Austin’s JPII Center continues to build ‘culture of life’

By Christina Grace Dehan

“I plead with you –– never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.” These words of St. John Paul II, recalled by the St. John Paul II Life Center’s Board President and Co-founder Tim Von Dohlen at the center’s fundraising gala on Nov. 11, encapsulate the past, present and future of the St. John Paul II Life Center and Vitae Clinic. 
The center and clinic opened their doors in October 2010, thanks to the generosity and tenacity of Pat and Tim Von Dohlen and Sheri and Chris Danze. Since then, the “St. JPII Life Center and Vitae Clinic have cared for 4,000 patients, helped 500-plus mothers facing unexpected pregnancies to embrace life, and educated thousands about the gift of fertility and beauty of life,” said Kimberly Guidry Speirs, executive director. 
One of those 500 mothers, Abigail Borah, shared her story at the gala. While volunteering for Planned Parenthood as a college student, Borah found out that the organization is the number one abortion provider in the country, which prompted her to seek out and volunteer at the St. John Paul II Life Center. Not long after, she found herself unexpectedly pregnant and in need of the center’s services. Borah recently graduated from college with her little boy in tow, and is now an employee at the St. John Paul II Life Center. 
“Planned Parenthood tells women that they can’t do it –– they can’t be successful mothers,” Borah said. We remind women that they are strong and they are beautiful, and I know that because I’ve been there.”
Von Dohlen echoed Borah’s sentiments while recounting the center’s ambitious goals for 2017. 
“Our second physician, Dr. Blake Weidaw, will begin accepting patients in January and we expect to continue growing our services to women facing unexpected pregnancies as the services we provide remind them that they are capable of being great mothers. Less than 4 percent of our crisis clients confirm abortion,” he said.
The keynote speaker at the gala was Bishop Michael Sis from the Diocese of San Angelo. Bishop Sis is a priest of the Austin Diocese and served as vicar general prior to being named the bishop of San Angelo. As he praised the work of the St. John Paul II Life Center and Vitae Clinic, Bishop Sis encouraged those in attendance –– particularly the lay people –– to follow the example of the Von Dohlens and Danzes, who, like the disciples in the Gospel account of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, took what little they had, entrusted it to the Lord and witnessed a miracle. 
“On any given day,” Bishop Sis said, “you look around you and you see situations where something needs to be done, and you point it out to Jesus. And he says to you, like he said to his disciples 2,000 years ago, ‘You give them something to eat yourselves.’ You put [what little you have] in the hands of Jesus, you allow him to transform it, and through his miraculous power, he multiplies it beyond your wildest dreams, and a lot of good is accomplished.”
Bishop Sis employed a cooking analogy to illustrate this particular charism of the laity: “Consider the example of making a big pot of menudo or Texas chili. All you have to put in the pot is a little bit of red chili pepper. And in time, that little bit of chili pepper flavors the whole pot. You can be that chili pepper in the cooking pot of society; over time, you can bring flavor to the entire world.”
He also warned against the vice of pusillanimity, which is a smallness of soul that says, “I have nothing to give; I have nothing to offer. Let other people take care of it. It is a faintheartedness that shrinks back in the face of difficulty. The main effect of this vice is inaction,” which is contrary to the Christian life. We are to “be doers of the Word, and not hearers only,” as we hear in the fourth chapter of the book of James. 
In closing, Bishop Sis recounted the many services that the St. John Paul II Center and Vitae Clinic provide –– effective, ethical fertility treatments, holistic education about natural family planning and human sexuality, and compassionate care for women who find themselves in unplanned or crisis pregnancies. 
“At the St. John Paul II Life Center and the Vitae Clinic, they are not content simply to listen to the word of faith; they are doers of faith,” Bishop Sis said. “They placed their resources in the hands of the Lord Jesus, and he is working miracles through their initiative, and the help of many others ... they are helping build a culture of life and a civilization of love.
For more information on the St. John Paul II Life Center in Austin, visit or call (512) 407-2900.