I am not much of a shopper. My wife likes to joke that I break into a cold sweat if we spend more than five minutes in a store. Sure, you may catch me in a store or two at Christmas time, but I rarely venture into a shopping mall, and almost never during the summer.
The exception came when I recently drove to the Staten Island Mall. I wasn't there to shop, but rather to take a look at a pro-life display called the Truth Booth that is set up in a kiosk there.
At the Truth Booth, mall visitors can watch "A Window to the Womb," a three-minute, looping DVD that uses 4D ultrasound technology to trace the development of an unborn child from week 8 to week 34 after conception. Not only do you see movement, you see close-up images of fingers and toes and other signs of development such as the unborn baby sucking its fingers.
The Truth Booth has been in place at the Staten Island Mall since March. The booth's route to the mall actually began at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., in January where Marietta Canning, a pro-life leader from Staten Island, saw an exhibit about it presented by Maureen and Michael Nuzzi, a New Jersey couple who had the original idea for the Truth Booth. The booth, a program of the pro-life organization LifeWorks Ohio, also operates in several malls in that Midwestern state and elsewhere.
One of those who learned about the Truth Booth is Deacon Jim Stahlnecker, who is active in the Staten Island Vicariate's Respect Life Committee and is on the board of the Cross Road Foundation, a Staten Island pro-life organization. He showed the DVD at a meeting of the Area Clergy Conference, where it was well received by priests and deacons. He has since made presentations at Sunday Masses at several Staten Island churches.
Deacon Stahlnecker says he has delivered many talks about pro-life activities and organizations over the years, but the response to the Truth Booth outpaces all others. At one parish, he even received five $100 bills as individual donations. "That told me how it touches people, the idea of education in a public place," he said.
The fund-raising appeals are no small concern as monthly rent for the mall kiosk tops $2,000. Adding to the cost are printed booklets, available at the booth, showing a preborn baby's development. They feature the contact number for Pregnancy Resource Services, a program of the Cross Road Foundation, the sponsor of the Truth Booth on Staten Island.
Organizations such as the Knights of Columbus and the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Staten Island have also stepped forward to support the project.
Bill Venturini, a past Grand Knight of Assumption Council 1694, said the borough's Knights councils have generously backed the Truth Booth since members watched the DVD at a Staten Island chapter meeting. The DVD's educational nature and brevity were impressive, he said. He said he could envision a young woman dealing with a crisis pregnancy watching "A Window to the Womb" and then deciding to have her baby and place it for adoption.
Venturini has also set up several Web-based fund-raising initiatives. He and Deacon Stahlnecker alternate refilling the brochure rack at the kiosk every few days.
Deacon Stahlnecker told me the first day after the brochures were placed, a call came into the Pregnancy Resource Services from a young pregnant woman who said she had been contemplating abortion before visiting the Truth Booth and had decided to keep her baby.
"That juiced me up," he said. "It told me that this wasn't a pipe dream."
The deacon said enough contributions have already come in to keep the kiosk in place at the Staten Island Mall through October. If you can't make it there, you can view "A Window to the Womb" at www.truthbooth.org. Information: Deacon Stahlnecker, (718) 494-2743.