By Christina Galeone
CLINTON – Last year, Deacon Robert Connor – the deacon for St. Cecilia’s in Leominster and the president of First Concern Pregnancy Resource Center’s board of directors – met someone he will probably never forget. The little girl was around 5 years old. She visited the center with a woman who said she was possibly the first person the center helped.
“Clearly, this child was not the child we had helped her to keep, but as it turns out, this child was the daughter of her son. The son we had helped her to bring into the world at a time when the world told her the thing to do was to have an abortion. This beautiful little girl,” recalled Deacon Connor.
“When people think of what a pregnancy resource center does, I know the mindset is to think of the child about to be born, and rightfully so. What I am saying is that we have now been around long enough that we are getting to see the children of those children we helped to save. So, not just children, but now grandchildren and, God willing, great-grandchildren and on and on.”
Now in its 25th year, the pregnancy resource center recently moved into a larger space in the building it rents in Clinton at 116 Union St. There, it hopes to serve more people. It’s dedicated to continue its life-saving work for many years to come.
That work includes offering a variety of free services. Existing on donations and the hard work of staff, volunteers and the board of directors, the pro-life center provides pregnancy tests, peer counseling and information resources, post-abortion counseling, parenting classes, finance classes, a support group for moms and a mentoring group for dads. The pregnancy resource center – which partners with groups like Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and World Hunger Education, Advocacy & Training (WHEAT) – also has a room of donated baby items such as strollers, car seats and clothes that clients can “purchase” with “baby bucks” earned through its parenting education program. Additionally, the center’s abstinence education program reaches teens in local schools and churches.
But despite everything the center offers, Deacon Connor admitted that because of a lack of security, helping people choose life is challenging. “Whether that security is financial or personal support or shelter or confidence or love can vary from person to person. To say the deck is stacked against many of these people … is putting it lightly. What the center has always held close – and what I love about the center – is the commitment to remove all obstacles that our clients face that tell them they cannot bring this life they carry into the world,” said Deacon Connor. He added “Our people truly care about these individuals and about the babies they carry. We work to diffuse all excuses for why it won’t work and try to help people any time that this new life is met with anything other than pure joy.”
The deacon, who said he received Bishop McManus’ blessing before joining the board, said he’s grateful for the bishop’s encouragement, support and “commitment to the unborn and to all life.” Deacon Connor shares that commitment. “My hope for the center is to do my best in working with the people we have to build upon the foundation that has been laid already…so we have at least another 25 years … helping even more families than we’ve managed to help, so far,” he said. He later noted “Whatever I bring to this ministry is nothing compared to what this ministry has given to me. We all feel this way.”
And his wife, Irene Connor, who is the client services coordinator agrees. Mrs. Connor, who originally volunteered for the center for about six years, said “I help with the Moms Support Group … and I am humbled to listen to their stories but excited to help them with any advice I can offer, as a mom of four children. I also hope I can be a better parent because of my experiences here – a better listener and showing more mercy.”
She added that the center has also helped her and her husband share their beliefs with their children. “Our 14-year-old daughter has even been touched by the center, and as part of her school’s Youth Venture program, has asked that they collect personal items to make baskets for single moms … and she also wants to help with the small children during the Moms Support Group…” Mrs. Connor said. “I was her age when Roe v. Wade was implemented – and her age when the pro-life movement was sparked in my heart, attending the very first March for Life. She is the new pro-life generation, and that gives me hope!”
For information about volunteering for, donating to or seeking help from First Concern Pregnancy Resource Center, please visit its website, www.firstconcern.org, or call 978-365-9817.