First, a safety talk. A pro-life discussion follows. Next, a teaching on ora et labora — St. Benedict’s viewpoint of partnering prayer and work. Finally, Gregory Brown is prepared to put power tools in the hands of teenagers.
For almost 20 years, Brown has worked with youth at Camp Fort Worth to build baby beds. Under Brown’s careful guidance, more than 300 cribs have been infused with prayers for the mother and baby through the measuring, cutting, sanding, constructing, and painting phases.
He explains to the campers that working with their hands provides the opportunity to pray without ceasing. “While the physical crib is very important and everybody should have one, the prayers that go along with that are very powerful,” he said.
The hand-crafted cribs are donated to Catholic Charities Fort Worth for expectant mothers in need. He has also contributed more than 50 he made independently.
But he isn’t just building baby furniture with the Camp Fort Worth teens. He’s building an understanding that some people have less. He’s building community. The youth see that “coming together to accomplish a goal, they can make a difference,” he said.
He’s also teaching that “being pro-life is walking with that mother — not just in the decision to give birth to her child, but helping her after her baby is born. To assist her with the needs she will have.”
The 34-year-old has personally delivered some of the cribs to mothers through the Gabriel Project, which provides practical help to women in crisis pregnancies. Receiving the baby bed “gives them an air of hope that ‘I can do this.’ Usually they don’t say very much, it’s just a lot of ‘thank you’s’ and a lot of tears,” he recalled.
Brown credits Mary for his big dream, which came to him as he prayed the Rosary in front of a crucifix one day.
In the future, he’d like to start a nonprofit vocational school to teach carpentry to veterans, refugees, and individuals experiencing homelessness.
The job training would allow the students to learn a skill that could provide for their families. Plus, the endeavor would generate a steady supply of cribs and furniture for impoverished families moving into housing.
Brown enthused, “It would be so beautiful to take [building baby beds at Camp Fort Worth] a step further and do more good with the gifts we’ve been given. Carpentry is a meaningful, task-oriented job.” He learned woodworking as a child by observing his grandfather use hand tools in the garage.
Brown is content to patiently wait and see if the opportunity to open a carpentry school arises, because “it’s not my idea. It’s straight-up Mary’s idea. It all comes back to prayer,” he said.
Prayer is what made faith come alive for Brown. As a high school sophomore, he “sat in the back and just didn’t pay attention” during confirmation classes at St. Bartholomew Parish in Fort Worth. He was challenged to pray five minutes a day but told his small group leader “I don’t have time for that.”
After many weeks, the stubborn teen opened himself up to God and began to pray and read Scripture. He remembered, “The Word of God is truly how God revealed Himself to me. . . . Within six months, to sit down and pray for 45 minutes was nothing.”
Since then, he describes himself as “hooked. The Word of God is alive and revealing to us this great opportunity, this great faith. It pretty much has become the only thing I want to learn about, and I want to share and teach.”
Brown went on to spend a year with NET Ministries and serve as a youth minister for 12 years, mostly at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Carrollton and Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls. In 2018, he became a Knights of Columbus field agent based in Cooke County.
“Innate Desire to Serve”
Brown has “noticed in my life I just go places. I get invited somewhere. I just show up, and God provides me the opportunity to serve. That’s been one of the biggest blessings in my life, to just show up wherever God sends me, wherever He leads me, and to be able to use my gifts and talents as needed.”
For example, he dropped off a baby bed at a nonprofit gala and noticed the set-up committee struggling to build the backdrop. His offer to help was accepted, and he soon found himself in charge of the construction, resulting in an invitation to the gala and a couple of friendships.
“It’s beautiful, to be able to go along in your daily life and go wherever God sends you and be able to put your faith into action without trying,” said the parishioner of St. Peter Parish in Lindsay.
A fourth-degree Knight of Columbus, Brown joined the Catholic fraternal service organization in 2006 and embraces their ideals of charity, unity, and fraternity.
He explained, “We are devoted to the Holy Mother Church, to the great deposit of faith we hold true, and to her true treasures — the poor and most vulnerable.”
It’s those poor and most vulnerable who are sleeping in beds that Brown built with Camp Fort Worth students.
According to Brown, giving up two, sometimes three, weeks each summer to build cribs has been a gain, not a sacrifice.
“What draws us closer to holiness is ordinary — doing good for others, and seeking after something greater than ourselves.”