Photo: Felix Carroll
Let's Follow the Money
Father Ken Dos Santos, MIC, presents Poor Fund donation to Dr. Theresa Krankowski and Bob Dean of St. Gerard's Center for Life.
By Felix Carroll (Nov 19, 2012)
When pilgrims to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy drop money into the Shrine's Poor Box, they can hear it land, but where does it eventually go? To a variety of social services organizations in the region that typically provide food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities to disadvantaged families.
Let's join Shrine Rector Fr. Ken Dos Santos, MIC, on one such day, Oct. 19, when he distributes Poor Box money. He's driving on Interstate-91 into Weathersfield, Conn., carrying with him a check for approximately $3,000, the sum of nearly a year's worth of Poor Box donations.
In their homilies and throughout their ministry, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception give prominence to the "Gospel of Life," as Blessed John Paul II called it. This trip to Connecticut underscores that point. The money is going to St. Gerard's Center for Life, a Catholic crisis pregnancy center that has served more than 4,100 mothers and children since it opened in 2004.
"Life is the central issue for me," says Fr. Ken, "and I think it should be the central issue for society. People need to be given information that tells them the truth about life and about how God loves each and every one of us and has a plan for all of us. In our society people are made to believe that a fetus is just a lump of tissue. They don't understand the miracle of life and what a gift it is."
In a nondescript office building in Weathersfield, Conn., Fr. Ken meets up with Dr. Theresa Krankowski, director of St. Gerard's and a recognizable face among protesters who picket outside a nearby abortion clinic. Theresa has no idea how much the donation will be. Father presents it to her after an hour-long conversation over coffee about the center's ministry, the miracles she has witnessed, and the challenges of funding a non-profit during tough economic times.
Mostly she wants to talk about miracles, and she holds up a photo of an infant that she calls "our Divine Mercy baby." She explains how she and a friend were taking a walk at 3 p.m. one day and they decided to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy together for any woman anywhere who may be contemplating an abortion at that time.
Why pray the chaplet? Because Jesus told St. Faustina in a series of revelations in the 1930s, "Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will (Diary of St. Faustina, 1731). He also told St. Faustina to share with the world His desire that each day people remember Him in His Passion — which occurred at the 3 o'clock hour. "This is the hour of great mercy," he told St. Faustina. "In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion (Diary, 1320).
As Theresa and her friend well know, Jesus honors His promises. Soon after praying the chaplet, providentially, Theresa's friend ran into one of her neighbors. As she introduced Theresa, she explained how St. Gerard's reaches out to assist abortion vulnerable woman. The friend immediately said she knew a woman that was considering abortion. Theresa asked if she would call her and get her permission to speak to her that day.
As God would have it, they were able to connect with the abortion-minded woman that day, and the woman invited them to her home. Upon their arrival, she welcomed Theresa and her friend into her home. She shared that she was currently experiencing great struggles such as marital difficulty and her home being in foreclosure. Theresa explained that St. Gerard's would help her but that she had to have faith that, despite all this difficulty, her unborn child was a blessing not a burden. Theresa asked if she had any immediate need, and she said, "Yes, I need food."
Theresa and her friend went to the store and brought her groceries, but upon their return to the woman's home she was not there. Instead, they were greeted at the door by her older daughter who gladly accepted the food. Unbeknownst to them, the woman had to be temporarily hospitalized. Still, weeks later the woman did not return phone calls. Theresa suspected the woman was stonewalling them, so she and her friend kept praying the chaplet for her, and they surrendered the matter to God.
The woman finally called Theresa. Amazingly it was right at 3 p.m. as Theresa was about to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. By then, the prayers had been answered. The woman chose life for her baby, and she reconciled with her husband. She had a baby boy. Saint Gerard's has helped the family with their rent and food costs.
"That boy is one of our 'saves,'" Theresa says, holding the photo of the boy. Since the inception of our program and with God's grace, more than 400 babies lives have been saved who otherwise would have died from abortion.
Here's another example:
Theresa received a phone call from a distraught grandmother named Laura (fictitious name) who said her son's girlfriend, Barbara (fictitious name), was about to have an abortion the very next day.
"Despite the fact that Barbara had been in our program a long time ago, she was refusing all assistance," Theresa says. "Immediately I said, 'Laura, we need to pray and entrust her to the Lord. We will storm heaven for her, and see if you can get her to consider speaking to me. Let her know that St. Gerard's will do whatever we can to help her to have the baby.'"
Theresa then prayed the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, asking Jesus and Mary to bring about the conversion of Barbara's heart. Later that evening, Theresa's phone rang. It was Laura, the grandmother. She said that Barbara wanted to speak to Theresa.
"First," recalls Theresa, "I tried to understand what the root problem was, and she said that she was overwhelmed with her bills — specifically her utility bill — and she wondered how she could possibly care for another child when she was already struggling. I told Barbara that we would assist her with the utility bills just as we helped her in the past with her little boy. Then I said, 'What if someone was going to hurt your little boy — what would you do?' She said, 'I would do everything to stop them.' Then I said, 'Your baby in the womb is no different. He or she is depending upon you for protection.'"
With the prayerful and material support of St. Gerard's, little Shamiah was born on Feb. 4, 2012.
"Every life is unique, precious, and unrepeatable," says Theresa. "It's the greatest privilege in the whole world to be able to hold one of those babies who, unfortunately, would have died from abortion, and also just to see the power of God's grace working in the hearts of mothers. To be able to witness their anguish and then to feel the prayers and feel Jesus transforming their hearts, to make a decision from death to life. The opportunity to witness the transformation of these women from a position of death to one of life is one of the most awesome experiences I have in doing this ministry.
Much of St. Gerard's clientele is indigent. Because of that, many consider abortion as a fast solution. "Abortion exploits people in crisis situations. They feel there's no way out," says Theresa. "They want a quick solution not realizing that with it comes a lifetime of pain and regret."
Most of the pregnant women the center meets are at this critical juncture.
The center has about 20 volunteers. Funding is always an issue, and the slagging economy has made it more difficult. The center recently subdivided their offices in order to lower their rent. At the same time, the need for the services provided by St. Gerard's has gotten greater and greater.
St. Gerard's provides the following services:
• diapers and other baby supplies such as clothing, car seats, strollers, and bassinets;
• food and financial assistance;
• free pregnancy tests and limited obstetrical ultrasound services;
• chastity training;
• assistance with employment and education goals;
• mentoring and healing for post-abortive women;
• adoption referrals;
• baptism preparation and assistance with receiving the sacraments; and
• classes on understanding the Catholic faith for those who are interested
When Fr. Ken hands Theresa the envelop with the Poor Box donations she cries tears of thankfulness. The donation is a great help to the center. It will go toward the greatest cause on Earth: the protection of life.
Father Ken learned about St. Gerard's through his mother, Alice, who is a friend of Theresa's.
Back in the car heading home, Fr. Ken says of Theresa, "Wow, she's amazing."
To contact St. Gerard's Center for Life, call 860-257-1021
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org