Friday, April 20, 2012

News From the Trenches: Building a Culture of Life via The Gabriel Project

“Are you a neighbor?”


The following item was provided to California Catholic Daily by Fredi D’Alessio, Program Coordinator for The Gabriel Project, Archdiocese of San Francisco. 

With the vast amount of attention that I have given to the issue of abortion over the past decade plus, I have never come across a ministry having anywhere’s near the potential of building a culture of life as does The Gabriel Project. 

The very reason I became interested in The Gabriel Project was the fact that there was not (in my area) sufficient help for pregnant mothers. This observation goes back to Feb of 2003, when I began to reach out to pregnant mothers outside abortion facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area. I had done research as to where I could refer them to obtain the assistance they needed. Certainly, I found organizations (few and far between) that would guide them to choose birth for their child rather than abortion, and over these many years, I had attempted to refer thousands of abortion minded mothers to those organizations. 

But I knew that many mothers needed more help than what was available and that a Gabriel Project, which was modeled after those founded in Texas in 1990/91, could provide that necessary extended help. 

Now that we have such a model functioning within the Archdiocese of San Francisco, The Gabriel Project has become my first resort when recommending help to abortion minded mothers. 

It is most important for you to realize that the works of The Gabriel Project are not reserved for abortion minded mothers. The truth is, that over time, this parish-based ministry has the potential (and I believe, the promise) to build a culture of life and, in so doing, dramatically reduce the number of abortion minded mothers and fathers year after year. 

A culture of life is not going to materialize if we focus exclusively or primarily on helping abortion minded parents. Everything we do for them is essential, but will not reduce the numbers of those who follow in their footsteps, unless we are also helping non-abortion minded parents. 

I must also point out that non-abortion minded parents are not necessarily parents who will not abort a future unborn child. This is crucial to understand. While it may be difficult to understand, it must be accepted as fact; it’s simply the truth. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to help all pregnant mothers in need and, by one person and one family at time, build a culture of life. While at the same time, build a culture of life within our parish and extended communities. Shouldn’t that be a goal for each and every one of us? 

The presence of this ministry in a parish informs potential mothers of the help that will be available to them should they need it if one day they conceive a child – in some cases several years beforehand. The mind of a child reared in such a parish is formed to recognize the sanctity of the lives of other children still developing in the protection of their mothers’ wombs. What a wonderful gift for our children, especially considering the past decades of the culture of death. 

We also serve any pregnant mother in need because we are Christians. The works of The Gabriel Project are as much pro-justice as they are pro-life. 

Many pregnant mothers not only carry the blessing of new life, but also the burden of poverty. 

The CCC states the following: 

[2447] The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God

So I pose the question: Is God calling you to serve Him by serving your neighbor? Obviously, for authentic Christians, there is only one answer to that question. 

In Pope Benedict’s book, “Jesus of Nazareth,” the Holy Father offers an exposition of the parable of The Good Samaritan. He says, “The concrete question is who is meant by “neighbor.” 

Quote -- emphasis mine: 

And now the Samaritan enters the stage. What will he do? He does not ask how far his obligations of solidarity extend. Nor does he ask about merits required for eternal life. Something else happens: His heart is wrenched open. The Gospel uses the word that in Hebrew had originally referred to the mother’s womb and maternal care. Seeing this man in such a state is a blow that strikes him “viscerally”, touching his soul. “He had compassion” – that is how we translate the text today, diminishing its original vitality. Struck in his soul by the lightning flash of mercy, he himself now becomes a neighbor, heedless of any question or danger. The burden of the question thus shifts here. The issue is no longer which other person is a neighbor to me or not. The question is about me. I have to become the neighbor, and when I do, the other person counts for me “as myself.” 

If the question had been “Is the Samaritan my neighbor, too?” the answer would have been a pretty clear-cut no given the situation at the time. But Jesus now turns the matter on its head: The Samaritan, the foreigner, makes himself the neighbor and shows me that I have to learn to be a neighbor deep within and that I already have the answer in myself. I have to become like someone in love, someone whose heart is open to being shaken up by another’s need. Then I find my neighbor. Or -- better -- then I am found by him. 

[End quote] 

So I pose another question: are you “a neighbor”? 

Further on in his exposition the Holy Father says, “Everyone is also called to become a Samaritan – to follow Christ and become like him. When we do that, we live rightly. We love rightly when we become like him, who loved all of us first.” 

Holy Bible RSV-CE Luke 10:29-37: 

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” 

To learn more about how to participate in the Gabriel Project, Click Here.