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Lily stared blankly into the future. Last week, she found out she was pregnant. Life seemed hopeful and exciting. Her girlfriends were so encouraging as they talked and dreamed about the things to come. Even though the whole pregnancy was unexpected and a bit scary, she felt calm and at peace when she pictured her little baby. Tiny fingers. Tiny toes. Humming soft lullabies as he drifted off to sleep. What adventures would they experience together? Lily felt this overwhelming hope up to the moment she shared the news with her boyfriend. Trevor didn’t want a baby, he told her. He was firm about this, and there was no arguing with Trevor. Lily knew he meant well and he cared for her. Even when he lost his temper, he was never as harsh as her own dad had been. Trevor rarely told her he loved her, but love is more than words. At least, that’s what she told herself. Trevor probably knew best.

The next morning, Trevor told Lily he had scheduled an abortion for her. She felt she shouldn’t argue, but Lily wanted this baby more than anything. Nobody should have the right just to take it from her. Lily called her best friend, Scarlett. Scarlett told Lily she had recently heard an ad on the radio for a pregnancy center in Front Royal, Virginia. It wouldn’t hurt to call them and get a second opinion.

Lily called and spoke with the staff at the Front Royal Pregnancy Center (FRPC). To her surprise, they truly listened to her. Everyone in her immediate family was often so dismissive. Lily felt empowered and confident to take the next step and stand up for herself and her unborn child. She called and canceled the abortion appointment, making up her mind to see an ultrasound of her baby before making any final decisions.

In 1991, four Christendom alumnae felt the call to open a pregnancy center for local women facing untimely pregnancies.

In 1991, four Christendom alumnae felt the call to open a pregnancy center for local women facing untimely pregnancies.

Because of the caring staff and emotional support at FRPC, Lily is now anticipating the birth of her firstborn and planning hopefully for the future.

A drop of water in the ocean may seem insignificant by itself, but each drop plays an important role in the composition of the whole. Similarly, one small act of compassion toward another may seem trivial, but when an entire community bands together to bring hope and healing to a broken world, the impact can be immense.

This story comes from the latest issue of Instaurare Magazine, the official magazine of Christendom College. Read more from Instaurare here!

In 1991, four Christendom alumnae felt the call to open a center for local women facing untimely pregnancies. Angelique O’Reilly ’83, Nancy Briggs ’82, Maggie Ciskanik ’84, and Tina Furtado ’83, with the faithful support of their husbands, rented a small space in the Seton Home Study School building. Their initial plan was to provide counseling and material support to any women who reached out to them.

Because of the limited space, there was nowhere to store clothing, diapers, formula, and other baby items, so the Kosten family (parents of three alumni, and grandparents of numerous other alumni) generously offered their third floor as a storage space for the center. Around this time, the alumnae enlisted the help of Kathy Foeckler ’91, who was teaching high school English at Seton at the time. Foeckler kept the storage space well stocked and served as the contact person for clients’ material needs. While sharing the history of the original center, Foeckler admitted, “We’ve come a long way.”

The center has grown much since 1991 and now features an ultrasound machine, ultrasound nurses, and more to assist with clients.

The center has grown much since it was founded in 1991 by Christendom alumnae and now features an ultrasound machine, ultrasound nurses, and more to assist with clients.

Foeckler still volunteers regularly at the center. Sometimes girls come to FRPC who must complete a number of community service hours, and Foeckler works with them as they assist with odd jobs around the center. Foeckler believes this to be yet another outreach, impacting local women from different walks of life.

“If we all do a little bit,” said Foeckler, “if we can all just do something—it doesn’t have to be something great.”

The local Knights of Columbus chapter donated a new ultrasound machine to the center on May 22, 2013. With this new addition, they have quadrupled their number of clients. The center currently has two ultrasound nurses. Ultrasounds are incredible tools for mothers who are struggling to understand the crisis they are in, and to help them grasp that the pregnancy involves another human life. While the ultrasound machine was a huge blessing, it incurred new expenses as well. FRPC hosted a local fundraiser every fall to raise donations for their nonprofit, but now it was even more vital to raise funds.

Mary Brand ’98 was invited to become a member of the board in 2014. Among her duties was organizing the Walk for Life in town. She was determined to get more of the surrounding community involved. An active parishioner of St. John the Baptist in Front Royal, Mary accepted this challenge.

FRPC's annual Walk for Life helps raise funds for the center, enabling it to serve even more people each year.

FRPC’s annual Walk for Life helps raise funds for the center, enabling it to serve even more people each year.

Brand noted, “My strategy was to use my connections to get as many people involved as possible, get the word out about the Walk for Life, and wake the ‘sleeping giant’ we had at St. John’s and the Catholic community in Front Royal. I had no idea that so much of the work was done behind the scenes in the months before the event and that the actual Walk is just a victory lap for the real fundraising efforts that take place ahead of time.”

Brand felt that she saw a whole new side of the center while serving on the board, firmly believing that we can all accomplish much more if we join together.

“I learned so much about how God can use us to accomplish his ends, despite our shortcomings,” she said. “There are so many people who stay in the shadows and don’t toot their own horns and have given so much for that Center to still be in existence today. It is truly a work of love of the community. Ultimately, though, it is God’s work, and I pray that He continues to bless the work of the Center and all those who are involved.”

“It is God’s work, and I pray that He continues to bless the work of the Center and all those who are involved.”

The center just hosted its 10th Walk for Life this past year. Families from the community came to show their support and stand for the protection of life, including numerous children who spoke out for future generations.

Over the years, numerous Christendom alumnae have been actively involved in the growth of the Front Royal Pregnancy Center, serving on the front lines in a battle against the culture of death. As a result, FRPC, now in its thirty-first year, is thriving. The growth that the center has had continues to impact and assist hundreds of women each year.

The current director at the center is Kathy Clowes, assisted by three alumnae staff—Jessica, Olivia, and Agnese. Jessica Schmitz ’15, currently serving at the center as the assistant director, regularly witnesses firsthand the trauma and suffering these mothers experience.

“It’s common for the mother to be receiving pressure from another person,” said Schmitz, “and the center can help give her the confidence to speak up for what she wants.”

Christendom students and alumni work at the pregnancy center.

Christendom students and alumni work at the pregnancy center.

Schmitz is assisted by Olivia (Cerroni) McDonough ’18, who works as the dedicated marketing specialist for the center, and they just hired Agnese Janaro ’21 this past fall, who currently serves as a donor relations assistant.

Countless other Christendom alumnae and students have been actively involved with FRPC. Before the current offices were built within the center, the back office was built out of simple blue-carpeted cubicles donated from Human Life International. When the new offices were finally built, FRPC invited the Christendom Crusaders rugby team to help break down the cubicles. They came willing and eager to assist.

Around Christmastime, Christendom students offered their time to sort baby clothes, and the Chester-Belloc Debate Society hosted a fundraiser, giving the proceeds to FRPC. Students are happy to share their time and talents in order to help support the women who seek assistance through the center.

This past year was the busiest client year to date. With the increased access to chemical abortion, women are calling very early on in their pregnancies, feeling hard set on abortion. The cultural expectation is that abortion is more accessible and easier. The center is trying their best to be present for these women and help them to pause, take a breath, and think through their situations and social pressures they are under.

This past year alone, the center served 316 unique clients, facilitated 1,031 visits to the center, offered 162 ultrasounds, and provided 175 free pregnancy tests. Thanks to the four alumnae who trusted God with blind faith and opened their doors to local women in need, the Front Royal Pregnancy Center is now thriving with the continued help and support of the surrounding community, including our dedicated students and alumni who are working selflessly to restore all things in Christ.

Read more from Instaurare Magazine here.

Contributed by Julie Wells, Communications and Creative Services Specialist at Christendom College. 

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