IN GOOD HANDS—University of Notre Dame student Jennifer Huang, right, joins Koussoube Fasanewende and her son David, 17 months old, at Good Counsel Home on Staten Island. Jennifer is serving as a resident assistant this summer with sponsorship from the Notre Dame Club of Staten Island.
Photo by Mary DiBiase Blaich
By JOHN WOODS
Cardinal Dolan and a team of others spoke at a Manhattan press conference in February to reaffirm the archdiocese’s long-standing commitment to assisting pregnant women and their children.
“I renew and make my own this unwavering commitment of my predecessors,” the cardinal said. “Any pregnant woman can come to this Archdiocese of New York, to its parishes and facilities, and we will do all in our power to assist you, to welcome you, so that you never have to feel that you have no alternative except an abortion.”
The cardinal’s pledge, backed up by the good work described by many others who serve in the Church’s pro-life ministries, took place just a few weeks after Gov. Cuomo had signed the Reproductive Health Act and its devastating effects into law in New York state.
Joe Delaney of the University of Notre Dame Alumni Club of Staten Island read about the cardinal’s pledge for life in Catholic New York and decided to stand behind his archbishop in the cause of pro-life work.
The Chuck and Joan Lennon Gospel of Life Initiative, with its recently established Lennon Life Prize, seemed to be a tailor-made opportunity for Delaney and the Staten Island club. The club, and many other Notre Dame alumni clubs, applied for one of the $5,000 grants awarded with the recently established Lennon Life Prize, and this spring it was among the second set of winners.
You might recall seeing Delaney’s name in Catholic New York for his decades of service as executive director of the Notre Dame Club’s Bread of Life Food Drive, which collects tens of thousands of food items each spring for distribution to nonprofit organizations on the island. It’s a wide-ranging effort involving students and adult volunteers, schools and churches, and labor unions.
This is to say that when Delaney gets behind a project, good things usually happen. The Lennon Life Prize grant will go toward helping the Cross Road Foundation of Staten Island with its “Mommy Lab,” a new program designed to help young mothers to nurture, handle and care for their newborn babies. The funding will pay in part for a dozen life-size dolls that will help the new moms, many of whom are scared, learn from experienced nurses and volunteers at Cross Road.
My experience with pro-life organizations is that they know how to do a lot with a little out of necessity, so the helping hand from the Notre Dame clubs will go a long way. The Lennon Life Prize guidelines seek innovative ideas across the pro-life spectrum, which stress the involvement of club members and produce a meaningful impact.
“We want the clubs to come up with something that is pertinent to their area,” said Dan Allen, the spirituality program director for the Notre Dame Alumni Association in a recent phone interview.
Following news coverage of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commitment on behalf of the archdiocese, Allen said “we saw the potential for someone in the New York area to respond to it in a local way.”
“We evaluated all of the applications on their own merit, and we were pleased with the good idea from Staten Island, to be able to able to send them funding, to know it was part of the positive response to the cardinal’s charge,” Allen explained.
Delaney shared another pro-life initiative the Staten Island club is pursuing this summer apart from the prizewinner. It is also making a difference at Good Counsel Home on Staten Island, by sponsoring Notre Dame student Jennifer Huang, who is serving as a resident assistant this summer. Jennifer, who will be a junior in the fall, is interacting with the moms and babies who live there, assisting with day care and helping with assessments.
The eight-week summer program, which runs until Aug. 10, is conducted by Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns. The Staten Island club is supporting Jennifer with a stipend and a three-credit scholarship. The California native is a biochemistry and anthropology major who is planning to become a doctor.
“The staff really wants to help the women get on their feet,” she said. “There is a real sense of community that is unique.”
The best part of all this is that pro-life initiatives are not just available on Staten Island. One of the points the cardinal stressed earlier this year was that the Church shouldn’t be afraid to toot its own horn and show the good it is accomplishing for others.