Local Ministries

4D imaging brings Respect Life Month mission into focus

Cindy Willich, who works as a sonographer at the Kansas City Pregnancy Clinic in Kansas City, Kansas, retrieves some information while Donna Kelsey, the clinic’s volunteer executive director, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann look on. The demonstration followed the blessing of the 4D ultrasound machine on Oct. 9, which was a gift of the Knights of Columbus and is the 24th such machine donated by the organization to a pregnancy resource center in Kansas. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

by Marc and Julie Anderson

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The feeling never gets old, at least not for Cindy Willich at the Kansas City Pregnancy Clinic here.

As the clinic’s sonographer, Willich performs ultrasounds on women facing difficult pregnancies. It’s work she has done at other clinics, too. She never tires of seeing the reactions of women as they get their first glimpses of their babies in utero — especially those who are considering abortion, but after seeing the baby on-screen, change their minds and choose life.

Willich was among those on hand Oct. 9 to witness the blessing of the clinic’s 4D ultrasound. The machine, a gift of the Knights of Columbus, arrived at the clinic on Sept. 14 and is the 24th one donated by the organization to pregnancy clinics within the state of Kansas.

The Kansas City Pregnancy Clinic opened July 1, 2020, and was dedicated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann on Aug. 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Located at 721 N. 31st St. in Kansas City, Kansas, the clinic occupies four rooms on the second floor of the Mercy and Truth Medical Missions building.

The Kansas City Pregnancy Clinic in Kansas City, Kansas, opened July 1, 2020 to help pregnant women in need. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

The new ultrasound machine, which has already saved at least four children from abortion since its arrival on Sept. 14, sits within the Julie Francis Brown Ultrasound Room, named after one of the state’s earliest grassroots pro-life activists. Brown’s involvement in the pro-life movement began in 1973, not long after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its famous ruling in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which legalized abortion in the United States for almost any reason.

The building is one of two operated by Mercy and Truth Medical Missions, an organization founded in 1995 to serve the underserved and uninsured with their medical needs.

Ron Kelsey, president of the Kansas City Pregnancy Clinic’s board of directors, said the new clinic’s location at the Mercy and Truth Medical Missions enables it to easily serve clients on both the Kansas and Missouri sides of the state line. Moreover, the location helps it counter the reach of Planned Parenthood in the inner city.

Archbishop Naumann talks with Donna Kelsey, the Kansas City Pregnancy Clinic’s volunteer executive director. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

Prior to blessing the machine, Archbishop Naumann prayed that “through the work of our hands and the help of technology, we cooperate with the Creator to improve the earth as the dwelling place of the human family. By our efforts to observe God’s work of creation, especially through this ultrasound machine — which will promote the choice of life over that of death — we will contribute to the advancement of the ‘culture of life’ and will help carry out Christ’s mandate to follow him in serving one another in love.”

The Kansas City Pregnancy Clinic is one of four established in large part due to the volunteer work of Kelsey, who along with his wife Donna have engaged in pro-life ministry for 48 years. In addition to the Kansas City Pregnancy Clinic, the couple also helped to form Mary’s Choices in Topeka, the Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic and the Olathe Pregnancy Clinic.

Baby clothes line the wall at the Kansas City Pregnancy Clinic. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

In the archbishop’s remarks, he stressed the importance of pregnancy care, especially as part of the Walking with Moms in Need program, a national initiative launched by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in March 2020 “to increase outreach and support to pregnant and parenting mothers in need. . . . The goal of Walking with Moms is not to reinvent the wheel or turn parishes into pregnancy centers; rather, it is about building relationships with and enhancing referrals to these helping agencies.”

Building relationships with pregnancy centers and expectant mothers in need was, according to Maryteresa Kissell, daughter of Hal and Julie Brown, the norm for her family. Her mother regularly offered women in unplanned pregnancies a place to stay in the family’s home, donated money and time to pregnancy clinics, took kids to the March for Life in Washington and engaged in legislative advocacy.

The tradition is honored today by Kissell and her family. In fact, her 14-year-old daughter Grace raised some $2,000 to help furnish the ultrasound room by baking and selling cookies. Additionally, she also created an online baby registry for the clinic and gathered her friends to help organize clothes and diapers.

Baby food and other products line a shelf at the Kansas City Pregnancy clinic, which offers pregnant women in need help in a variety of ways. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

Kissell said the blessing was, for her, bittersweet. She was humbled to see her mom’s name on the door, but it’s only been three years since she passed away, so she still misses her terribly.

Still, Kissell said her mom would be proud — but also never satisfied.

“If Mom were here on earth,” said Kissell, “she’d tell us, ‘Let’s get to work.’”

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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