Today’s Scriptures show us the importance of persistence in prayer. We all know that sometimes we come across issues in our own lives, or even in society, and when we pray, it takes a long time to see those prayers answered. We may well have experienced the exhaustion of Moses in our praying, and may have needed the help of others to stand next to us and support us in our prayer, praying with us and for us. For many of us, our prayer lists may well have grown exponentially as the years have worn on, and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.
Even the dishonest judge answers the request of the widow who keeps coming to him. And we know that our God is far greater than the dishonest judge. He doesn’t answer our prayers just to mollify us and send us on our way. He hears our prayers and answers them in his way, in his time, for our benefit and his glory. We know that God often answers our prayers in ways more magnificent than we could have imagined when we offered them. Like the Psalmist today, we know that our help truly comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Sometimes God uses us to answer the prayers of others. I am preaching at all the Masses this weekend to tell you about a way I think that is happening in our parish. As you know, October is Respect Life Month. Here in Naperville, this has been particularly important this year because of the opening of the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Aurora that provides abortions among its other services. It is the largest Planned Parenthood clinic in the nation and one of five abortion clinics in DuPage County. This year more than ever, we Catholics are called upon to witness to the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, to protect the lives of all of the most vulnerable members of our society, and particularly to advocate for those whose lives are ended by abortion.
It’s one thing to say you’re pro life, to pray for the protection of life, and to vote only for people who support life. Those are important things to do, but quite frankly, if that’s all we ever do, we aren’t doing even close to enough. Studies have shown that eight out of ten woman who have had an abortion would have chosen not to have the abortion if it had not been for the lack of material resources and pressure from families or fathers. In most cases, the decision to have an abortion isn’t a “pro choice” decision at all: it is rather a decision made because these women feel they have no freedom and no choice. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must make it very clear to all the world that no woman should ever have an abortion simply because she feels that is her only option.
And so today, our parish is launching its participation in Project Gabriel. Project Gabriel is a network of parishes standing together in their commitment to answer the prayers of pregnant mothers in crisis by offering them various forms of assistance. In this area, Project Gabriel is coordinated by Woman’s Choice Services, a pregnancy center network operated in the Catholic Christian tradition, in cooperation with the Respect Life Offices of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Diocese of Joliet and the Diocese of Rockford.
Women hear about Project Gabriel through signs of life in the community, especially bumper magnets which say “Pregnant? Need Help? Please call us.” When she calls, a trained volunteer consultant will help assess her needs. Then she may be referred to a church community, like St. Raphael’s, where trained representatives called “Angels” will meet with her. Angels are friends, whose job it is to walk alongside the mother-to accompany her, pray for her and with her, and encourage her on her journey. They may also help her to meet material needs by identifying resources within the community.
At St. Raphael, Project Gabriel will help mothers to make life-affirming choices for themselves and their babies by:
” Offering friendship, emotional support and prayer.
” Providing babysitting and offering rides to medical appointments.
” Giving pastoral care and counseling.
” Identifying resources for medical and prenatal care.
” Finding resources for financial assistance.
” And by uncovering resources for housing, education, adoption and employment.
But don’t let that task overwhelm you. It is not the task of the Gabriel Project Angel to be a psychiatrist, analyst or social worker. What you will do is much the same as you might do for a niece or a neighbor. Just be there for her: Take her to lunch, pray with her and for her baby, call her each week, drive her to a doctor’s appointment or offer to baby-sit. In short, be a sister, a helper, and a friend.
We need you to get involved to make Project Gabriel a success right out of the box. We need 40-50 volunteers minimally to get started, and you can help either as an angel or in a number of other ways. You can offer as much time as you wish, a little or a lot, depending on your availability and the ways you feel God is calling you. Today, we are asking you to do three things:
First, take a bumper magnet and put it on your car so that women with pregnancies at risk will know there is a life-affirming option. Second, visit the welcome center today for more information and to make a donation to offset the costs of the bumper magnets and provide for the material needs of the mothers and families we will be reaching. And finally, fill out the forms in your pews right now, getting involved as an angel, or on our prayer team, or communications team, or material resources team, or any of several other teams on the list. Your involvement might be as simple as knitting a baby blanket or driving a woman to the doctor or collecting personal care items for expectant mothers. But perhaps you are a good listener and someone who loves companioning others on the journey; then you’d make a great angel. You can leave that filled out form in your pew, drop it in the collection basket, or drop it off in the welcome center today. If you need to pray about your involvement, feel free to take a sheet with you. But please fill one out and get involved – if not today, then soon – so that we can start helping bring life to the culture of death in this particular way.
In his encyclical, The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II said, “Together we all sense our duty to preach the Gospel of life, to celebrate it in the Liturgy and in our whole existence, and to serve it with the various programs and structures which support and promote life.” Project Gabriel is a way for us to do just that. Please be sure to get involved, so that everyone will know that we are a community that supports life at every stage.
Sometimes people’s prayer needs can be overwhelming. But maybe you are being called upon today like Aaron and Hur to support the hands of a pregnant woman as she prays for the opportunity to give life to the baby she is carrying. Please be an angel, and support this parish project today.