A two-week-old girl, wrapped in a blanket and placed snugly inside a plastic box, was left yesterday morning on the doorstep of a church rectory in the Kent County town of Galena. Whoever abandoned her also took pains to leave a bottle of formula on ice.
"She was all very comfortable and secure," said the Rev. Thomas J. Peterman, pastor of the St. Dennis Catholic Church. Later, she was taken to Kent and Queen Anne's Hospital in Chestertown, where she was reported in excellent condition.
Mr. Peterman was going about his usual Sunday morning routine when he made the unusual discovery.
Less than an hour before 7 a.m. Mass, he strolled through the rectory to the adjoining church where he unlocked the front door and walked outside with his golden retriever to get the newspaper. When he turned to re-enter the rectory, he saw the curious package.
"There was a lot of care," he said. "The baby was all wrapped up, a little damp and cold. She was very calm. I kind of scratched the cheek a little. . . . The baby smiled, didn't cry."
The bottle had been left in a plastic bag filled with ice, much of it still frozen when the priest found her.
With only a short time before Mass, he summoned a local woman who had a baby of her own to care for the abandoned child until further arrangements could be made. He called 911, and soon was giving a report to state police.
He started Mass on time; by the time the service was over police had taken the infant to the hospital.
"She is nice and pink, and she is taking her formula and snoozing," said Connie Miller, nursing supervisor. "She is in very stable condition."
State police yesterday were trying to identify the baby's parents. Mr. Peterman said neither he nor his parishioners know of anyone who might have left the child.
"I haven't known anyone in town that was anxious or desperate and expecting a child and didn't know what to do," he said.
He said he hoped the mother would come forward so his church could help her.
"We say to the mother, we love you and your baby and would like to help you get back together again. We'd help you raise your baby. That's our hope."