A bundle of joy: Gabriel Project grows at Sacred Heart in Wichita Falls

North Texas Catholic
(Apr 12, 2023) Local

room with baby items

A view of the new Gabriel Closet at Sacred Heart Church on January 11, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Ten little fingers.

Ten little toes.

Precious face with a sweet little nose!

Since the inception of the Gabriel Project at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Wichita Falls in spring 2022, seven babies have been born, and more moms-to-be are receiving help.

“I think one of the most important things of our faith is the sanctity of life,” said Elaine Schlabs, the project’s storage and supply coordinator at the parish. “Young moms, dads, and families need to know that we are here to support them in choosing life for their child. One caring person can make such a difference,” she said.

Catholic Charities Fort Worth works with parishes throughout the diocese to increase services available to pregnant parents in need through the Gabriel Project.

“By Sacred Heart partnering in the Gabriel Project, these women are ministered to in a two-fold manner: each Gabriel mom is paired with a [CCFW] case manager to support her big material needs (such as applying for federal and state assistance, housing, transportation, childcare, education, and employment) while the fantastic volunteers at Sacred Heart pair Angel volunteers to walk one-on-one with a Gabriel mom and provide basic baby items through baby's first year of life from the Gabriel Project parish room,” said Tova Anderson, Catholic Charities Fort Worth Gabriel Project volunteer coordinator.

Sacred Heart Pastor Father Jonathan Demma began talking to parishioners about starting the project at the parish in spring 2022.

“I was so grateful for the immediate and overwhelming response by our parishioners to begin the Gabriel Project ministry. We had a trained team in a matter of weeks, and the donations to support the mothers were received just as quickly,” he said.

The parish also renovated a room, now called the Project Gabriel Room, in the parish office building.

“The Gabriel Project room has mainly been used to store diapers, clothes, and baby supplies for new moms. It is also a place that Gabriel Angels and Gabriel moms can come together to meet with one another,” said Christine Hanus, lead coordinator at Sacred Heart.

Schlabs is often seen around the parish office busily gathering items and letting staff know what items will be picked up by which Gabriel Project Angel.

“I see how important it is to help the new moms who have chosen life for their babies. I love working with our Gabriel Team. We have a great group of volunteers who does whatever needs to be done. It is a joyful ministry. Babies are a gift. Who knows what God has planned for that baby, child, adult as they go through life,” said Schlabs, who has been a member of Sacred Heart for the past 52 years.

Hanus said many volunteers make the Gabriel Project successful at Sacred Heart, from the core team to the angels, and different parish organizations such as the Altar Society, Catholic Daughters of the America’s Court #309, and the parish men’s group, Forged.

“Recently, we had a mom who gave birth while in Faith Refuge, the woman’s homeless shelter. She received many items when she gave birth to help her care for the baby. This month she moved into an apartment with her baby,” Hanus said.

Both Hanus and Schlabs said there are also volunteers from other nearby parishes including Our Lady Queen of Peace in Wichita Falls and St. Jude Thaddeus in Burkburnett.

“We are overwhelmed by their giving and serving hearts and hands,” Anderson said of all the Project Gabriel volunteers at Sacred Heart.

Hanus said Project Gabriel at Sacred Heart did receive more calls and have many mothers referred to the program after Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022.

“I did not expect that we would have so many mothers reach out to us as quickly as we did. The Holy Spirit knew that there was a need in our community, and the inspiration of those involved with Gabriel Project is nothing short of a response to the grace of God,” said Fr. Demma.

Fr. Demma, who did sidewalk counseling as a Franciscan brother in New York and New Jersey before he became a parish priest, said that he prays that more people will open their hearts and realize the truth about the evils of abortion.

“Sacred Heart and all Catholic parishes need to be ready to meet people in their time of need, to help them experience a conversion of heart through an experience of sacrificial love. They need to know that our love is from Jesus Christ. As they experience the joy of their children, knowing that the Catholic Church was there when few others were ready to step into their lives and walk with them, then they will know what it means to be loved by God,” he said. 

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Wichita Falls, Gabriel Project, crisis pregnancy, pregnancy aid, CCFW, Catholic Charities Fort Worth, prolife, dignity of life, trending-english