Lorie Mc Millan

Lorie Mc Millan

September 28, 2015

About a year and a half ago, Lorie McMillan, executive director of the Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre, received a call from Catholic Social Services chief executive officer Stephen Carattini.

The Catholic charities executive had just moved from the U.S. to take the CSS helm. As part of his introduction to his new job, Carattini made a point of visiting other Catholic agencies in his new city.

He heard how growing demand for the services of the centre, which provides compassion, information and support to women and their families in a crisis pregnancy, had strained the volunteer-based organization.

CSS had worked with pregnant women before, but Carattini said he was intrigued by the agency's work with young women and the unborn. The centre became a ministry of CSS on Sept. 1.

"It speaks very much to our first guiding principle which is the sanctity and dignity of all human life," he said.

Carattini's team had reflected on the words of Pope Francis on caring for the very young and very old.

"We represent the Church and we teach that all life is sacred. So when a young woman makes the courageous decision to choose life, we should be there to walk with her and assist her," he said.


"We believe in the sanctity of life from the moment of conception and want to provide compassion, humility and respect to women who find themselves in a difficult and uncertain time in their lives."

The centre, located at 107th Avenue and 111th Street, offers free access to pregnancy tests, peer crisis counselling, non-diagnostic ultrasound, referrals for housing and baby care items like clothing, diapers and blankets.

McMillan said the centre has helped thousands of women in crisis pregnancy situations since it opened in 1984. Today, the question most often asked is "How long will it take before I can have an abortion?"

CSS will oversee management and operations of the centre, a move that will expand its resources, services and reach, at a time when the sanctity of life is under attack by cavalier attitudes toward abortion, said McMillan.

"Our purpose is to educate the young woman and let her know that there are other choices than just disposing of the baby," she said.

"There can be no greater joy than when an individual woman or couple find out a little bit more about what is really happening in this pregnancy, and say, 'We decided we're going to keep our baby,'" said McMillan.

Follow-up contact is offered, but it is hard to say how many women decide to go through with their pregnancy after leaving the centre, she said.

The centre sees about 120 women each year.

Michelle Christie, executive vice president of ministries for CSS, said the charity is excited about the possibility of expanding their ministries.


They have already identified a need for residential supports to help women who choose to have their child, and who need life skills, job opportunities and a support system.

CSS will also hire a full-time staff member and increase the drop-in centre hours. As well, the centre will do more advertising and outreach. Volunteers will continue to provide the bulk of services.

Having a full-time staff member who can liaise with communities and parishes will help the centre become better known, said McMillan.

The centre's services will continue to be offered free of charge and may be

expanded to include pre and post-abortion counselling.

"We do what we do without condition and without judgment, so that is a possibility in the future," said Carattini. "Even if we just positively affect one life, that's a good thing."

The ministry is being entrusted to St. Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian doctor who chose to give birth to her daughter knowing it would cost her own life, said Carattini.

The name of the centre has not been changed.