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Mother of the Unborn Print E-mail
By Gregory Pfundstein   
Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Chiaroscuro Foundation recently released New York City abortion data by zip code in the form of a map. Since it took us a while to have the map developed, we have actually had the data for some time. As we thought about it and discussed it, it occurred to us that the zip codes with particularly low abortion rates were perhaps even more interesting than the zip codes with particularly high rates. We wondered why some zip codes, such as 11219 in Brooklyn, came in substantially lower than many other parts of the city. We decided to see if we could find anything interesting in some of these places.

So I searched for a Catholic church in 11219 and found Regina Pacis. I contacted the pastor, Msgr. Marino, and asked to meet. When I arrived the following Monday morning, I drove around the neighborhood a bit before going to the church. It isn’t a terrible neighborhood, but it isn’t a well-to-do neighborhood either. With such a low abortion rate, I had expected it to be somewhat more upscale. As I arrived at the church, I was even more curious than before about what Msgr. Marino might think of the low rate of abortion in his neighborhood.

And then I saw it:  the Chapel of Mary Mother of the Unborn.

It all started in 1989, when Msgr. Marino was parochial vicar at Regina Pacis. He went to have dinner with a cousin upstate who had married a Jewish woman. The conversation turned to abortion, and things got so heated between Fr. Marino and his cousin’s wife that she asked him to leave. On his way home, he was heartbroken to think that he, a Catholic priest, was unable to defend the Church’s teaching on abortion adequately, even among family. He thought and prayed about it for days, and eventually came up with the idea of developing a response that would not be anti-abortion, but pro-life:  a devotion to the Blessed Virgin, Mother of the Unborn.

After being treated a bit dismissively by his pastor and his bishop, Msgr. Marino got official recognition for the title of Mary Mother of the Unborn from Rome. He wrote a prayer and had it approved by his bishop, found a statue, and converted the old baptistery at Regina Pacis into the chapel of Mary Mother of the Unborn. And so it began.

Next to the statue, which is perched atop the baptismal font, is the Book of Life: prayers written for women who are expecting; couples who are having a hard time conceiving; couples mourning the loss of an unborn child through miscarriage; women mourning their abortions; parents wrestling with the anguish of an adverse prenatal diagnosis; mothers, fathers, grandmothers giving thanks for safe delivery. Nearly seventy large books have been filled with handwritten prayers since 1989. The walls are adorned with pictures of babies born in answer to prayer to Mary Mother of the Unborn. Every year, on the Feast of the Annunciation, Msgr. Marino brings the statue up to the church and blesses all the pregnant women of the parish, all the newborns, and all those mourning the loss of a child.

Occasionally women considering abortion come to Msgr. Marino, and he gives them his best counsel. When he senses that he has done all he can, he often takes the woman to the chapel and leaves her there. He tells the story of a couple who discovered by ultrasound that their child had not developed any arms at all and who were considering aborting him for that reason. He feared he had been unable to persuade them to carry the child to term and left them at the chapel, dejected. Several months later, they returned to present to him a child – born with two fully developed arms.

There she was, Mary Mother of the Unborn, right in the middle of a zip code with one of the lowest abortion rates in the city, in the middle of a cluster of zip codes with relatively low abortion rates. After two years working in the pro-life movement in New York City, I had never even heard of her. I hope some of you have and that many more will. Perhaps it is a devotion for our time, certainly for this city. Mary, Mother of the Unborn, pray for us:

O Mary, Mother of the Unborn,
protect the gift of human life which your
Divine Son has allowed to be given.

Give strength and joy to all parents as
they await the birth of the precious

child they have conceived.

Give courage to those who are fearful,
calm those who are anxious and guide
all of us, with your motherly care, to
treasure and protect the miraculous gift
of human life.

We ask this through your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 
Greg Pfundstein is the executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation. 


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Comments (20)Add Comment
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written by Martin Snigg, September 29, 2011
Unforgettable, thank you.
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written by Craig Payne, September 29, 2011
I have never commented on this site before, although I read it daily. But this was so moving, I just wanted to say: What a wonderful Savior we have, what a wonderful Mother as well.
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written by Sherry, September 29, 2011
What a beautiful and inspiring article!

The idea of looking at the zip code with the fewest abortions is an excellent idea. So often,in so many areas, we tend to focus on the negatives rather than trying to understand what is good, what works, what helps, what contributed to the success of some endeavor. This methodology could be applied to research regarding things such as Baptisms and Marriages, vocations, converts, reverts, etc. If there are good ideas out there, it just might help with the "new evangelization" to share them.

Thank you Msgr. Marino. Blessed Virgin, Mother of the Unborn, Pray for us.
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written by Yezhov, September 29, 2011
Look out! An obvious hate crime against the baby killers at Planned Parenthood, HHS, and the pro abort Obama administration.
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written by Louise, September 29, 2011
I was just about to prepare the template for the next two-months' prayer calendar for the local Christian pregnancy counseling center. I will forward this essay to the director.

I have believed for a long time that we define the abortion debate much too narrowly. Once again, we have accepted the enemy's terms of debate, and we let the debate remain on his turf--that it is only the woman's life who is touched by pregnancy and therefore it should be only her choice. It's time to widen that debate and insist that we are a interdependent people, none of us lives independently of others. We are all invested in each other's lives.

Believing thus, when I began to write the prayer calendar a year ago, I included prayers for the mothers and fathers of the girls with unplanned pregnancies (as individuals and as couples, for the pain of each is unique). I included the great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers. I included the fathers of the unborn. I included the fathers of those fathers, and the mothers of the fathers. I included the brothers and sisters, the friends, teachers, counselors, coaches, advisors, co-workers, team mates, of both the pregnant girl and her partner. Any one of these people, whom the world believes are insignificant, can say the one word that God knows will change her heart.

Thank you for this prayer. I was moved deeply by its sentiment. With your permission, I will use it in the prayer calendar for November and December.
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written by Tony Romualdez, September 29, 2011
Given the seriousness of the issue of abortion in the United States, even among the Catholic population, I would strongly suggest that most parishes in the country should be looking at the possibility of setting up such chapels as this in their churches. It could of great help to the people -- as the article seems to indicate vis-a-vis those who have visited this chapel at Regina Pacis.
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written by Other Joe, September 29, 2011
Great article - great story.
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written by Manfred, September 29, 2011
Some interesting points which have not been discussed. The pro-abort who threw Msgr. Marino out of her home for his pro-life views was Jewish, married to his cousin. Fr. Paul Marx lost his position as President at Human Life International because he stated in a book that powerful secular Jews (including Bernard Nathanson,M.D. who became a Catholic) had been the driving force behind abortion in this country. The second point I would make is that here is the quiet parish pastor, whom no one has heard of who is quietly implementing a pro-life program for his parishioners. He is doing this by prayerful devotion to the Mother of God who is obviously responding to his and the faithful's prayers. He is "discovered" by the low abortion rate in his parish's zip code.
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written by Sophia, September 29, 2011
Heart touching article-thank you.

LOUISE: how can I get one of your pro-life calendars? So few Pro-Life organizations have calendars. I live in Fl. and had to get one from New Orleans!
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written by Louise Helder, September 29, 2011
Beautiful! The best article I have read on this subject. The statue is so lovely.
Msgr. Marino, the Blessed Mother will someday scoop you up and bring you to her Son for what you have accomplished with the Regina Pacis chapel.
And thank you to Gregory Pfundstein for bringing this to our attention.
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written by florence, September 29, 2011
With faith and prayer, all things are possible--God is never outdone in generosity--Regina Pacis--Queen of Peace--
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written by Louise, September 29, 2011
Dear Sophia,

Do a Google search for Alternatives, Greenfield, MA. There seem to be a lot of Alternatives Pregnancy Centers around the country, but you want that one. Their telephone number and address are listed on the search page. You can request that a copy be sent by e-mail or mailed by hard copy (e-mail is cheaper for them. Donations are good, too.). I'm sure that they would be very happy to have you join their ranks of prayer warriors.

Have you thought of volunteering to write a prayer calendar for the nearest pro-life group?

Individual prayer requests are completely anonymous sent in by the counselors, and when there are not enough requests, the remaining days are filled in with general requests as I mentioned. However, the empty days at the beginning and end of the form (that is, before the first day and after the last day), I fit in verses from the Psalms that I find in the Liturgy of the Hours. The Psalms are a treasure trove. Once you have established your template, it takes only a couple hours near the end of one month to fill out the next two months, send it off to the agency for proofreading and approval, and then e-mail a PDF file. They do the rest. What could be easier?

Thank you for your interest and God bless you for joining the laborers in this field.
Louise

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written by Marie, September 29, 2011
Beautiful story, and prayer, thank you. I will use it as I stand and pray as part of the 40 Days For Life Vigil over the next 6 weeks.
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written by M Weingarden, September 30, 2011
With all due respect, you have completely missed (or chosen not to mention) the main point. It would be very hard to miss if you took a good look around the neighborhood. The most salient point about zip code 11219--and the primary reason, perhaps the ONLY significant reason, for its low abortion rate? It has one of the highest concentrations of Orthodox Jews in New York City.
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written by Chris, September 30, 2011
@ M Weingarden,

That would have been my guess before reading the blog post.
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written by Fermat, September 30, 2011
@ M Weingarden & @ Chris.

Just because there is a concentration of Jews does not mean that the intercession of our mother is not a part of this trend. The Jews hold a very special place in salvation history and I have no doubt that our mother is alive in their hearts, even if they do not realize it.
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written by John Foley, October 01, 2011
Msgr.Philip Reilly the Founder of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants lives in 11219.He has trained many men and women to do sidewalk counselling outside of abortion clinics.Google his name and look him up on the internet.
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written by Kathy Isabella, October 02, 2011
I have never made a comment about anything online. But I loved this article - I pray the rosary daily. Thanks!
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written by Colette Wilson, October 03, 2011
Thanks for this story!! The post by John Foley about Msgr. Philip Reilly is just what I was about to say! So let me add to it: The cloistered nuns who live at the Monastery of the Precious Blood on Fort Hamilton Parkway in Brooklyn, where Msgr. Reilly resides, pray continuously for an end to abortion. Msgr. Reilly says that when he returns from going to the abortion clinic to pray and sidewalk counsel, that the sisters always say to him, "How did WE do?"
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written by bill70 Multiply Catholic Friends, October 16, 2011
I would think that the fact that there is a physical chapel to visit within the church, and that there are signed books which witness to the real people who have had their lives changed toward the Pro-life stance, account for much of the good influence on people. May other churches imitate this approach to making a positive impact.

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