St. Gerard’s Center for Life in Hartford, Conn., makes every day Mother’s Day. The Catholic pregnancy-resource center has a very strong connection to the Blessed Mother.
St. Gerard’s was founded on March 25, 2004 — “symbolically incorporated on the feast of the Annunciation,” says co-founder and director Theresa Krankowski.
Back then, Krankowski, who has a doctorate in education, was part of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants along with Father Stephen Imabratto, then a seminarian and later founder of Project Defending Life. They prayed regularly in front of Hartford’s abortion facility. They saw the dire need to provide support for women choosing life, and so they opened St. Gerard’s across the street from the abortionist.
“We named the center in honor of St. Gerard,” explains Krankowski, “because he’s the patron saint of expectant mothers and the unborn. We’re specifically a Catholic pregnancy center that helps people of any faith, but we do adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church without any compromise.”
As the center grew, Krankowski saw the need for a strong Marian connection because of the culture of life’s war with the principalities involved in the culture of death. “The Blessed Virgin Mary crushed the head of Satan,” she says, “so I felt the need to consecrate the program to the Immaculata, and I requested the entire program be consecrated to the Immaculata on the feast of the Annunciation.”
This consecration in 2011 included everyone: babies, born and unborn, mothers served and all staff and volunteers. “We all were invested in the Miraculous Medal and made the individual and collective consecrations to the Immaculata,” Krankowski says.
This year, everyone associated with the center renewed their consecration on March 24 (the Saturday before the Annunciation feast day) with Mass, a Holy Hour with adoration and the Divine Mercy devotion.
“This may be the first life center consecrated to Our Blessed Mother in the spirit which Maximilian Kolbe consecrated his Mary town,” says Sister Carolyn Cossack of the Sisters Minor of Mary Immaculate. Sister Carolyn assisted with the consecration and investing with the Miraculous Medal. She has spoken about the consecration according to St. Maximilian in several states.
Coincidentally, March 25 is also the International Day of the Unborn Child, a commemoration Blessed John Paul II helped initiate.
“By consecrating themselves to the Blessed Mother,” says Sister Carolyn, “they (the mothers) have a model, learn to be like her and how to mother and be a mother.”
In a few short years, St. Gerard’s has served more than 3,800 woman and children and saved 400 babies by “reaching out to the girls with the love and compassion of Christ,” Krankowski notes. “We do everything we can to save the mothers and precious babies’ lives.”
To help, a new ultrasound machine arrived in April 2011, thanks to the Knights of Columbus. Already, 28 babies who otherwise would have died of abortion have been saved through the free ultrasound. On staff are two Catholic nurses and a registered ultrasonographer.
Eighty percent of the women who view their babies in the womb choose life. Krankowski says “the power of the ultrasound is the re-establishing of the maternal instinct. They recognize this is their child, and we reunite the mother with the baby in her womb. Ultrasound brings forth the truth. Women have the opportunity to recognize this is a calling from God.”
Faith in Practice
That opens the door to more of St. Gerard’s distinctive services.
“Theresa puts her faith into practice,” observes Father Thomas Walsh, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Church in Wallingford, Conn.
“She seeks to help mothers with unexpected pregnancies not only to bring the pregnancy to fruition, but also to share her Catholic faith with them. For example, she has referred the young ladies to go to confession and have their children baptized.”
More than 50 children have been baptized Catholic.
St. Gerard’s offers classes about the Catholic faith. Some women were baptized as Catholics but never made their sacraments, and the center provides the opportunity to come back to the Church. Other women have become converts. A deacon also helps the women who want to get married in the Church.
Chastity and Prayer
“Keeping Hearts Pure” is a mandatory chastity program that all mothers seeking St. Gerard’s services must attend. The classes focus on the dignity of women and motherhood.
“They love it,” says Krankowski. “Our chastity classes are packed. And this program speaks out about all forms of contraception, birth control and abortifacients. We speak out against abortion. We’re asking for complete pro-chastity, promoting secondary virginity with the understanding that in Christ we’re all a new creation. We’re living Humanae Vitae to the fullest.”
They also help married couples learn about natural family planning.
All this happens through Jesus and the powerful intercession of the Blessed Mother.
Dr. Judith Mascolo, St. Gerard’s medical director and president of the Connecticut Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, believes it was the work of the Holy Spirit when she heard Krankowski speak at her parish. Mascolo had left her former job and wanted to open a private practice following the teachings of the Church with respect for life from conception to natural death.
“I knew what she was doing was the work of the Church,” says Mascolo, so she came on board.
That’s what mothers recognize, too. One mother, after hearing Krankowski speak, went for an ultrasound; that helped her see her baby as a blessing. Then she was diagnosed with brain cancer. The hospital urged her to take medicine that would kill the baby. Even overwhelmed with pain, she refused to harm her child.
“She had a precious, perfectly healthy baby boy on Jan. 23, the day of the March for Life, and named him Jariel Luis,” says Krankowski. The mother is undergoing cancer treatment.
Prayers are part of St. Gerard’s daily routine. Staff and volunteers pray the Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3pm.
Volunteers pray with the mothers, and if they desire, they teach them the Rosary. After one young woman learned, she asked the deacon the following week to teach her more about Jesus and his Church.
Mascolo says their work is a “force for the Holy Spirit and a force of hope in the city. The girls see what they get at St. Gerard’s is so different from what they’re going to get at the other health clinics.” At the same time, Mascolo says Krankowski teaches with love “about Christ, and chastity is an essential part of her mission, so they don’t keep getting pregnant and coming back.”
“A lot of these women never heard of chastity,” Mascolo says. “She’s teaching them something they’ve never been taught elsewhere, and it’s been transforming their lives.”
“Theresa is bringing the Gospel of Christ to them, and they’re having conversions,” she adds.
Saving Lives — and Souls
“At St. Gerard’s we’re saving their souls, not just their bodies,” Mascolo says. “We care for them, love them and are praying for them all the time after they ‘graduate’ from St. Gerard’s. We don’t want to lose them to the devil again.”
That’s Krankowski’s aim as a culture-of-life witness, including her work praying in front of the abortion business across the street.
“We’re trying to make abortion unthinkable,” Krankowski says. “The only way is if we help the mothers come to know and love Jesus Christ. If the love of Christ is in the hearts of these mothers, they will never go through with an abortion. The conversion is real.”
Joseph Pronechen is the
Register’s staff writer.