For Celeste and her husband of 17 years, the thought of having another child was too much for them to bear. With several other children, the family was going through a tough time two years ago and didn’t have a place to live. They often spent the night in their truck.
Celeste decided to have an abortion, and she called Life Choices Women’s Clinic. Sheila Riely, director, answered and had them come over that night.
“We didn’t have anything to eat, and she bought us food,” Celeste said of Riely. The director also gave the family a place to stay that night. The next morning, Celeste had an ultrasound at the clinic.
“I saw my baby then,” Celeste said, choking back tears. “I saw her hand, and she was waving at me.”
The couple knew then they would have their baby, and Riely made sure their family had a place to live and supplies. Within three months, they saved up enough money to rent an apartment, and by the time their daughter was born, they had a stable place to live.
“I call her my miracle baby,” Celeste said.
Celeste still keeps in touch with the Women’s Center, and they help her if she needs diapers, other supplies, or just to talk. She also volunteers at the center to help give back to them.
“The whole team there is amazing,” she said. “They are very understanding and they are willing to help you when you need it.”
With the clinic’s qualified staff of doctors, nurse practitioners and others, the Catholic health center provides medical care, counseling and education to women and their families in a way that respects both the mother and the child.
Laura was a single parent of two children and was back to school to earn her nursing degree when she found out she was pregnant, she shared with Heartbeat International. She decided to have an abortion — a decision encouraged by her boyfriend —, but as she walked into the facility, she met a woman who told her about Life Choices Women’s Clinic. She went, and had an ultrasound, where she saw her child for the first time. Life Choices helped her and gave her hope, and now she is a nurse with a thriving son.
“When I felt I had no other options, an act of kindness opened the way to an amazing life,” she shared in a promotional video for the CDA.
The clinic offers free pregnancy tests, housing, aid and support. Staff continue to assist clients after their children are born by providing clothing, supplies, education, mentoring and encouragement.
“One of the things I always find is a little bit of help makes a huge difference,” Riely said of her work with women and families. “I had a woman last week tell me, ‘I just needed someone to be kind to me today.’ … I think in this world, more and more people just need to be treated with kindness.”
Riely said she began with the Life Choices Women’s Clinic about 35 years ago when they were a fledgling all-volunteer organization, and she has stayed with them as they grew into a staffed medical clinic, now with 13 employees. Riely said that the Charity and Development Appeal was one of their original donors and has regularly supported them over the years.
“CDA believed in us first,” she said. “It was the boost that has helped us grow.”
She said they also are grateful for the support of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted who celebrated Mass in their new clinic in 2018 and has blessed ultrasound machines in both clinics.
Mike Phelan, director of the Marriage and Respect Life Office for the Diocese of Phoenix, said the center’s two locations, as well as their mobile bus clinic, are making a difference in the lives of women.
“I am very proud of the work Life Choices Women’s Clinic and all of our Catholic crisis pregnancy centers,” Phelan said. “Life Choices is directly saving lives and providing women with hope who feel hopeless.”
This story by Lisa Dahm was originally published in The Catholic Sun, the newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix.