Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Anne DiBernardo - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | The call came in on the evening of Good Friday. Someone was trying to help a girl who had been scheduled for an abortion.
“The girl thought she had no choice but to abort the child although she was willing to talk with us the next morning on Holy Saturday,” said Joan Crown, director of the archdiocese’s Respect Life Office. “We sat and talked for two hours about God’s plan for her child and for herself. Many prayers were said on Easter Sunday for this girl and her baby. Two days later I received a message that the child was not aborted and the girl was so grateful for the encouragement and prayers she needed to be strong for her child.
“We just found out the baby is a girl,” Crown continued, “and we rejoice once again in the Lord’s mercy, in the privilege we have to share Him with others in crisis, and in the life of this child.”
This happy ending is one of the many reasons why Crown refused to give up when her faith was put to the test five years ago. The ministry had lost all its funding due to budget cuts, and the staff had been forced to vacate the Miami Gardens building which housed both the administrative offices and the North Dade Pregnancy Center — both of which had operated there for 30 years.
The administrative offices moved into a small temporary space tucked away in a corner of Broward County, at one of the Catholic high schools that had closed decades ago, the all-girls Madonna Academy. The North Dade Pregnancy Center moved to another location, and thanks to donations from members of the faith community, the ministry survived.
Then Crown had an inspiration. She was on a bus, riding home from a lobbying trip to Tallahassee, when she envisioned a vibrant archdiocesan “life center” that would defend “the least” of those in South Florida — an area that accounts for an overwhelming number of the 70,000 abortions performed every year in Florida. The state ranks third in the nation for the number of abortions performed.Crown and the staff prayed fervently for God to provide a light in the darkness and decided the center would be named Our Lady of Hope Expectant before knowing how it would come to be. Their prayers were answered when a generous, faith-filled donor — who wishes to remain anonymous — bought the ministry a permanent home.
“A building right in the center of our diocese to be that light in the darkness,” Crown said.
Named Our Lady of Hope Expectant Life Center, the 5,000 square-foot building is located at 4747 Hollywood Blvd., where it is visible to over 36,000 people a day. One salient feature will be a large rosary wall, shaped in the outline of a baby, with each bead recognizing the supporters and benefactors who helped make the center a reality.
“The new building is located in close proximity to an abortion facility where we pray once a month,” Crown said. “Here we will be able to accommodate so many more clients, both women and men, with our Earn While You Learn classes. Our Project Joseph, men mentoring men program, will also have a space of its own.”
Thanks to a generous donation from the Knights of Columbus, the center also will be equipped with an ultrasound machine — proven technology that saves the lives of unborn children. It’s something the space-starved South Broward Pregnancy Help Center, also located in Hollywood, cannot provide.
After Crown announced the gift of the new building, many people, such as the men’s club at Nativity Parish and the St. John Neumann Knights of Columbus, came forward to help with the renovations. Carlos Penin of CAP Engineering offered to help with the architectural planning and brought along some of his interns from Belen Jesuit Prep and Our Lady of Lourdes Academy.
Crown said the ministry still needs $50,000 to complete the work. Several parishes have sponsored the renovation of a room in the center which will then bear their name over the door.
“While we are off to a good start there is much, much, more to be done before we can open our doors,” Crown said. “Although the building we have received is a sound structure, it will need a new roof, new air conditioning and a complete interior renovation to make it a welcoming, uplifting haven for families seeking our assistance.”
Crown is seeking donations of flooring, ceiling tiles, lighting, paint and miscellaneous building supplies. “So if you or someone you know is able to donate services, materials, or financial assistance, please give us a call,” she said.
HOW TO HELPIf you would like to help the Respect Life Office refurbish the Our Lady of Hope Expectant Life Center, call Joan Crown at 954-981-2922 or send your donation to: Respect Life, 3600 S.W. 32 Blvd., West Park, FL 33023.