Who’s the first to know about a positive pregnancy test at Mother and Unborn Baby Care in Fort Worth? The Carmelite nuns in Arlington.
In the center’s lab, the cloistered women rank first on the speed dial list. The next call initiates the prayer chain among friends of the crisis pregnancy center. Then, it’s time for the mother to see the results, once prayers that she will choose life for her unborn baby are reaching heaven.
According to Randy Bollig, the executive director of Loreto House in Denton, a woman in an unplanned pregnancy can seek assistance in approximately 50 pregnancy aid centers within the 28 counties of the diocese. Only two centers are Catholic.
Almost 40 miles apart, the two Catholic pregnancy resource centers — Loreto House and Mother and Unborn Baby Care — use different approaches to achieve the same goal of protecting the life of the unborn. However, they both claim their greatest strength in the struggle to save lives is having the Blessed Sacrament in a chapel on the premises.
“This is the most important room in the whole center,” said Laura Herrera, director of Mother and Unborn Baby Care. “If a woman is abortion-minded, there’s a spiritual battle going on. By keeping the Blessed Sacrament here, we have a huge defender on our side.”
Both centers celebrate Mass weekly in their chapels and offer their clients the opportunity to pray in the chapel. Most clients do, even though the majority are not Catholic. And for the 30 percent of the clientele who are fallen-away Catholics, prayer in front of the tabernacle encourages them to return to the faith and a sacramental life, said Bollig.
Mother and Unborn Baby Care
The signage at Mother and Unborn Baby Care is minimal, just big lettering that offers a free pregnancy test. Located in the medical district of Fort Worth, some women mistake the pregnancy help center for an abortion clinic. Herrera doesn’t mind as long as it gets them in the door.
Others come in the door when sidewalk counselors at Planned Parenthood refer them. Some women find the center on their own. Herrera claimed all the clinic’s clients and volunteers are there for one reason — “God brings them here and He wants us here.”
She quipped that their pro-life strategy is to “suit up and show up” and prayerfully allow the Holy Spirit to guide the discussions that follow the pregnancy test. For women considering abortion, an ultrasound often provides convincing evidence that a baby’s life is at stake.
Herrera finds that women in an unplanned pregnancy are often receptive to the Gospel and the teachings of the Church.
The mother of six said, “We are blessed to have the ability to share truth with people in a very loving way, not critical.
“God brings every person so we can help those in real need. We always love them and try to help them see how significant and important they are to God. Often that’s a message they have never heard,” continued the St. Patrick parishioner.
As a Catholic pregnancy aid center, the volunteers advise women with a negative pregnancy test on Natural Family Planning and sexual purity.
The majority of women decide to continue the pregnancy, and Mother and Unborn Baby Care helps them tap into the resources of Catholic Charities Fort Worth and the Gabriel Project. The clinic, established in 1984 by Chuck and Pat Pelletier, can also provide some clothing and financial assistance.
Named after the Holy House of Mary in Nazareth, the Blessed Mother guides the Catholic life center.
“We want to make our guests feel welcome as Mary would,” said Denise Burke, a faith companion in her fourth year of volunteering.
Indeed, a life-size portrait of Mary and the infant Jesus welcomes guests to the parlor, and Marian artwork adorns almost every room.
Loreto House creates a “peaceful, non-clinical setting, because our goal is that our guests be as comfortable as possible,” explained Bollig. Snacks, homemade crafts, and cozy sofas help too.
About a dozen women seek help from Loreto House each weekday. The Catholic life center journeys with women from their initial suspicion of pregnancy through the child’s first 24 months, offering “non-judgmental, sisterly advice” along with practical help, said Debra Heron, certified program advocate at Loreto House.
After the woman “pours out her bucket of problems” to a counselor, then she can be receptive to new ideas, Heron explained, including developing a plan and finding resources to enable the mother to raise the baby.
Staff at Loreto House guide expectant mothers to community and government resources, and they provide education resources on-site. Mothers, fathers, and family members can attend more than 60 prenatal and parenting classes, earning credit to spend on diapers, maternity and baby clothes, formula, and other baby supplies at the center’s gift shop.
Loreto House, which moved into its current location in 2016, employs “soft evangelism,” said Bollig. In addition to meeting her material needs, the mothers are asked if they would like a faith companion to pray with them and for them.
The highs and lows
Helping women in a crisis pregnancy is difficult. “There’s so much suffering. You have poverty, drugs, abandonment by the father, abuse, fear of loss of job, mental illness,” listed Bollig.
Yet at the end of the day, “it’s a hard job to put down and leave,” confirmed Herrera.
Despite the struggle, the Catholic life centers and their primarily volunteer staff are committed to their mission of showing compassion to the women and helping them choose to love their new baby. And, not infrequently, grateful mothers return to show off those bundles of joy.