By Jordan Grantham, Catholic Outlook
Christmas bundles of joy will determine whether Blacktown Hospital takes out top place for the number of births in a NSW maternity ward in 2016.
For the previous three years, Blacktown has been the most fertile suburb in NSW, according to statistics from the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
In the Diocese of Parramatta, the suburbs of Merrylands, Parramatta and Guildford are also in the top 10.
Registry statistics reveal that biblical names are popular for boys, including James, Thomas, Lucas and Isaac. Further down the top 20 are Jacob, Samuel, Joshua and Benjamin. Noah has been in the top 5 for boys since 2012. Biblical names for girls are not as popular, though Grace was eighth last year.
Diocesan statistics show a total of 3587 baptisms in 2015: 2599 baptisms were for children under one year of age, 711 for children one to seven years and 277 for children over the age of seven. Many of these children were born in Blacktown Hospital.
Sr Rita Apura CSFN of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth is Assistant Catholic Chaplain at Blacktown Hospital. She cares for new mothers and their babies on a daily basis.
Sr Rita said families from diverse ethnicities and cultural backgrounds had their babies at Blacktown Hospital. “Women from different denominations and faiths are having their babies there.”
Patients are mostly of child-bearing age, 15-44 years, and reside predominantly within the Blacktown LGA, however, there may be inflows from surrounding LGAs.
Sr Rita’s ministry is in providing comfort and care to maternity ward patients through spiritual direction, if needed. “The sacraments are available for patients if they require them and appropriate referrals and requests for a priest if necessary,” she said.
“In my experience of hospital ministry, attending to patients’ emotional and cultural needs is also very significant.
“We contribute to the transition of birth, as we know birth brings joy to families, the community and parents, but most especially to women who are expecting and having a baby.
“Certain births bring pain due to the circumstances, such as when a baby is dying, or the mother has experienced abuse.
“As a chaplain, I help mothers find meaning and purpose in extremely difficult situations, supporting them in the highs and the lows.”
Sr Rita said Blacktown was booming with many young families moving into the new housing estates opening up in the area.
“Along with the blessings of this baby boom comes the heartache of those pregnancies that have complications such as: babies with known disabilities, women who have a pregnancy that doesn’t ‘blossom’, as we assume a pregnant woman does.”
Sr Rita said friends and family can help new families by:
* Providing or cooking a meal,
* Helping with the shopping, with laundry and cleaning, or
* Watching the baby when mum and dad have a break or a night out together.
St John XXIII Parish at Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens is a 15-minute drive from Blacktown Hospital and is experiencing a baby boom.
The Sacramental Coordinator, Jill Franco, said there had been an increase in the number of families, especially young families, moving into the parish in areas like The Ponds.
St John XXIII Parish has a maximum of six baptisms per week and has this number most of the time.
“I think it’s a constant reminder of how God’s church continues to stay alive and the Faith continues, Jill said. “Families are also reminded that this is a celebration of God’s hope, love and faith for us all – gifts they are giving to their babies.”
This article was first published in the February 2017 print edition of Catholic Outlook.