Standing by the Beautiful Beginnings van along with Bishop John McIntyre (center) are (from left) archdiocesan Catholic Social Services’ Renee Hudson-Small, Joseph Sweeney, Amy Stoner, James Amato and the vice president of Real Alternatives, Deacon Thomas Lang. (Sarah Webb)

Archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS) now has another tool in its arsenal for the protection of unborn life.

During a ceremony at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center on Tuesday, Feb. 18, Bishop John J. McIntyre officially blessed a new van that will provide mobile outreach to pregnant women and new mothers throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding counties under a program titled “Beautiful Beginnings.”

(Watch a video of the blessing ceremony here.)

In his brief homily, Bishop McIntyre likened the staff who will utilize the van and the new mothers to Mary, who epitomized the great “Yes” through the Annunciation and the Visitation.

The van, with a colorful picture of a newborn baby on its sides, may be the first of several. It has been provided by Real Alternatives, a private agency that administers funding through the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and also partially through the federal TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) program.

Representing Real Alternatives at the brief ceremony was Deacon Thomas Lang, the agency’s vice president of operations and a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Harrisburg.


“We also have programs in Texas and Michigan and we help many states set up their own programs,” Deacon Lang said. “We are a real alternative to abortion and it is a thrill to go around and spread the word about services available through the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“Through this program you can have counselors right there who can provide the women referrals and let them know where places are that they can go and know that help is out there,” he said.

Archdiocesan Catholic Social Services has been a Real Alternatives service provider for 18 years, according to its press release. CSS served 3,357 women last year through the program.

Deacon Thomas Lang, vice president of operations for Real Alternatives, stands next to the new van that will provide services to women in crisis pregnancy throughout Philadelphia and its surrounding counties.

“The acquisition of the van is really a Beautiful Beginning for us and the beginning of a very beautiful and public witness to life,” said Amy Stoner, director of CSS Community-Based Services. “The Beautiful Beginnings van is a visible witness to our support for pregnant moms, and positions us better than ever to ensure that they are able to make the choice for life with seasoned counselors right now, deployed right where the action is. This is truly front-line, pro-life work.”

At this time the van, which will travel to various locations, is based and staffed out of CSS’s Northeast Philadelphia Family Service Center.

“This is important because we have a lot of families who need our services,” said Allison Kane, a CSS case manager for pregnancy and parenting services. “We will be able to outreach to different communities in Philadelphia and provide pregnancy and parenting services.”


Lou Baldwin is a freelance writer in Philadelphia.