Today, March 21, marks 30 years of ministry for Good Counsel, the largest private program for homeless mothers in the United States, with four homes, three in the New York City greater metro area and one outside of Camden, New Jersey.
Christopher Bell received the inspiration to create Good Counsel while working and living at Covenant House in Times Square, a ministry for homeless youth. Joining the Covenant House Community in 1979, where members prayed three hours a day and worked full-time for $10 a week, Christopher Bell encountered the dire need for homeless pregnant women.
He turned to his spiritual advisor, Father Benedict Groeschel, a Franciscan priest and psychologist, asking, “Why someone isn’t doing something about this?” Fr. Groeschel said he would help him. Together they founded what would be called Good Counsel, which started in a former convent in Hoboken, NJ on March 10, 1985.
Bell sat down for a Q and A with Mary Peterson, Facilitator for the National Maternity Housing Coalition.
Mary Peterson: 30 Years is a Long Time! What changes have you seen in the pro-life movement?
Christopher Bell: The pro-life movement has grown in depth and breadth. Grassroots people have developed respected organizations, which are reaching many more mothers and babies in need. Also, organizations are reaching mothers and fathers hurting after abortion, helping to stop many negative pieces of pro-abortion legislation and are very slowly but perceptibly, changing the legal landscape more toward life. My constant anguish is that every day abortion is still legal throughout the U.S. during all nine months. Women are being harmed, fathers are being robbed of paternity, and babies are dying.
MP: How have you been impacted by your work at Good Counsel?
CB: The mothers taught me in the beginning how much abortion hurts them: spiritually, physically, and emotionally. And the pain that I feel in knowing this anguish only deepens every day. Yet, it is only the grace of God that allows any one of us to not get depressed or over-anxious and paralyzed with fear.
I am overwhelmed and impressed with how many more mothers coming to our doors are in such desperate situations--not only poor and abandoned by family & friends, but also carrying addiction and mental health issues and a lifetime of victimization. Yet, a woman who has been so beaten down still finds great hope and love, wanting to give birth to the baby she carries even when the medical community, social services, etc., are trying to tell her--to force her--not to do that.
She doesn't even know the number of organizations, the community of pro-lifers, who are willing to sacrifice anything to help her. She is going on pure hope that giving life is the right thing to do. In doing that, she truly is continuing life for her baby, but also gives herself a new life with new hope and a new future. I don't know if I could do that.
MP: As you gather to pray today, what are you most grateful to God for?
CB: Certainly for every mother and baby we've ever touched, it is certainly a gift to do this work. We work with them in a delicate and vulnerable time, and truly our Lord shows us just how important it is to be there, to open the door and be able to listen. Especially when people are upset, they have the opportunity to express their pain and suffering, and hopefully experience healing. I am very grateful for every person who have ever prayed for us, donated to our work--food, a diaper, their time, money.
I certainly could do nothing on my own. God has sent so many wonderful people to work with, to volunteer with. I am grateful for all the people in the pro-life community, certainly maternity homes in our common work, as well as those working in lobbying, education, and other areas. Together, we can hope and pray that there will be a greater, a deeper change in our culture. But, it will only happen with one person reaching out to another.
The best way to educate and reach out is to teach someone, "What does it mean to love?" The reason people think abortion is necessary is that they just don't believe that love is enough. When you love, no matter how sick, frail, far away, etc., you just want to help. Love makes you want to fight for life, even when the circumstances seem completely desperate. Love allows someone to choose life. When there is life, there is hope. With hope, there is creativity and joy. It's a wonderful equation and we just want to spread that!
Tweet This: "Love always allows someone to choose life." @GoodCounselOrg
MP: What advice do you have for start-ups or new organizations?
CB: Before I started, someone said, "Money is going to be the problem." But it's not. Getting the right people, the right staff and co-workers is the biggest challenge. The contraceptive mentality is what is wrong with our culture. Having people who are willing to work with you that understand the painful reality of this mindset--that is when great, great things happen.
I do hope and pray that many more people will work together to concretely help pregnant moms, before and after birth. There is no better way to change the culture than to do the work that simply shows: this is what love is. Even people that disagree with us still applaud the effort, because it's love.
You can do something--everyone can do something! Being charitably fearless in speaking up. There is a moment in everyone's life when someone says something and you need to say, "Life is always worth living." The mothers at Good Counsel are witnesses to this reality--not just an exception to the rule, it is the daily reality that we are working toward.
Do you know of an organization approaching a milestone anniversary? Let us know in the comments or here.