History of Gabriel Project
The Gabriel Project began as a parish project in a handful of parishes around the U.S. One of the parishes was St. Michael's Catholic Church in Houston. The pastor placed a sign in front of the church stating that his church would help a woman in a crisis pregnancy. In 1990, Rex Moses, saw the sign at St. Michael's and brought the idea to the Corpus Christi Diocese where it incorporated at a 501(c)3 to be a diocesan and ecumenical effort under the guidance of Bishop Rene Gracida. Approximately 50 churches, Catholic and non-Catholic, came on board to participate in the Gabriel Project in the Corpus Christi Diocese under the leadership of Dale Cumberland. In 1991, with the blessings of Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, the Diocese of Galveston-Houston signed up about 50 Catholic and non-Catholic churches to participate in the Gabriel Project under the leadership of Cathy McConn.
After researching the Gabriel Project, in May of 1992, Ann Bierschenk, diocesan Respect Life director, sent Bishop John McCarthy a letter requesting his permission to initiate the Gabriel Project in the Austin Diocese. With his permission came the stipulation that it be carefully thought out so that it would be successful and not a burden for pastors. Father Louis Pavlicek, then pastor of St. William Parish in Round Rock, agreed to let his parishioners pilot the Gabriel Project for the Austin Diocese. On Feb. 14, 1993, the Gabriel Project was initiated on a parish level in the Austin Diocese and the first call for help was received the next day.
In February of 1994, the Respect Life Office offered a series of Gabriel Project informational meetings throughout the Austin Diocese and appointed Sheri Danze the coordinator of the project. Bishop McCarthy sent letters inviting pastors and interested individuals to the meetings, and 12 parishes initiated the Gabriel Project that year. Polly Cronin was appointed to assist Sheri Danze with coordinating the project.
As of November 2012, the Gabriel Project in the Austin Diocese has grown more than 40 participating Catholic churches. Regularly scheduled Angel Trainings are held at host parishes within the diocese. Through the years, more than 500 "angels" have been trained to assist pregnant women. The Pro-Life Helpline and toll-free number have been set up to reach women through the community Yellow Pages. Calls are answered by volunteers who have been trained as Helpline Angels. Sidewalk Angels reach out to those in need going into abortion facilities offering hope, assistance and prayers.
In 1999, Our Lady of Angels Maternity Shelter opened in Temple in response to the need for emergency shelter and housing for pregnant women. In 2001, Annunciation Maternity Home in Georgetown opened in response to the need for long-term and transitional housing.
In 2002, the Gabriel Project Life Center opened at Our Lady's Family Center in East Austin on the corner of East Sixth Street at Chicon. In July 2011, Our Lady's Family Center closed and the Gabriel Project Life Center became a part of Catholic Charities of Central Texas.
The Life Centers at Catholic Charities, located in Austin and Bryan, are open Monday through Friday and offer free pregnancy tests, material assistance, and educational parenting classes to women and men in need.
The Gabriel Project is listed in the Austin Yellow Page Directory under the heading: Abortion Alternatives. The ad provides both a local telephone number and a toll-free number.