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From abortion clinic to a place of healing
Cecilia makes a difference for women
Action-oriented. This one phrase sums up Cecilia Tombelli’s persona. Her mission? From death to life. Cecilia’s mission was nothing less than transformation of an abortion clinic into a place of healing and new life.
How did Cecilia, Father Steve Mattson, pastor of the Church of the Resurrection, and the Diocese of Lansing bring this about? Through a combination of persistent prayer and hard-nosed negotiations with the owner of the building, who rented space to the abortion clinic.
Today, New Life Center, a resource for pregnancy options and post-abortion healing, shares space with the parish offices of the Church of the Resurrection on Grand River Avenue in Lansing. Cecilia is the director of New Life Center services: “Our ministry is not just to save babies’ lives, but to keep the mothers from further emotional damage,” she explains.
In the spring of 2013, Cecilia became director of the third 40 Day for Life Campaign of fasting and prayer at the site of the abortion clinic with the goal of closing it. Comprising three components – personal prayer and fasting, group prayer and fasting at the site, and community outreach – the campaign was supported by ecumenical volunteers who took shifts to be visible on the sidewalk outside the clinic from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Not only did the group pray and fast, but being on site allowed them to do sidewalk pregnancy counseling. “Our prayer was that when we spoke to a woman, she could hear the voice of Christ and hear our love. We wanted those entering the clinic to hear hope, and those exiting after a completed abortion to hear mercy. We never want to be perceived as judgmental,” Cecilia says.
“During one of the campaigns, Bishop Boyea joined us. It was snowing and he was sick, but he came and led us in the rosary. We asked for the intercession of Our Lady from Czestochowa, Fatima and Guadalupe. On that particular day, three women changed their mind about abortion. We attribute those saved babies to Our Lady,” Cecilia says.
After five campaigns of prayer and Father Steve’s negotiations with the building owner, the clinic closed on Oct. 1, 2014. The New Life Center operates under the auspices of the Church of the Resurrection. The parish moved its offices there to accommodate housing four Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, who came to teach at Resurrection School and Lansing Catholic High School.
Shortly after the clinic closed in October of 2014, the transformation of the site began, and. Father Steve invited Cecilia to oversee it. Because the site had been used to perform abortions, a team from the diocese spent time in the building performing an exorcism. A group that included Bishop Boyea, Father Steve Mattson, a licensed doctor and a prayer team moved through the building of the former abortion clinic and claimed the building for Christ.
We give pregnancy counseling and post-abortion recovery classes. Publicly coming to grips with an abortion includes a huge amount of shame and self-reproach, so it is not easy to convince a woman she will be forgiven. We offer an eight-week, Bible-based course, Forgiven and Set Free, to help women heal that emotional wound caused by abortion, and to accept God’s forgiveness and mercy. We are also a host site for pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-family groups.
“As Catholics, we have an incredible message to share with the world that the human person, independent of whether they are in the womb or out, has great value, beauty and dignity,” Cecilia says. “Though abortion has been legal for around 40 years, in a short time this clinic was closed and renovated and women have been healed. This shows me that all things are possible with God.”
Information about services provided can be found at the New Life Center Facebook page and at www.newlifecenterlansing.org. Call 517.993.0291 for questions on post-abortion recovery classes, or to reserve a space for your nonprofit pro-life ministry.
For more information on family life ministry in the Diocese of Lansing, visit www.dioceseoflansing.org/family_life_ministry.