Left: An abortion business in Hartford, CT, left, has a new neighbor: St. Gerard’s Center for Life, right.
Priests for Life Pastoral Associate Father Stephen Imbarrato will be in Hartford, CT, this weekend to re-dedicate St. Gerard’s Center for Life, a pregnancy help center in whose “miraculous story” he played a vital role.
When Father Stephen was studying for the priesthood at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, CT, in the early 2000s, he and his fellow seminarians would pray outside the Hartford Women’s GYN Center every Saturday. The local chapter of the group Helpers of God’s Precious Infants hoped to start a pregnancy resource center near the abortion mill and to name it in honor of St. Gerard Majella, the patron saint of expectant mothers. A student at the seminary, Theresa Krankowski Borchetta, came on board to help get it started.
But circumstances kept working against plans for the center and Theresa left before it had been established. The Helpers group then asked Father Stephen to come on board to help find a suitable space. He began praying about it.
In January 2004, he came back from Christmas vacation a week early with the intention of displaying abortion victim imagery and beginning to search for a suitable location for the pregnancy center. As it turned out, a friend knew the landlord of a building across the street from the abortuary.
“They said they would show me the building but there was nothing available,” Father Stephen said. But he took a look anyway. “I was doing what I had promised to do.”
Back in seminary, he prayed the rosary and said “It’s up to you, God.”
Two days later, he got a call that the watchmaker who had been located on the second floor had moved out. The whole floor was, suddenly, available.
“I looked up at the heavens and said to Jesus, ‘what took You so long?’” he joked. “I was dumb-founded.”
The pregnancy center was set to occupy the space on March 1, but at a meeting with about 15 pro-lifers a week later, some were concerned there wouldn’t be enough money to pay the rent.
“I said that Jesus would not have given us that space without getting us the money,” Father Stephen said. The group set a goal of raising $10,000. By May 1, they had raised $35,000.
Father Stephen got in touch with Theresa, who was now in Corpus Christi, and told her the “unbelievable, miraculous story” and to ask “when can you be here?” She came back to Hartford and became the director. Within a few years St. Gerard’s expanded to occupy a convent at St. Luke’s Parish in South Hartford, as well as the location across from Hartford GYN.
Leticia Velasquez, now the executive director of St. Gerard’s, said that after Theresa left in 2013, another director closed the location across from Hartford GYN, leaving only the location at St. Luke’s, but the center has since relocated back and now is even closer to the abortion mill, which is located in a converted brownstone owned by Hartford GYN. The new St. Gerard’s Center is located in what was once the brownstone’s carriage house, a mere 20 feet from the abortion business!
As he was blessing the center, a monsignor noted that “The Russians say ’when you open a church, the devil sets up camp across the street, ‘ “ Leticia said. “Now we’re setting up camp across from the devil. They’ve been killing for 39 years in that location.”
When a woman chooses life for her baby thanks to the center’s intervention, the staff stays in touch with her until the baby is two years old, assisting her in any area of her life that she needs help.
The center has had some noteworthy successes, including saving a baby of a woman who already had had 12 abortions.
“They call her a frequent flyer at the abortion mill,” she said. “We saved her 13th.”
St. Gerard’s also had a save just last week. The young woman was eight-and-a-half weeks pregnant and abortion-bound when she showed up at the center.
“I prayed to Our Lady of Guadalupe,” Leticia said. “Now the young woman wants to carry her baby to term and knows where we are.”
The center, an affiliate of Heartbeat International, is staffed by 18 volunteers, including two nurses who graduated from Franciscan University – Leticia’s own daughter among them – and Dr Judith Mascolo a pro-life physician who serves as medical director and chairman of the board. They also have volunteers from a young adult group called Pro-Life Future. It will be open, for now, three days a week and services are offered in English and Spanish.
“I’ve been praying about this for over a year,” Leticia said.
The answer to her prayers, the new St. Gerard’s Center for Life, will be re-dedicated on Saturday, May 20. Father Stephen will say Mass at the center at 11 a.m. and lead an outdoor Eucharistic procession.
“It really is a miraculous story,” Father Stephen said. “And it’s neat that I kept being a part of it.”