By: Maria Luisa Aliaga and Thérèse Bermpohl
Many of you have most likely heard about Gabriel Project, the diocesan-based office that provides material, monetary and spiritual support for pregnant women and families in need. But how many of you are familiar with the mothers, and families who come looking for our help?
The mothers who come to Gabriel Project hail from all walks of life. Some are married. Many are not. Some have money, but no support structure — no family or friends in the area to help them. However most are poor. They have nowhere else to turn, and are unbelievably grateful when they hear the words from the Gabriel Project Coordinator: “We can help you with material support and all your prenatal care. More than that, though, we can connect you with a Gabriel Project angel (volunteer) to accompany you along the way.”
Anna* is one such mother. When she found out last winter that she was pregnant with her fourth child, she was ecstatic. Her three little girls had been pestering her and her husband for a little brother and they finally got their wish. Their joy, however, quickly gave way to concern when just 10 weeks into her pregnancy, Anna began to experience pain. She rushed to the emergency room and the doctor, fearing that she might not be able to carry the baby to term, suggested an abortion. Faithful Anna and her husband flatly refused.
Distraught, without insurance, and not knowing what to do, Anna and her husband contacted Gabriel Project at the suggestion of her parish priest. Even with the support of Gabriel Project, though, their family’s anxiety was far from over. Anna’s doctors at Tepeyac Family Center diagnosed her baby boy with two possible deformities: Down Syndrome and an intestinal problem that would require immediate surgery after his birth.
The diagnosis provoked more talk of abortion from Anna’s family and friends, but again Anna and her husband reasserted their intent to keep their baby – their gift from God – no matter what. To make matters worse, in her seventh month Anna was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
When all was said and done, Gabriel Project was blessed to be able to assist Anna and her family in a myriad of ways. Gabriel Project provided them with prenatal funding, an interpreter for each of her doctor’s appointments, funding for much needed diabetes classes, as well as money for all of Anna’s medications. One of the parishes involved with Gabriel Project invited Anna to “Christmas in July” where she received baby clothes and other items. Finally, the Gabriel Project Coordinator was able to put Anna in touch with Leticia Velasquez, author of A Special Mother Is Born, a book about life as the mother of a little girl with Down Syndrome.
Anna’s baby arrived this August by cesarean section. He weighed 6 pounds and was baptized by Fr. Juan Puigbó on the day of his birth. He did have to undergo surgery on his intestines, but by the grace of God he had none of the other physical deformities he was diagnosed with. He is still recovering at the hospital.
A grateful Anna wrote: “Thanks to Gabriel Project for all your support and prayers. I do not know what would have happened without your help and support for my family. I pray that you will continue receiving many blessings and that our Lord will continue providing you more help. I am so grateful to be part of your ministry. God bless you for being so generous. You will always be in my heart and in my prayers.”
As we approach the annual Gift for Life campaign that supports Gabriel Project, we wish to thank the parishioners of the Diocese of Arlington for your generosity. We will never know this side of heaven all the good you have done.
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*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the mother.