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Friendship, faith helped Arriaga choose life

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GEORGIA FITZHUGH
Ellis County Press
FERRIS - During a troubled time in her life, Fina Arriaga had a friend. And that made the difference.

Today, Fina wants to offer the same kind of friendship, wisdom and help to any woman involved in a crisis pregnancy.

Fina Arriaga of Red Oak is the director of Project Gabriel at Corpus Christi Catholic Community in Ferris. Project Gabriel is a parish-based program of assistance for women having a crisis pregnancy.

Recently trained as a volunteer, Fina is working to establish the program at the parish. This month, the 972-BABY-DUE phone number, the 24-hour hotline for the White Rose, the diocesan Catholic crisis pregnancy center will be displayed on the sign in front of the church.

As a Project Gabriel 'angel,' Fina assists women in crisis pregnancies with moral, spiritual, emotional and material support so they will choose life for their unborn children.

Fina herself knows the value of support from others in a crisis.

'My personal experience motivates me to help others,' Fina said. 'If my friend hadn't been there, I don't know where I would be.'

Fina faced a difficult time after a test showed her unborn child had Down syndrome, a disability resulting in mental retardation and other physical defects.

'Prior to that,' Fina stated, 'I had never really thought much about abortion, I didn't really know if I was pro-life or not.'

Fina had been married over 20 years, but had no children. She had been surprised and happy to find out she was pregnant. However, the news about her unborn child's disability caused worry and stress that almost became overwhelming.

Fina said her friend offered more than a listening ear.

'She was a very spiritual person who had wisdom: That's what made the difference,' Fina said.

'She was willing to go beyond what was convenient for herself. She was willing to sacrifice to help me,' Fina said gratefully. 'She played a big part in my spiritual decision.'

Visiting a family who had a baby with Down syndrome also was helpful.

'I could see these people were able to handle the situation, so why couldn't I?' she explained. 'There are a lot of families out there who have children with disabilities.

'There are also a lot of resources to help these children: hospitals, schools, special agencies,' she said.

Fina's experience has caused her to look at her child and other disabled

children 'with spiritual eyes.'

'They are human beings, too, you know, just look inside their hearts,' she advised.

There is no reason to abort an unborn child because they have a disability, she believes.

'After all,' she reasoned, 'We're imperfect in the eyes of God too. In fact, innocent disabled children are really more perfect in God's eyes than we are,' she explained, alluding to the reality of sinfulness in the lives of so-called normal people.

'I realized this has been put in my path for good, to build my faith,' she related.

She advises parents in similar situations to 'hang on to their faith, learn about your faith, and hang around people with faith.

'You have to be realistic about this situation, ' she said. ' I'm sure it would be difficult for a single parent to raise a disabled child. Adoption might be a good choice in that circumstance. Both parents have to be strong.'

Fina participates in a support group for parents of disabled children

and said this is helpful.

Fina's son is now 6 years old and attends Ferris Elementary School. 'He is making good progress in some areas. He has good health and understands a lot.' she said.

'As a parent, you have to try to see what is best for your child, and do it. You don't always know all the answers; you just try to do your best.'

Faith and friendship have been the lifelines in Fina's experience, assisting her to choose life for her son. It has become important to her to help others facing choices in what might seem to be a crisis.

'These trials have been put in your path for your good, to make your faith in God stronger,' she said.

To contact Project Gabriel in Ferris, call Corpus Christi Catholic Church during office hours at 972-842-2288 or call 972-BABY-DUE anytime.

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