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home : features : people of faith

12/6/2012 11:53:00 AM
Pro-lifer runs Amsterdam center and more
Mrs. Hammons and her granddaughter/goddaughter, Ella Catherine Hammons
Mrs. Hammons and her granddaughter/goddaughter, Ella Catherine Hammons
The Herb Hammons Pro-Life Center is open Sundays after the 10:30 a.m. Mass until 2 p.m. or by appointment. The center will host a brunch and open house Jan. 13 at noon at St. Joseph's/St. Michael the Archangel/Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Amsterdam. Mrs. Hammons wants to form a committee to assist in her work; call 863-4595.


Even the staunchest pro-life Catholic tends to know a lot more about abortion and contraception than about life issues at the other end of the spectrum: euthanasia, hospice practices, living wills, organ donation or the definition of brain death.

But with Grace Hammons' new pro-life center at St. Joseph's/St. Michael the Archangel/Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Amsterdam, she intends to educate people about all pro-life topics.

"Are we saving the world? No," Mrs. Hammons told The Evangelist. "But it's one heart at a time."

The Herb Hammons Pro-Life Center, named after Mrs. Hammons' late husband, is open to pro-life groups and interested individuals in Fulton and Montgomery Counties and beyond. It was relocated from St. Joseph's parish in Broadalbin, where Rev. Thomas Morrette, then-pastor at St. Joseph's, proposed the idea to the Hammonses a few years ago.

Pro-life materials
The center's new home is in the basement of the Amsterdam church's annex. Visitors will find a teaching area and displays of fetal models, plus books, DVDs, brochures, pins, bumper stickers, magnets, bracelets, prayer cards and other accessories. Everything is free.

Mrs. Hammons has run booths at parish festivals in the area. She hands out balloons and cookies with anti-abortion slogans, such as, "Smile: Your mom chose life."

None of her materials show graphic images of unborn children. "It may be subtle, but it gets the message out," she explained.

The pro-lifer aims to aid groups who protest outside Planned Parenthood; she'd like to gain access to college health fairs so she can educate the public on issues like the death penalty, same-sex marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, pornography, abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases and birth control.

"People can make their own decisions, but they need to make informed decisions," she said.

The center offers "abortion emergency kits" (information on what to do if a friend wants to have or has had an abortion) for teenage confirmation students, as well as resources on spiritual adoption and staging pro-life Holy Hours or Stations of the Cross.

Feeding the hungry
Mrs. Hammons' other great passions lie in running a food pantry and bringing the Eucharist to nursing home residents and hospital patients.

About nine years ago, her family took over a food pantry from a Protestant church and relocated it to their home after Mr. Hammons ended his dental practice. The Bread of Life pantry, as she calls it, is open twice a week for an hour and by appointment. It has no requirements and serves up to 15 families a week.

"Everybody who comes in front of me, I believe, has the face of Jesus," Mrs. Hammons said. "If you're hungry, I will feed you. I love these people, because they're good people. They're all God's children."

Mrs. Hammons said her pantry does "what the government doesn't do" by serving the working poor who don't qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps), the elderly who need to supplement their Social Security income and disabled people awaiting assistance.

She uses 100 percent of monetary donations for food and has high standards for items she accepts. She also gives clients frozen meat to take home and cook.

Hers is not a member agency of a food bank because she wanted the freedom to share the Gospel with her clients, pass out Bibles and talk about God.

"I want to be able to tell people that Jesus loves them," Mrs. Hammons said. "If you're hurting physically, then you're hurting spiritually."

Visiting the sick
Mrs. Hammons, who's in her 70s, also visits nursing homes several times a month with a few different parishes in the area. She said she feels for residents who can only make it to Mass occasionally.

"They're prisoners. If I can give them Jesus, it's like giving them a million dollars," she said. "My heart is so filled with joy when I leave there."

Mrs. Hammons is a convert to Catholicism and a third order (lay) Carmelite. She calls St. Joseph's/St. Michael the Archangel/Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish her "base church," but also frequents other churches for daily Mass, Holy Hours, Bible studies and more. She fills her free time with Catholic newspapers, prayer, daily visits to her husband's grave to pray the Rosary and visits with her six children, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

"I don't give myself credit for any of this," she said of her volunteer work. "It's all doing what He wants me to do. While I'm here, I'm going to do as much as I can."

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