By Dave Jolivet
NEW BEDFORD — A feature on the newly-formed Circle of Life Ministry at St. John Neumann Parish in East Freetown ran in the July 9, 2021 Anchor. A proactive Pro-Life ministry, CLM was spawned from Pro-Life efforts in Attleboro.
In the story CLM members Colette Costa and Karen Howard spoke of the events and activities already completed since the group’s start in 2019. They also spoke about the closing of Birthright New Bedford, part of a national organization that is committed to providing confidential, non-judgmental support to any woman who is pregnant or thinks she might be pregnant, no matter her age, race, circumstances, religion, marital status or financial situation.
Kathy King, the regional director of Birthright, told The Anchor, “Birthright’s overriding mission is to provide all needed support to any woman who chooses to continue a difficult or unplanned pregnancy. We have a 24/7 helpline and strive to be a calm voice or place for a woman who is feeling alone or overwhelmed by the possibility of being pregnant. We are Pro-Life and see every pregnancy as two lives that need our help.”
Because the building that housed Birthright of NB was no longer available early last year, the branch had to shut down operations after nearly a decade of providing hope and support to pregnant women in the area.
Costa was a volunteer at the Taunton Birthright and she teamed with Anne Tremblay, the president of the New Bedford Birthright, to find a new home for the much-needed ministry.
“I started volunteering at the Taunton Birthright and have been trying to help Birthright in New Bedford find a place to re-open. Anne, who has been involved in Birthright for many years, and I were not successful on our own,” Costa told The Anchor.
The two reached out to King for help. After nearly a year with no home, King was able to secure a new location on the property of St. Lawrence Martyr Church in New Bedford.
With a reopening tentatively set for mid-March, King is delighted to have found a new home for the ministry. “I’m excited to get New Bedford reopened because I believe the need for our services exist in this community,” she told The Anchor. “At Birthright we believe that all of our effort, time and money is well spent if even one unplanned child gets a chance at life.”
The path that led King to St. Lawrence was through “Divine intervention.” She said she and Anne had been trying to find a suitable space for more than six months, and nothing was panning out. “I finally decided to drive to New Bedford and just drive around to see if I could find any for rent signs or an area that looked right,” said King. “As I was driving around New Bedford not finding anything, I remembered that the most connected people in almost every town are church administrators. Church administrators have been able to work miracles in the past for me for problems ranging from a college student in need of funds to start his school year to arranging Eucharist for a home bound Catholic patient when I was a home care nurse. I am always impressed by their knowledge of the local area and local resources — not just Catholic ones but community based resources as well.
“After two hours of driving around, I stopped and found the closest, tallest steeple and decided to start my quest there. The rectory I went to was the St. Lawrence rectory where I met Leslie Moujabber, administrative assistant for the Whaling City Catholic Community, of which St. Lawrence is a part.”
King told The Anchor that “St. Lawrence was open to allowing us to rent space and they have a food pantry on sight. Often Birthright looks to locate in an economically challenged area, with other resources close by and public transportation whenever possible. It also needs to be a safe location that volunteers are willing to travel to and staff. St. Lawrence fits the bill.”
“Kathleen contacted Leslie,” Father Michael Racine, pastor, told The Anchor. “She contacted me as the pastor. Kathleen came to see me and approach me with her idea; she gave a very beautiful presentation about what Birthright does. Then she also then approached me about asking if she could have office space at St. Lawrence rectory because of its location in the city and the need for their services in New Bedford.
“I will say Kathleen was very professional in her presentation and very dedicated and committed to her work. After our meeting of probably about an hour-and-a-half long we agreed that we would draw up a contract and go through the proper channels in the diocese. This was before Christmas and about two weeks ago the diocese finalized the contract and I’m very happy to say that Kathleen and her staff have begun to move into their office and get settled in. I’m very happy that Birthright is relocating here in the city of New Bedford.”
The status of the new site currently is that there is a new local co-director in place to handle any calls to the helpline (800-550-4900) while work continues on getting a local phone line on site.
“We need to train volunteers and create a local board and hope to be verifying non-profit status at the state and federal level within the next few months,” said King. “To that end, we are actively looking for a Pro-Life accountant and/or tax professional to assist with that. We are hoping for a fully open office by mid-March.”
The new New Bedford site is currently seeking volunteers to assist in the ministry. “The easiest way to volunteer is to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It will then be contacting potential volunteers with training dates and times. People can get much more information on Birthright at www.birthright.org.
“With Birthright, a woman or family is never alone. We help women discover hope for the future through friendship, love and support,” King told The Anchor. “We know the importance of simply being with her, being a compassionate listener and respecting that it is her life and her plan. Birthright is available to support her for as long as she needs us, from the time of her first call or visit, throughout her pregnancy and after.
“Birthright also provides struggling moms and families with diapers, wipes, clothing and other necessities during the first year of life. During that time we try to help identify community based services for the family that can help to stretch budgets and provide opportunities for employment, education, more secure housing and more food security.”