This month, the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center will hold its fourth annual banquet to help benefit the center's ministry. The banquet will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m., at Classics V Banquet and Conference Center on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst. The event will feature a dinner and presentations from guest speakers.
The St. Gianna Molla Center, the diocesan outreach center of the Office of Pro-Life Activities, provides material, financial and emotional support for women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy. Abby Johnson, an ex-Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life activist, will be the featured speaker.
Johnson left her former position in 2009 and has since spoken in favor of the pro-life movement across the country. She has written a book about her experiences, titled "Unplanned."
"Because Abby came from Planned Parenthood and from the clinic, she founded a group called 'And Then There Were None,' in hopes that, eventually, there will be no clinics because workers will have had a conversion, and they will be able to find employment in other areas and really feel good about themselves," said Cheryl Calire, director of Pro-Life Activities.
In addition to Johnson, the banquet attendees will be able to hear from other speakers who will provide testimony about how they have personally been affected by abortion and helped by the ministry.
"We will probably have at least one follow-up, from people who have been there in the past, to follow up on work that they've been able to accomplish since they were in touch with the ministry," Calire said.
The first banquet for the St. Gianna Molla Center was held in 2012, in response to the center's growing need for a fundraiser to buy baby supplies. According to Calire, the center also wanted to increase awareness of the center's ministry and what it does. The center is named for St. Gianna Molla, a 20th-century Italian doctor and mother who sacrificed her life after a difficult pregnancy so her child could live.
"We also wanted to give people an opportunity to hear, see for themselves, testimony about the works that the ministry has done, and give them an opportunity to contribute to the works of the ministry," Calire said. "Although we accept donations any time of the year, it is our one time during the year when we have significant effort to raise funds to help keep the ministry vibrant."
Since the St. Gianna Molla Center's ministry began in 2009, people in parishes have helped fund it. People donated after hearing about the center, but it still was not enough to meet demand. The banquet continues to grow in attendance. Last year, approximately 325 people attended.
The banquet's biggest tangible contribution is toward helping the center pay for such items as car seats and pack-and-play sleepers for infants and children. Federal and state laws dictate these items must be new. Even if the items have not been opened or used, they still cannot be given out if they are beyond a certain age, for safety reasons.
"Sometimes people feel that when they clean them really well with bleach to disinfect them, that they're doing a good thing," Calire said. "It actually wears the fabric so that they aren't as safe if they were ever to be in an accident. It breaks down the fiber. Hospitals want the child to leave in a new car seat."
Calire said those who attend the banquet learn more about what the center does and the magnitude of the ministry.
"We are, in effect, not only talking about issues that the Church talks about, but we're actually putting them into action," Calire said. "In other words, if we're saying that we would like a woman to consider choosing life, what are we doing as a Church to provide an opportunity for her to be able to make that decision? It's been a very good eye-opener for those who maybe found a way to support life issues in a way they hadn't thought about before, and helps give them spiritual support and connects them with resources."
For more information or to purchase tickets for the banquet, contact the Office of Pro-Life Activities at 716-847-2205.