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Bishop Burbidge blesses the new Mother of Mercy Free Clinic

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For 27 years, the pro-lifers who faithfully prayed outside the Manassas abortion clinic were forced to keep their distance. “This was a very dark place and a place that we were all kind of scared of. We were warned if we got too close that the police would come,” said Kelly McGinn, a parishioner of All Saints Church in Manassas.


On World Day of the Poor, Nov. 19, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge blessed the building as the new Mother of Mercy Free Clinic.


Some 80 Catholics, many of whom had stood vigil outside the abortion clinic, gathered in the building and spilled out onto the sidewalk for the event. “It’s just an amazing thing to cross the threshold,” said McGinn. “It’s really crossing the threshold of hope because now this is a place where people who don't have access to medical care are going to be nurtured.”


During his opening remarks, Art Bennett, president and CEO of diocesan Catholic Charities, took a moment to remember those who lost their lives at the abortion clinic as well as the pro-lifers who prayed for the clinic to close. “Right out there is where the interventions were made and where the grace was built for the change that we’re seeing here today,” he said.


Over the years, those who prayed outside the clinic witnessed many miracles, said Mike Hadro.  One of the doctors who performed abortions no longer does, he said. Women decided to keep their babies or place them for adoption. One of those children is now Hadro’s adopted granddaughter. “We’ve had so many fruits from this clinic.”


Pro-lifer Brian Shaw befriended the widowed owner of the clinic. A group of Catholics formed the BVM Foundation to raise money to buy the clinic from her, shutting down the business and allowing her to retire. The owner, former Catholic, has reconciled with the church, said Hadro.


 “It wasn't enough to stop an evil,” said Bennett. “They wanted something good to happen, so this (free clinic) is the full flowering of the solidarity of our church.”


Bishop Burbidge expressed his gratitude that the blessing could take place on the inaugural World Day of the Poor. The motto this year is “Love not in word, but in deed.”


“What an incredible deed this is,” he said before sprinkling holy water throughout the facility. “We want to entrust this building to God’s protection and care. All those who come through these doors, we want them to experience not only good medical care and attention, but compassion and the love of Christ.”


Many local clergy and volunteers who will run the clinic were present at the blessing, including Deacon Scott Ross, a physician and parishioner of Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville who serves as medical director. Most of the clinic’s volunteers belong to nearby parishes, but other churches have shown their support as well. St. Ann Church in Arlington made 120 first-aid kits for the clinic.


The facility will open for patients Dec. 6 and provide general medical care for thousands of uninsured adults in the region, said Deacon Ross. If a patient needs surgery, an X-ray, gynecological services or any other specialty, the clinic knows other doctors they can contact. “It’s truly a blessing,” he said.


“I see lots of people coming here,” said Father Juan A. Puigbó, parochial vicar of All Saints with special care of St. Gabriel Mission in Manassas Park. “Those undocumented, those immigrants who are new to the area who are looking not only for medical care but for a human touch that comes from God to tell them they are protected, they are going to be ok.


 “Lots of these people that are going to come to the free clinic were praying on the street for the former clinic to go away,” he said. “And people didn’t know this was going to happen. This is all God’s grace coming into perfect order.”

This story has been updated. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017