Friday, April 16, 2010

San Francisco archbishop encourages parishes to participate in The Gabriel Project

"If you will have your baby, this parish will help you"

San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer is encouraging pastors to support The Gabriel Project, a parish-based program that helps pregnant women. 

Following a Gabriel Project Conference at St. Mary's Cathedral last fall, the archdiocese included the Gabriel Project among the ministries of the Office of Public Policy and Social Concerns. 

In a Jan. 22 letter to all pastors of the archdiocese, the archbishop expressed strong support for the program. Archbishop Niederauer noted that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in their "Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities," stated that one of the objectives of a parish pro-life activity should be to "develop or adopt a parish-based ministry to pregnant women and their children." 

The Gabriel Project answers this call and embodies the practical support that the bishops promise pregnant women, said Archbishop Niederauer. 

The archbishop's January letter marks at least the second time he has gone on record in support of The Gabriel Project. On August 24, 2009, Archbishop Niederauer highly commended the project to all pastors and parochial vicars of the San Francisco Archdiocese, and asked them to seriously consider this ministry in their parishes. In his 2009 letter, the archbishop stated that The Gabriel Project is a practical, effective way for parishes to reach out to women in difficult pregnancies with real, concrete help. 

According to the archdiocesan Gabriel Project website, the idea began in 1973 when the pastor of St. Michael Parish in Houston put a sign outside the rectory that said: "If you will have your baby, this parish will help you in every way." 

In 1990-91, the project was developed throughout the Corpus Christi and Galveston-Houston dioceses, and has since spread throughout the country, says the website. 

"The parish community announces that they see in the creation of each child a fresh expression of God's unfailing love and their commitment to offer assistance to pregnant mothers in need," explains the website of the San Francisco archdiocese's Gabriel Project. "They make this message known on a 'Sign of Hope' placed in front of their church along with an expression of outreach – PREGNANT? NEED HELP? -- and a toll-free phone number. When a call for help is received, the phone line volunteer contacts the parish coordinator at the nearest participating church to where the caller lives. The coordinator contacts the caller and makes an initial assessment of her situation. A parish volunteer ('Angel') is assigned the responsibility for ongoing contact with the mother throughout her pregnancy and somewhat beyond. An initial meeting is arranged to further assess her needs. The parish community responds with love by providing spiritual, emotional, and material support to help meet those needs. Through prayer and action the parish community assures the mother that she has their love and the love of Christ. If a mother has been abandoned by family or her child's father, the parish community can lovingly help her overcome her sense of loss and loneliness." 

Among the kinds of assistance a parish can offer, says the website, are friendship and emotional support, pastoral care and counseling, transportation, prenatal care, baby items, education, employment, housing, adoption, and financial assistance. 

"The participation of many parishes is critical to the success of our Archdiocesan outreach to pregnant mothers in need," says the website. "The easier it is for parishes to participate, the better. To this end, printed materials, training of parish volunteers, the central toll-free helpline, and overall project coordination are provided to parishes at no cost. The Gabriel Project is a marvelous way to show the community that your parish cares about pregnant mothers in need and that there is no reason for any mother within its boundaries to feel that she is helpless and alone." 

To visit the San Francisco archdiocesan Gabriel Project website, 
Click Here.