by Jennifer Brinker, Review Staff Writer
In the last several months, the archdiocesan apostolate has held training sessions following the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants method. The program incorporates both prayer and direct one-on-one outreach to individuals encountered in front of the local abortion clinic.
Last month, Shelly Fravala, program coordinator for the apostolate, presented "@ The CROSSroad," a counseling training workshop geared toward teens.
"The ultimate goal with sidewalk counseling training is to create a presence at the sidewalk but also to increase that presence," said Fravala. "We want people to feel comfortable and to get over that fear that the sidewalk is only for the veterans of the pro-life movement."
She said that the apostolate eventually would like to have a trained core group of volunteers who can go out and train others how to be effective sidewalk counselors. Fravala also is available to go to parishes, schools and other groups who want to receive training.
"If you are passionate about the pro-life cause, and if you have a heart to witness in this way, anyone can be on the sidewalk after they have gone through this training," she explained.
Fravala said the importance of reaching out to women who are contemplating abortion is more important than ever with the threat of the Freedom of Choice Act.
The measure, which would repeal a broad range of pro-life laws currently set into place and allowed under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. President-elect Barack Obama has said he would sign it into law, if passed by Congress.
FOCA, she said, would take away "choices and eliminate education that women and men need to make an educated choice about abortion, adoption, parenting. If it passed, sidewalk counseling may be the only way we can provide that information to them on a last-minute basis.
Fravala said she believes there possibly could be an increased presence at abortion clinics if FOCA passes.
"People would realize the abortion regulations are gone and there would be an increased need to do all that we can to educate others" about the alternatives to abortion.
On a recent Saturday morning, Fravala met a small group outside the Planned Parenthood in the Central West End for their first real-life lesson in becoming sidewalk counselors.
Joining her that day were Cathy Phillips, a senior at Cor Jesu Academy and parishioner at Holy Infant in Ballwin; Brenda Harter of St. Joan of Arc Parish in South St. Louis and core team member with Southside Youth Ministry; and Jason Jurotich, a parishioner at Annunciation Parish in Webster Groves and also a Southside Youth Ministry core member.