Baby bottle boomerang

by Jill Ragar Esfeld
jill.esfeld@theleaven.org

SHAWNEE — St. Joseph parishioner Barb Carney is a pro-life advocate who believes actions speak louder than words.

Growing up in a vibrant Catholic community in St. Louis taught her, said Carney, that “you don’t just occupy a pew on Sunday and let that be the end of your Catholic faith. You live it.”

Carney embraces that philosophy in every aspect of her faith life, especially in her stand against abortion.

“As Catholics, if we say ‘no abortion,’ we’ve got to reach out and help women who find themselves in the situation of an unexpected pregnancy,” she said. “We’ve got to give them a solution.”

Carney discovered a way to reach out while visiting her brother in St. Louis. She saw a baby bottle on his kitchen counter, asked about it and was introduced to the Baby Bottle Boomerang project: a program that involves passing out baby bottles to be filled with change and returned (boomerang) to help fund a pregnancy center.

“When he told me about it, I just thought it would be so cool to do,” said Carney. “So I brought it up at our Ladies Guild meeting when we were talking about what to do for Mother’s Day.”

The Ladies Guild liked the idea and so did St. Joseph pastor Father Mike Hawken, who told Carney that developing pregnancy centers in the archdiocese was a special cause of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.

And Carney had a special reason for that to matter.

Carney, whose maiden name is Faust, fondly remembers the archbishop as a favorite young priest stationed at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, her brother’s parish in St. Louis.

“He would hang out at my brother’s house, and to us he was just ‘Father Joe,’” she said. “So when Father Mike told me Archbishop Naumann would like this, I wanted to do it for him.”

At Father Hawken’s suggestion, Carney contacted the pro-life office and was received enthusiastically by pro-life consultant Ron Kelsey, who had learned about the Baby Bottle Boomerang project at a convention in June. Kelsey told her the pro- life office would purchase the baby bottles if she would organize the fundraiser at her church. Funds raised would help support the Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic (WPC) that opened its doors last January. But Kelsey felt the project itself would benefit more than the clinic. “I could just visualize people putting this [baby bottle] on the kitchen table and kids chucking their pennies, nickels or dimes in,” he said. “It’s a great way to get broad participation in pregnancy center ministry and bring the issue of life up in the family and talk about it.”

St. Joseph parishioner Betty Calcara was named publicity person for the project and made sure every parishioner knew about Baby Bottle Boomerang.

Although the bottles were distributed on Mother’s Day and were supposed to be returned in late June, baby bottles continued to straggle in for months afterward. As a result, the campaign was only concluded at the end of the summer and a final tally reached only recently.

“It was an absolute thrill every time we opened a baby bottle,” said Carney. “Some people did not put change in; they put in a check.”

Overall, 600 bottles were returned, with a total of $10,063.52 inside.

Kelsey was pleased with the amount but not surprised by the generosity of St. Joseph parishioners. He praised Father Hawken and associate pastor Father Brandon Farrar for their support of the project.

“They talked about it from the pulpit and encouraged participation,” he said. “That was instrumental in the success of it.”

He also commended Carney, whom he said was the perfect person to head the project. Calcara agreed.

“Everybody loves to work for Barb,” she said. “She’s just a dear person, and the whole parish rallied around her on this.”

Kelsey estimated the budget for WCP at about $150,000 a year. The money raised by St. Joseph will help with operating costs and also help pay for nurse’s training to use a new sonogram machine.

“We’ve got a machine and we want to deliver services over the next few months,” he explained. “It’s been shown across the country that 80 percent of women who see a sonogram of their child will choose life.”

Carney said she would like to see every parish in the archdiocese try the Baby Bottle Boomerang project so more pregnancy centers can be opened.

“We’ve got to help these kids who think their life is going to end because they’re pregnant. We’ve got to show them that there’s not an end, but there is an answer,” she said. “Living our Catholic faith means we’ve got to give them a solution to the problem.”

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