by Marc and Julie Anderson
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — She never expected anyone to answer her telephone call.
After all, it appeared the poster advertising Gabriel Project had been hanging at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center in Lawrence for quite some time. At least, its worn appearance gave Gabby (not her real name) that impression. Nonetheless, she decided to call anyway.
“I didn’t think it would work,” Gabby said.
“I saw the poster as I was walking around campus, trying to figure out what I was going to do,” she continued. “It said: ‘Pregnant? Need help?’ I thought, ‘Yes, I need help.’ So, I made the call.”
According to coordinator Ann Marie Alvey, Gabriel Project exists to “provide support for any woman in an unplanned pregnancy in the Kansas City area” and seeks to provide “a friend for the journey” by offering “unconditional nonjudgmental friendship along with material and emotional support” through a network of “angel volunteers” who minister to their clients, maintaining confidentiality at all times.
Currently, the program is trying to expand its network of trained angel volunteers throughout the archdiocese. Alvey will host an informational night on May 21 at Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Overland Park for prospective angel volunteers.
One current angel is Traci Streit, a parishioner at St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kansas.
In 2013, Gabriel Project expanded from its parish of origin — Holy Cross Church in Overland Park — to St. Patrick Parish (among others). Already involved in a little bit of everything — from the choir to religious education — Streit decided to receive training to become an angel and help expectant mothers by providing friendship and material support.
“Most of the needs are usually because a woman is in a situation and doesn’t have a support system,” she said. “All they perceive is that they’ve got this problem, and they don’t know how to handle it.”
Through the past six years, Streit has provided friendship to several women and has witnessed the power of prayer as God has answered the women’s material needs, too.
Streit recalled one client who found herself homeless in the dead of winter. Time was of the essence. Streit helped the mother identify shelters, making nearly 50 phone calls on her behalf. Then she spread the word among Gabriel Project’s prayer warriors.
Through the prayer network, someone else heard of the woman’s needs and offered to pay for her to stay at a hotel for one week. That week, Streit said, bought just enough time for the woman to connect with a family friend and move into a house with that same friend. After some time, the woman was able to afford her own apartment.
Calling it divine intervention, Streit said it was prayer that turned the situation from hopelessness to hope and, finally, joy.
“I really think it was the Holy Spirit,” Streit said.
Most situations, both Alvey and Streit said, aren’t that desperate. Women typically need things such as maternity clothes, diapers, cribs and strollers. Calls to pregnancy resource centers such as Wyandotte County Pregnancy Center fulfill the needs.
For Gabby, the friendship of her angel provided her strength when she needed it. She wasn’t sure she wanted to stay with the baby’s father.
Then she “happened” to see the ministry’s poster.
With Gabby’s family in Wichita and the baby’s father’s family out-of-state, Gabby said she appreciated her angel volunteer who, among other things, just listened to her concerns and encouraged her to talk to her professors.
Expecting to be judged for her actions, Gabby said she was touched by her angel’s kindness. Her angel helped her obtain diapers, a crib and a stroller.
This Mother’s Day, Gabby will mark nearly three months since her son’s birth.
“He’s just the best little boy. I feel like God has a plan for me and him,” she said. “[My angel] really helped us out. She was kind and genuine, and she never judged me. She encouraged me along the way.”