The St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach program is growing. On Thursday, Oct. 13, the Diocese of Buffalo formally blessed and opened the sixth location of the outreach center, inside the OLV Charities building at the corner of Ridge Road and South Park in Lackawanna, across the street from the famed Our Lady of Victory Basilica.
The outreach centers provide care for mothers and children, both in material and moral support.
“It’s all the basics that a mom would need as far as the regular things that you would think of,” said Cheryl Calire, the diocese’s director of Pastoral Ministries. “The diapers, the lotions and potions, the onesies, the clothes that they might need for the layout, pack-and-plays and car seats. But I like to think more importantly, we build relationships.”
One of those relationships is with Shaniqua, who several years ago, pregnant with her first child, met Calire on the sidewalk outside a local abortion clinic.
“I didn’t know my way in. And I asked for help to get in. And that’s how I met Miss Cheryl,” Shaniqua said. “And we had a conversation. It gave me a different perspective on life of my child. I decided to keep my child, which was a blessing. It turned my life around.”
Shaniqua now has three children. She’s a working single parent and admits she often struggles with the need to balance work, child care, and getting bills paid. But she stays in touch and continues to get support from the St. Gianna Molla Center.
One of the most common criticisms by pro-life opponents is that once a baby is born, the pro-life community stops caring for the child or its family. Calire says that’s not the case.
“I can’t even tell you how many birthday parties I get invited to. I try to make them, and if I can’t, I try to send a gift. Because so many of these moms and these kids keep in touch with Miss Cheryl,” Calire said. “A lot of the kids call me auntie. Some call me grandma. It doesn’t matter what they call me, I’m just happy that they’re here and that their mom’s taking good care of them. They have it within them. Shaniqua has it within her. She just needs somebody to help bring it out.”
The centers are named for St. Gianna Berretta Molla, an Italian wife, mother, devout Catholic, and physician who, feeling compelled to help babies, mothers, the elderly and the poor, recognized her work in medicine as her spiritual mission. While pregnant with her fourth child, doctors discovered she also had a tumor in her uterus. One of the options given to her included a hysterectomy, which would save her life, but terminate that of the unborn child. The other option was a surgical procedure which would remove the tumor and save the child’s life, but continue to put her own health and life at risk. Leaning on her Catholic faith, she chose the latter. In April 1962, she successfully delivered her child by way of caesarian section, but one week later, she died of complications from septic peritonitis. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1994, and canonized by him in 2004. She is the patron saint of unborn children, mothers and physicians.
Prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony, a Mass was held across the street in the basilica. Presiding over it was Bishop Michael W. Fisher. During his homily, the bishop recalled St. John Paul II, who wrote 14 encyclicals during his time as pope, with a variety of topics, but a common theme.
“Ultimately what he was all the time getting back to, the main point, that because of the Incarnation, because of Jesus, we are blessed. We as human beings are sacred. We are special,” Bishop Fisher said.
Other St. Gianna Pregnancy Outreach Centers are located in downtown Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Niagara Falls, Fredonia and Olean.
For more information or to donate, contact 716-847-2205 or visit http://www.buffalodiocese.org/stgiannacenter.