of being received with love and reared in caring homes.
So, what might have God been saying to Father Jesús Mariscal through this experience?
Life is precious and fragile, but a Church that rallies around the disadvantaged, the homeless, the naked, the defenseless and the vulnerable is the kind of Church that Christ intended to build.
Father Jesús Mariscal is doing his part. He is one of hundreds of active priests whose seminarian education has been supported by Catholic Extension.
He was ordained in 2018 and we now support his ministry with the diocese serving migrant farmworkers.
We work in solidarity with these pastors, who serve among the poor in the poorest regions of the United States. Please consider helping us in our mission to support pastors like Father Mariscal!