by Savanna Kearney

Eternal Word Television Network’s reality show, Real Life Catholic, explores the lives of ordinary Catholics with extraordinary faith around the world. And Thursday, Nov. 1, Real Life Catholic host and internationally acclaimed author and speaker, Chris Stefanick came to The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche at Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine to hear the story of Rebecca Harkness, a local “La Leche Baby.”

Rebecca Harkness stands in front of the chapel at the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche. (photo by Woody Huband)

According to Rebecca’s mother, Lisa Harkness, she and her husband Ted had been trying to conceive since 1995. After years of fertility issues, they decided to move forward with adoption.

“The adoption process was about as big of a rollercoaster ride as the fertility issues were,” she said.

During one particularly emotional holiday season, Lisa went to the shrine and prayed to Our Lady. That night, the couple got a call from their attorney, and two weeks later, Rebecca came home right before Christmas.

“I didn’t conceive her, but she definitely is our La Leche Baby,” said Lisa. “It was an answered prayer, and she was so meant to be our child.”

The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche has been a place where countless people pray for fertility, conception and safe delivery, which is why babies conceived after intercession from Our Lady often take the name “La Leche Babies.”

The crew of Real Life Catholic film Chris Stefanick as he interviews Rebecca Harkness about the history of the Shrine. (photo by Woody Huband)

Rebecca, now a freshman at Ave Maria University, and her parents have continued to have a strong devotion to Our Lady of La Leche.

“The shrine means the absolute world to me,” said Rebecca. “This place is home. I dedicate my life to Our Lady in thanksgiving for the love and the nurturing she’s given us.”

While filming Real Life Catholic at the shrine, Chris Stefanick spoke with Rebecca about the story of her adoption and interviewed Dr. Mary Soja, vice-postulator for the Cause for the Canonization of La Florida Martyrs and long-time friend of the Harkness family, about the history of the shrine and the image of the Nursing Madonna.

“Honestly, I’m blown away,” said Stefanick. “I didn’t know until I was preparing for this episode the significance of this place for the faith in North America, and I’m so grateful that the cause is open and full-throttle because we need the stories of these saints.”

Photo of Rebecca Harkness as an infant next to her mother, Lisa, in front of the chapel at the Shrine.
Rebecca Harkness tells Chris Stefanick about the history of the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche. (photo by Woody Huband)
Rebecca Harkness, Chris Stefanick and the crew of Real Life Catholic. (photo by Woody Huband)