Staten Island Advance
Saturday, May 8, 1999
Looking local, going global
By LESLIE PALMA-SIMONCEK
ADVANCE RELIGION EDITOR
Roman Catholics on Staten Island are going to be asked to get directly
involved in helping to stop abortion.
Priests for Life, a national pro-life organization headquartered in Dongan
Hills, is promoting a nine-year old program called the Gabriel Project
that encourages parishes to "become havens for women who might otherwise seek
abortions," said the Rev. Frank Pavone, national director.
"The local church should be the first place she can turn to for this type of
help," said Father Pavone, who returned to the Island recently after spending
two years in Rome with the Pontifical Council for the Family.
"One of the big things Priests for Life is doing is pushing for the growth of
the project on the local level."
The Gabriel Project began about nine years ago in Corpus Christi, Texas,
Father Pavone said, and has since spread to parts of Maryland, California end
Rhode Island and to Philadelphia.
Through the project, parish priests become well-versed in all the resources,
that exist for women facing unplanned pregnancies. But the project also
challenges parishioners to get involved in helping the women who come forward.
"Maybe there is a doctor who can help with medical care, or people who can
open their homes to her, or a lawyer who can offer legal services," Father
Pavone said. "This kind of approach lets people respond to a specific need and
it makes the church what it is meant to be, a community of people helping each
other. We find people to be very responsive to this kind of approach."
Father Pavone said he has not yet presented the project to Island priests but
plans to do so either in informal gatherings or at clergy association or
Priests for Life has gone through a growth spurt since moving its
headquarters from Port Chester, N.Y., to the Island two years ago. It now
employs four priests, including Father Pavone, who have been released from their
dioceses or orders to devote themselves full-time to the anti-abortion effort.
Before being released with the blessings of Cardinal John J. O'Connor,
Father Pavone was a parochial vicar at St. Charles R.C. Church in Oakwood.
The Rev. Richard Hogan of St. Paul, Minn., is now the associate director of
Priests Life. Also on board are the Rev. Peter West, who came from the
Archdiocese of Newark, and the Rev. Denis G. Wilde, O.S.A., an Augustinian who
teaches at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
The organization also employs 21 lay people, including eight who work in the
Island office on Richmond Road. The Priests for Life newsletter reaches 45,000
priests and the website, www.priestsforlife.org, receives 7,000 hits a day.
While his office and residence are in Dongan Hills, Father Pavone spends most
of his time traveling across the country, and lately, across the Atlantic.
He and his executive director, Anthony DeStefano of Dongan Hills, returned
recently from a trip to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and a separate
trip to Poland.
"I've been traveling pretty constantly," said Father Pavone, who also is a
regular on the Eternal Word Television Network, based in Alabama, and is still
associated with the Pontifical Council.
In Ireland and Poland, where abortion is not legalized but is clandestinely
performed, Father Pavone said clergy are concerned that "things can only
"A lot of the discussion was on 'how do we prevent things from getting
worse,' " he said.
In England and Scotland, where abortion is legal, he said "My main purpose
was to encourage people to get involved in the prolife movement."
In a memo to staffers, DeStefano noted that he and Father Pavone met with
"one cardinal, one archbishop, two bishops, at least one hundred priests and the
leaders of several European pro-life organizations" in the United Kingdom, and
in Poland, spoke with "five bishops, many priests, the leadership of the
Solidarity movement, many members of the government and hundreds of lay people.
In an interview with the Advance DeStefano said, "the door is very open right
now to this becoming a worldwide organization."
Father Pavone also attended the annual meeting of the Society of Centurions,
an organization of former abortion providers who have joined the pro-life cause.
In addition to providing pro-life materials and strategies to parish priests
and traveling to speaking engagements, Father Pavone and Priests for Life also
support a number of efforts to convince doctors who perform abortions to stop.
One is encouraging women who have had abortions and subsequently suffered
physical or emotional consequences to file lawsuits against the doctors.
"As Father Frank often says in his talks," said DeStefano, "the two most
frightening words to those who perform abortions, the two words that strike
terror into their hearts, are malpractice litigation."
As the organization expands, it's feeling the growing pains in Dongan Hills,
where office workers "are climbing on top of each other," DeStefano said.
Noting that some efforts have been made to find bigger quarters, he said,
"We're centered right here on Staten Island and we don't want to leave. We want
our international headquarters to be based here. We have volunteers here. Father
Frank is here."
Father Pavone and the staff of Priests for Life are hopeful that the war
against abortion can be won.
"You can't say God doesn't have the power to turn this around if he wants
to," Destefano said. "It’s up to us to do whatever is humanly possible."
Priests for Life in the News