Following the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973 which made abortion legally permissible in all the States, the Rev. Msgr. John Perusina, late pastor of St. Michael Parish on Sage Road, Houston, put a sign outside the rectory which said: If you will have your baby, this parish will help you in every way.
That was the beginning of The Gabriel Project. In 1990, Cathy McConn from Houston and her friend, Rex Moses from Corpus Christi, saw the sign, and The Gabriel Project was developed throughout the Galveston-Houston and the Corpus Christi dioceses. It has since spread throughout the country.
On November 12, 2002, the thirtieth anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) published a statement in which they asserted: “Our firm conviction as Catholics that life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception has been a part of the Church’s constant witness since the Apostolic age and has inspired millions to defend human life at every stage.”
In this same statement the bishops said, “We renew our offer of assistance to anyone considering abortion: If you are overwhelmed by the decisions you face, if you cannot afford medical care, if you are homeless or feel helpless, whatever your needs, we will help you. The Church and her ministries, inspired by the word and example of Jesus Christ, will help you with compassion and without condemnation.”
In the USCCB’s Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, the bishops stated: “Respect for human life compels us to reach out to those with special needs. With the support of the faith community, Catholic organizations and agencies provide pastoral services and care for pregnant women, especially those who are vulnerable to abortion and who would otherwise find it difficult or impossible to obtain high-quality medical care.”
After listing a number of programs, the bishops noted that “Parishes are also increasingly providing pregnancy assistance. Such services are sometimes available within the parish; at other times, the parish program links those needing help to local services. Even when pregnancies do not involve particular challenges, encouragement and support should be given to couples who have conceived a child. In a culture that often gives negative messages regarding parenthood, it is important that our parishes celebrate the gift of new life.” They also noted that one of the objectives of the “parish pro-life committee” should be to “develop or adopt, where feasible, a parish-based ministry to pregnant women and their children.”
In the USSCB document, A People of Life and a People for Life: An Invitation, The Gabriel Project is listed among a number of suggested programs: “Begin a parish-based ministry to pregnant women and their children. The Gabriel Project, developed in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, is excellent and is spreading across the nation. Volunteers in the parish are trained to help a woman through her pregnancy – with practical assistance, spiritual and emotional guidance, and help in accessing needed services.”
On August 24, 2009, Archbishop George Niederauer highly commended The Gabriel Project to all Pastors and Parochial Vicars of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and asked them to seriously consider this ministry in their parishes. In his letter, the Archbishop stated that The Gabriel Project is a practical, effective way for parishes to reach out to women in difficult pregnancies with real, concrete help. It embodies the practical support that the bishops promise pregnant women.