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July 29, 2009
First Catholic pregnancy center in archdiocese to open
Gabriel House to offer outreach to pregnant women
By Julie Filby
After eight years of ministry, the Gabriel Project, a Catholic outreach to pregnant women, finally has its own facility. The Gabriel House will be the first Catholic pregnancy support center in the Denver Archdiocese.
Administrators hope Gabriel House will enable the apostolate to triple the aid it offers.
“Being pro-life, it’s so important that we don’t just ‘talk the talk,’” said Gabriel Project volunteer Annette Davis. “We need to be there to support the courageous women who are choosing life.”
Last year Davis was given such an opportunity when she met Peace Bransberger.
Bransberger, a single professional in her 30s learned she was pregnant three months after moving to Denver from Washington D.C. Raised in foster care, she had no family network—and after the relationship with her boyfriend ended, she felt completely alone.
Filled with doubt and fear, she considered the option of abortion—a time that she described as “the darkest moment in my life.”
Bransberger connected with Davis following an Internet search that led her to the Gabriel Project, a ministry of the Denver Archdiocese’s Respect Life Office.
“I didn’t want to be preached to, or told ‘everything would be OK,” said Bransberger. “I needed a community. I needed support to keep me strong.”
Davis along with two other Gabriel Project volunteers, known as “angels,” supported Bransberger through her pregnancy.
“They helped me move past the fear,” said Bransberger. “Otherwise I might not have had the strength (to choose life).”
Last August with Davis by her side, she delivered a healthy baby girl: Willa Mable.
Next month, the Gabriel Project will dedicate new headquarters, the Gabriel House, at 1341 Oneida St. The 1940s bungalow, adjacent to St. James Parish, will serve as a dedicated gathering place for education, training and support.
“We’re currently working with about 30 moms,” said Mimi Eckstein, director of the Respect Life Office. “We hope to increase that number to 100.”
The house will be staffed on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday mornings. The Respect Life Office will lease the property from St. James Parish.
Gabriel House will be blessed by Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M, Cap. at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 8. He will be assisted by Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley. Father Felix Medina-Algaba, pastor of St. James, will serve as master of ceremonies.
The blessing will be followed by tours of the house and a tea party fundraiser that is open to the public. For a suggested donation of $25, guests will be treated to sandwiches, scones, cookies and drinks, while being entertained by a harpist.
Archbishop Chaput, Bishop Conley and Father Medina-Algaba will attend the party, as well as Gabriel Project angels and moms.
Since its inception in Denver in 2001, the Gabriel Project has operated out of the Respect Life Office at the John Paul II Center in south Denver and volunteers coordinated at a parish level. Currently the ministry has nearly 100 trained volunteers in more than 30 parishes across the archdiocese.
Volunteers are grateful the Gabriel House will provide a secure and convenient location to meet with the mothers they serve.
“In the past it’s been hard to get together with moms—we always had to go to McDonald’s or arrange for a room at a parish,” said Davis. “The Gabriel House will be a safe, neutral place to meet.”
While the training and education provided on topics such as chastity and contraception are based on Church teaching, the ministry is not limited to Catholic women. Support is provided to mothers of all faiths, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Every woman that comes to us has different needs,” said Davis. “We assess her situation to see how we can help. Sometimes more than one angel works with a mom, because we all have something different to offer.”
Davis, a nurse practitioner and certified doula (a professional who assists women during labor and after childbirth), often helps with birth plans and health care. Other angels specialize in areas such as legal issues, community resources and public assistance programs. All angels provide friendship and pastoral care.
“A lot of agencies don’t provide emotional support like the Gabriel Project—that’s a big difference that distinguishes them from other centers,” said Bransberger.
Father Medina-Algaba hopes the Gabriel House will also help with integration in the Montclair neighborhood, an area with an increased Hispanic population. According to Eckstein, the Gabriel Project recently added more bilingual volunteers and they offer classes in both English and Spanish.
The Gabriel Project depends on private donations and hopes the tea party will be a successful annual event to raise money for the ministry’s operating expenses.
“I would love for people to know their contribution makes a personal impact,” Bransberger said. “The person sitting next to you at Mass may need help. I needed help—and I got it.”