March 19, 2013 // Local

Sacred place to pray for life, the unborn

Bishop Rhoades blesses, dedicates Women’s Care Center Chapel

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades blesses the new chapel in the Women’s Care Center located on Notre Dame Avenue in South Bend.

By Diane Freeby

FORT WAYNE — It’s fitting that a Women’s Care Center idea conceived nine months ago joyfully came to fruition amidst prayer and a celebration of the Holy Eucharist Saturday morning at the Notre Dame Avenue location.

“What a beautiful chapel!” said Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, referring to the sacred space he dedicated and blessed. “You who work or volunteer at this place are called to be instruments of the Lord, providing refuge to women — the refuge of love and compassion and support.”

A small space designed for one or two people to kneel in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and for about 12 to gather for Mass, was packed beyond that for the first Mass on March 16.

A small wooden altar was built from old pews from St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend by a parishioner. Because of the chapel’s small size, Bishop Rhoades celebrated the Eucharist with his back to the people, reminiscent of the Latin rite. But he directly addressed the Women’s Care Center family gathered before him as he reflected in his homily on Psalm 7.

“The psalmist prayed to God to save and rescue him, lest he become like a lion’s prey, torn to pieces, with no one to rescue him,” recalled Bishop Rhoades. “He was innocent and asked God to let the malice of the wicked come to an end. I thought how this prayer of the innocent psalmist could be the prayer of the innocent unborn if they had the capacity to pray.”

“But we do have the capacity to pray and we have the capacity to rescue the innocent,” Bishop Rhoades added. “Of course, this is part of the mission of the Women’s Care Center whose work indeed rescues so many innocent babies from being torn to pieces like lion’s prey. And now this center will have this chapel, a sacred place to pray with the psalmist, to pray for life, to pray for the unborn.”

Ann Manion, volunteer president of Women’s Care Center, and longtime supporter Kitty Fulnecky helped dress the altar after Bishop Rhoades sprinkled the chapel with holy water before later incensing the altar itself.

Manion spearheaded the chapel project along with foundation director Bobby Williams.

“I think this will bring amazing blessings for us,” said Manion. “I plan to visit this chapel every day and I know a lot of the counselors will, Bobby will. It’s just great to have the Holy Spirit with us as we minister to these women. This is the most trafficked center of any in Indiana. About 25 percent of the pregnant women in St. Joseph County come to the Notre Dame Avenue location for some reason. We serve more abortion-minded women here than at any other center. It just seems really appropriate to have this extra help.”

Williams thanked Bishop Rhoades for approving their petition to build the chapel. In addition to Msgr. Michael Heintz, rector of St. Matthew Cathedral, Williams thanked Kathy Miller for making the altar cloth, Brian MacMichael and Deacon Jim Fitzpatrick for their guidance, and chapel custodian Tim Fulnecky and his wife Kitty, referring to them as “Mr. and Mrs. Women’s Care Center.

“On behalf of Ann Manion, myself, Ellen Sommer — our 20 year counselor at Women’s Care Center — on behalf of the over 20,000 women we see, who make over 87,000 visits to one of our centers, thank you Bishop Rhoades for being our good shepherd and being on our board … we love you! Thank you very much!”

Sommer, who serves as director of counseling, oversees training for all newly hired counselors at the 22 Women’s Care Center locations now scattered throughout seven states. She says it’s important for those on the front lines to be nourished spiritually.

“I’m feeling very blessed,” smiled Sommer. “I think this chapel is so beautiful to have here at the Women’s Care Center. Staff can go in there to pray and spend time with the Eucharist and we can feel confident that God will help us in our work here to reach out to these moms and babies, to help them choose life. I’m feeling very blessed and very humbled to be present at the Mass today.”

Manion says they will celebrate Mass at the chapel at least twice a month, with plans to bring in various groups. She invites anyone who would like to come for Mass to email her at [email protected]. Board members Msgr. Heintz, Msgr. Bill Schooler of St. Pius X in Granger and Father Bill Sullivan of St. Thomas in Elkhart are among the priests committed to celebrating Mass at the Women’s Care Center.

“I pray that having Our Lord here in this chapel will bring many more abundant blessings to this center,” added Bishop Rhoades during the final blessing. “Let us continue to pray for and work for the Gospel of life.”

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