The Gabriel Project: Help for Pregnant Women in Crisis
The Gabriel Project is a national program endorsed by the US Catholic Conference of Bishops as an important pro-life parish activity that lends spiritual, emotional, and practical support to pregnant women in crisis.
Following Roe v. Wade in 1973, Rev. Msgr. John Perusina of St. Michael Parish in Houston began the Gabriel Project by putting up a sign that said , “If you will have your baby, this parish will help you in every way.” The sign still stands.
By the early 90s, the project was well established in the dioceses of Houston-Galveston and Corpus Christi. It is now a national organization that provides spiritual, emotional, and practical support for pregnant women in crisis. The Gabriel Project does not limit itself to serving Catholic women. It provides services to all women regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. The main portal website is www.TheGabrielProject.us.
Parishes have trained volunteers who respond to requests and inquiries from pregnant women in crisis. According to Virginia Kaufmann, coordinator for the Gabriel Project at Resurrection Parish in Aptos, CA, each case is unique. One involved a young woman who could not continue to live with her mother and needed help finding housing. Generally, the women don’t have enough money to meet their basic expenses. One needed help with breastfeeding issues.
The San Francisco Archdiocese has posted several stories about “Angels” as the volunteers are called. Many times the situation requires helping the family to accept and welcome the new child. In one case a teenage mother’s father refused to have anything to do with her unless she got an abortion. Eventually, he came around, loves the baby, and now plays the proud grandpa. One young woman felt completely alone and abandoned until, through her tears, she saw a Gabriel Project sign outside a church. Within a few days she had an Angel, rent, and all the things she would need to welcome the new baby. Angels have also been known to provide childcare and parenting instruction. In one case a woman who had lost custody of her two-year-old because she was homeless was able to welcome back that child not long after giving birth to the new baby. This happened shortly before Christmas.
The women and the Angels develop very close bonds that have led to ongoing friendships in many cases. The volunteers, through their concern and practical help, bring alive the reassurance of the Angel Gabriel when he appeared to a very young Mary and told her not to be afraid, that she had found favor with God. Together, volunteers and new mothers discover that they too are loved dearly by God.