Knights of Columbus councils and assemblies in the Diocese were challenged with a monumental task to help Morning Star Pregnancy Services in its pro-life ministry to women facing unplanned pregnancies.
The task – raise enough funds for the pregnancy center to purchase three critically-needed ultrasound machines, the most effective tool in determining the health and development of an unborn baby and encouraging an abortion-minded woman to give her child the gift of life.
The result – $166,000 in support of the life-saving work at Morning Star.
Inspired by the fraternal organization’s focus on promoting a culture of life, 21 Knights of Columbus councils and assemblies in the Diocese – along with the generosity of the Columbiettes and individual parishioners – mobilized for the effort.
A total of $84,523 was contributed at the Diocesan level, and a check for $80,518.41 was given to Morning Star by the Harrisburg Diocesan Chapter of the Knights of Columbus, with a check for a matching amount from the Supreme Council Office. The balance has been earmarked as an additional donation for Morning Star under the auspices of the Knights ASAP (Aid and Support After Pregnancy) Program.
“The Knights of Columbus have been committed to the sanctity of life. This project here in Harrisburg brings to bear the energies of the local Knights’, the State Council and the Supreme Council to help protect life here in Harrisburg, and promote the dignity of life,” said Lou Kratz, Chapter Vice President of the Central East Region of the Knights of Columbus.
The enormous efforts of the councils, assemblies, parishes and groups that have donated to the project are already bearing fruit, as the ultrasound machines are already in use at Morning Star, replacing older machines just in the nick of time.
On Monday, November 7, Bishop Ronald Gainer blessed the machines at Morning Star’s Harrisburg clinic, located at 2509 North Front Street, during a ceremony attended by some dozen Knights from the state and local level.
The ultrasound units allow us to “peer into the earliest moments of human life” and see more clearly its dignity, the bishop said during the blessing ceremony, at which those gathered prayed for the protection of life and the proclamation of the Gospel of Life.
“We gather with great joy and with true gratitude to the Knights of Columbus for the generous donation,” Bishop Gainer said. “We thank God for the opportunity to use these to preserve and save the lives of the unborn.”
“Our prayer is that what will enter the mother’s eyes through these images will also enter their hearts, and that they will see the true image and likeness of the God who made them and be moved to welcome, to nourish, to protect the life of the unborn,” he said.
Kratz told The Catholic Witness the fundraising effort was well-orchestrated throughout the Diocese, and had the support of the state level of the Knights of Columbus.
“When Morning Star asked for our help, everybody was galvanized. Their request really became our ‘North Star’ and got everybody moving in the same direction toward the same goal for six months,” he said.
Word spread through e-mails, phone calls and several presentations to local councils.
“There are 66 councils in the Diocese, and they span a large geographic area,” Kratz said. “The Knights are committed to protect and embrace life, and many of our councils already have ongoing efforts to support their pro-life activities. The councils and assemblies that contributed directly to this project really stepped up and went above and beyond.”
Morning Star’s Work with Women and Babies
In the life-affirming work of pro-life pregnancy centers, there’s no diagnostic tool more important than an ultrasound machine, said Linda Plummer, Executive Director of Morning Star.
Whether used to connect a mother to the child growing inside her, or to examine a baby’s health, development or location, ultrasounds are key when it comes to caring for women and babies.
“I don’t know how much I can emphasize that ultrasounds are critical in this work,” she told The Witness.
That’s because denial is powerful, she said.
“The more you can think of the baby as a mass of tissue or a lump of cells, the easier it is to justify abortion,” Plummer said. “Women in a crisis pregnancy are in a terrible situation, and they don’t see a way out of it. In their heart of hearts, when they become pregnant, they know they are a mother on some level. The ultrasound machine is such a gentle and loving way to break all their defenses down so the woman can see that’s her baby, not a model or a picture.”
“Ultrasounds are what draw women here to our center,” she said. “We use them as profusely and generously as we can. We are blessed to be able to offer ultrasounds during all of our hours of operation, so that women aren’t coming here for an ultrasound and being asked to come back on another day. For any woman who is at risk, we have her come back weekly until she makes a decision on whether to have an abortion. We are willing to keep doing ultrasounds for them; every ultrasound is an opportunity for them to bond with their baby even more.”
Sometimes, the women who turn to Morning Star go through with an abortion. Still, many return to Morning Star, Plummer said. “They come back and tell us they knew they could come here and be cared for, they knew they wouldn’t be judged here, and that they regret their decision to have an abortion. We build a relationship with them so they know they can always turn to us.”
With locations in Harrisburg, Middletown and New Cumberland, Morning Star Pregnancy Services provides care for women facing unplanned pregnancies. Services are free and include pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, STD testing, information on abortion and alternatives to it, community referrals and materials support. Medical professionals and counselors work one-on-one with women in a caring, judgement-free environment.
Morning Star’s Harrisburg clinic relocated in November 2020 from its former site on Allentown Boulevard in Harrisburg to its Front Street location – a move that has allowed the center to reach more women, Plummer said.
“It’s such a blessing to be here,” she said. “We can see more clients, we can offer more services. We are able to see 700 more clients per year here because of an extra counseling room, and we’ve doubled the amount of ultrasounds we were providing.”
The councils, assemblies and groups that came together on behalf of Morning Star can be assured that their donations are currently being used to serve women and give voice to the sanctity of human life.
“I was quite on the edge of tears,” Kratz said of the blessing ceremony. “It was a privilege and an honor to be asked to contribute to this project. Today was a wonderful day for the Diocese, for Morning Star and for the Knights. We’re celebrating this effort.”
“To have the Knights fundraise for us is just a blessing,” Plummer remarked. “We are incredibly grateful for what they’ve been able to do. We are so blessed to see all the councils, assemblies and people who pulled together to make this happen.”
Donors to the Ultrasound Machine Project for Morning Star
The Harrisburg Diocesan Chapter of the Knights of Columbus express their gratitude to the following councils, assemblies and individuals who generous contributed to the project to benefit Morning Star Pregnancy Services:
St. Joseph Council 6353, York
St. Catherine Laboure Council 12811, Harrisburg
Father Cyril J. Allwein Assembly No. 944, New Freedom
Central East Spring Meeting, Harrisburg
Central East Spring Meeting, Altoona/Johnstown
St. Joseph Council 12788, Mechanicsburg
St. Margaret Mary Council 14395, Harrisburg
St. John the Baptist Council 8891, New Freedom
Santa Maria Assembly 0915, Lancaster
St. Rose of Lima Council 10870, York
St. Rose of Lima Columbiettes 10870, York
York Council 1530, Dallastown
Hanover Council 871, Hanover
McSherrystown Council 2551, McSherrystown
Chambersburg Council 1426, Chambersburg
Palmyra Council 10502, Palmyra
York Council 11872, York
Middletown Council 3501, Middletown
Parishioners of Holy Name of Jesus, Harrisburg
Holy Name of Jesus Council 14081, Harrisburg
Father Edward Gerrity Council 10474, Manchester
St. Vincent de Paul Council 14865, Hanover
St. Joan of Arc Council 6693, Hershey
St. Matthew Council 15351, Dauphin
Father Michael F. Barrett Council 232, Annville
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness