By Mary Huber
ALTA LOMA—While our country continues the ongoing controversy surrounding the moral, legal and religious issue of abortion, the indisputable fact remains that an unborn baby’s heart beats after 18 days.
That is the hard-hitting billboard message that has greeted motorists driving west on Interstate 210 since early July, thanks to the work of Respect Life ministers at St. Peter and St. Paul Parish, Alta Loma, in collaboration with interfaith partners.
Driving home from an Assure Pregnancy Counseling Center banquet in Ontario a couple of years ago, James and Danielle Nahas, parishioners at St Therese Catholic Church in Alhambra, were inspired to do something positive to advocate for the innocent children and the families who suffer long-lasting effects as a result of abortion.
They began a fundraising campaign for the “San Gabriel Valley Billboard Project.” Danielle, a former Respect Life Coordinator at St Peter and St Paul, reached out to her former parish and the campaign began.
“Our pastor and priests, ministry groups, office staff, and individual parishioners came together to raise funds for the billboard,” said Deborah Cummings, current Respect Life Coordinator for St. Peter and St. Paul. “We worked with the Knights of Columbus, Our Charity in Action ministry and Art and Environment.”
Meanwhile, the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship was inspired to raise funds in honor of parishioner Ed Combs, who passed away last year and always wanted a put up a pro-life billboard, said Cummings.
When Combs’ wife, Joan, realized the success of the campaign, she said, ‘I’m sure my Ed is smiling up in heaven!’ ”
At the end of the day, the campaign evolved into an ecumenical effort, including the support of Hillside Community Church in Alta Loma.
Thanks to the generosity of all involved, the billboard is proudly displayed along I-210 just east of the 605 Freeway, an area that faces major congestion during rush hour traffic. An estimated 1.4 million travelers will continue to see the positive message of hope each day throughout the month of September.
The billboard’s message underscores the presence of a human life in the mother’s womb from the earliest moments. By eight weeks, the little one is completely formed; the stomach produces digestive juices, the liver is making blood cells and the kidneys begin to function. Even their taste buds begin to form. But for many, understanding the value of the unborn must begin with a conversion of heart.
Mary Huber is the Director of the Diocesan Ministry of Respect Life and Pastoral Care.