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Virginia real ‘Angel’ to troubled moms

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GEORGIA FITZHUGH
Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE — Being the director of a ministry to mothers, Virginia Murphy meets a lot of mothers. However, there are two mothers she would especially like to meet someday.

They are the birth mothers of her two adopted daughters.

Virginia Murphy is the director of Project Gabriel at St. Joseph's Catholic Community in Waxahachie. The Project is a parish-based program of assistance to women in crisis pregnancies.

Virginia's enthusiasm for pro-life work is rooted in her gratitude for the opportunity to be an adoptive parent. Virginia and her husband James are the parents, of Jamie, 21, who works as a veterinary technician, and Julia, 17, a junior at Red Oak High School.

'I am very grateful to the mothers of my daughters who chose to let them live,' she said. 'One day I hope to meet them and thank them. I would not have any children if it weren't for their choices of life and adoption.'

Offering an alternative to abortion is the main purpose of her volunteer work with Project Gabriel at St. Joseph's Catholic Community. As the parish pro-life coordinator at the church in 1995, Virginia learned about Project Gabriel at diocesan meetings.

'I saw how much good could be done through having a Project Gabriel and I knew we just had to do it.' she remembered.

Since then, Project Gabriel has served 74 people.

Pastor Mark Seitz strongly supports Project Gabriel in his parish.

'Project Gabriel gives us a tangible way to show where our heart is,' Father Seitz stated. 'We raise our voices in opposition to abortion because we have a deep respect for the gift of life. We believe that every life represents a wondrous creative act of God and should be protected and cherished.' 

'Without the help of Project Gabriel, some women would be tempted to have abortions,' Virginia stated. 'Women in crisis pregnancy situations feel very alone, often there is no one to support them in any way. They don't see any other way but abortion.'

Virginia has heard what the women are told in abortion clinics:

'I know that abortion clinics tell them that abortion is the easiest solution, that the baby isn't really a baby, but just tissue,' she said. 'They may be afraid to tell their parents or boyfriend, so getting an abortion looks like the easy way to solve the problem and no one will ever know. But inside, they know that they can never forget that baby. They feel hopeless.

'Project Gabriel gives them hope.' Virginia smiled. 'If they can just see some glimmer of hope, then they don't consider abortion again.

'When we begin talking with them,' she explained, 'when we show love and acceptance towards them, they start calming down and thinking that there is a way to cope, that there is help, that someone cares about them.'

Virginia is assisted in the work of Project Gabriel at the parish by five women, who have volunteered to be 'Gabriel Angels.' Heather Chandler, Jeanne Corbin, Teresa Boles, Jenny Monger and Mary Miller recently completed training by the diocese and are already working with mothers in need. The Angels, women only, received training in the purpose and policies of the Project and in counseling skills by the diocesan director of Project Gabriel and Virginia.

'A Gabriel Angel is an ordinary person,' she emphasized. 'Anyone can be a friend. Anyone with a heart to love and to listen can be an Angel.'

Virginia meets with the mother in need first, then assigns one or two angels to work directly with each mother.

'I try to pair them according to what they might have in common,' Virginia said, 'then they become friends and partners in working through any problem that the mother may have during her pregnancy and birth.'

The Angel is there for the emotional, moral and spiritual support.

This is not just a hand-out program Virginia emphasized: 'The relationship between the Angel and the mother and baby is very important. Many of these mothers have never had real love and support. That's why they're grabbing for love wherever they can find something that looks good,' she said.

'The love and acceptance that the Angels give them is so vital in turning their lives around,' she said.

Project Gabriel is 'very much a spiritual program,' Virginia said. 'The main aim is to help mothers get their lives together, and the way to do that is to encourage them to live their lives God's way,' she explained. 'The results of not living God's way are very painful.'

Most of the mothers are not Catholic or members of any church, but are receptive to a Christian message.

'We stress chastity and prayer and getting your lives straightened out,' Virginia stated.

She recalled the response of an unmarried mother who was asked to 'shack up' by the father of her newborn baby. 'That woman learned to stand up for herself and her morals,' Virginia proudly related. 'She said ‘No! not unless you marry me first!''

An angel's work involves meeting and maintaining contact with the mother throughout pregnancy and birth. An angel might teach budgeting, provide transportation, translate for a mother, accompany her in visits to the doctor or public agencies, and provide her with a donated crib, car seat, and clothing.

Information about adoption is available. 'Every case is different; the kind of help needed varies with the mother and her situation,' Virginia noted. 'I try to encourage mothers to do what they can for themselves, to be as independent as possible. After all, if they are going to parent their baby, they have to learn to act independently.

Two young unmarried fathers have been among the people who have asked for help from the Project.

'Fathers are the forgotten people in these situations, aren't they?' Virginia noted.

These young men benefited from talking over their doubts and fears about parenting, adoption, marriage and other issues.

Other ministries and organizations of the church assist Project Gabriel in identifying and serving the mothers in need. All supplies and funds for Project Gabriel are donated by parishioners.

Virginia herself is a volunteer, not a paid employee for the Project. She is employed by the church as a cook for the priests and staff.

Most mothers inquiring about the Project come because they have seen the Gabriel sign. Others have been sent by Baylor Hospital, friends or parishioners. Mothers are referred to various public social service agencies for food stamps, medical care, and baby formula and food.

'I have experienced such a range of emotions while working with these mothers ,' Virginia recalled, 'sometimes it's rewarding, sometimes it's scary, you just never know.'

She recalled the pregnant mother of several children whose husband had abandoned the family.

'Her brother and sisters had promised to help her, but they lived across the state. We paid for tires for her car so she could go to stay with them. She sent me a thank-you note when she got to her new home.'

Virginia remembered visiting a drug-addicted mother in the hospital after the birth of her child.

'She told me she was going into a drug rehab program; I reminded her that her baby was counting on her, and that we were praying for her.'

Debbie, the first woman who saw the sign and asked for help, was able to reconcile with her parents after a long time of bitter estrangement, Virginia recalled.

And Virginia will never forget the baby with birth defects who lived only a few days in the hospital ICU, then died while her father held her for the first time.

'You can see God's hand in every inch of these situations,' Virginia declared. 'It's amazing to see what He can do, how He works everything out according to His purpose.'

If you or someone you know is pregnant and in need of help, please call Project Gabriel at St. Joseph's Catholic Community at 972-938-1953 during office hours or 972-BABY-DUE anytime.

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