“Hope responds to the aspiration of happiness, and each one of us is seeking that happiness, somewhere; within each one of us, God has placed that longing,” said Bishop Barry C. Knestout, addressing a crowd of more than 300 people who had gathered Saturday night, July 13, at St. Matthew, Virginia Beach, for the fifth annual Hope 4 Life banquet, an event benefiting the local nonprofit whose mission is to support women in crisis pregnancies.
“If we can inspire that sense of hope in those who we encounter,” Bishop Knestout said, “we can overcome a lot, in terms of doubt, concern, worry, fear, despair. I believe that Hope 4 Life is an instrument of this theological virtue of hope — it’s an expression of it — because you are willing to share this hope with the women you encounter . . . and they, too, are then encouraged to hope.”
Founded in 2014, Hope 4 Life offers a number of services to women in Hampton Roads. The organization operates a mobile pregnancy resource center, which is parked four days each week outside of one of the area’s three abortion clinics, and which provides free ultrasounds and one-on-one counseling. Volunteers distribute car seats, strollers, diapers and clothing and, in some situations, offer financial assistance to young women for rent, water bills and car repairs. It also refers women to Catholic Charities for adoption services and to other resource centers aiding families in need.
There was no fee to attend the banquet, featuring dinner and dessert, a wine bar and acoustic guitar music. Instead, guests were asked to make a donation at the end of the evening.
“The event is open to all,” board member Christine Martinez said. “The annual banquet is intended to spread the word to Catholics as well as non-Catholics; the pro-life message is for everyone.”
Taking a leap of faith
The bishop noted that in the months following 9/11, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delineated three categories of risk: “known knowns”— risks that are fully anticipated, “known unknowns”— risks of which one is aware might arise and “unknown unknowns”— risks that one cannot at all foresee.
“There is a fourth category that he sort of omitted, and that is the ‘unknown knowns,’” Bishop Knestout said. “The ‘unknown knowns’ are problems that we know are there, risks we know that are there, but that we deny, that we turn a blind eye toward. These are problems that we can see, but to deal with them is so complicated or painful or difficult that many refuse to deal with them. Many turn aside from them.”
The volunteer who provides sidewalk counseling by not turning a blind eye toward the problem of abortion, he said, is taking a risk — a risk of being berated, dismissed or rejected.
Yet, those who follow the path of Christ have a responsibility to take a degree of risk, to take a leap of faith, in offering hope and encouragement to those who they encounter.
“We are all called to foster the fruits of the Spirit — patience, gentleness and kindness — in our own lives, and we are also called to bring those virtues to others,” Bishop Knestout said, “especially to those who are in the midst of crisis and who don’t see how any of those virtues make any sense at all to them at that time.”
Hope is found in the willingness to embrace the uncertainty and the risks of life, in extending assistance and support to others, the bishop said, “and I believe that Hope 4 Life expresses that, and that each one of you is participating in that sacrificial love.”
‘That changed everything’
During the banquet, Hope 4 Life co-director Cheri Britt recounted stories of the day-to-day operations of the mobile unit, telling the audience of the women who volunteers have met in their ministry, many of whom face financial and employment difficulties or feel as if they are trapped in unhealthy relationships.
Britt said Hope 4 Life provided one woman with the funds to get her car repaired so that she could seek employment and gain a measure of independence from an unsupportive partner.
Another woman told volunteers that she decided to keep her baby after being provided with an ultrasound at the mobile resource center.
“She said that once she could see her baby, that changed everything,” Britt said.
In the past year alone Hope 4 Life has outfitted 43 full nurseries for young mothers in need.
Since its beginning, the group has encouraged hundreds of women to choose life for their children, Britt said, adding that the ministry has reached a milestone this summer.
“We are so happy to report the we’ve reached 500 babies saved, as of June 26, 2019,” she announced amid applause from the audience.
At the end of the evening, Britt shared a video made by mothers who had been helped over the years by Hope 4 Life, featuring a montage of young women standing along a busy street near one of the area’s clinics.
“Thank you, Hope 4 Life. We love you guys,” one young woman said in the video.
“Thank you, Hope 4 Life, for encouraging me,” added another.
A young couple standing with their daughter in a stroller, smiled and chorused together, “We have a girl.”
“We are happy to report that 90 percent of moms who get an ultrasound on the mobile unit choose life,” Britt said. “As we know, ultrasounds are the window to the womb. There is a lot of love and joy on the mobile.”
By the end of the evening, the banquet had raised more than $40,000 in cash, $14,800 in pledges and $50,000 in matching funds from an anonymous donor.
“We have been so blessed,” Martinez said.