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Church inaugurates clinic with focus on reproductive health and help

Bishop John Barres, spiritual leader of the Diocese

Bishop John Barres, spiritual leader of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, greets Danielle Damico, her daughter Angelina, 3, left, and her son Thomas, 2 months, at The Gianna Center of Long Island in Babylon on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. Credit: James Carbone

The Catholic Church on Tuesday inaugurated what it called the only facility of its kind on Long Island, offering specialized medical help that adheres to Catholic teachings for women who have difficulty becoming pregnant or suffer miscarriages.

The Gianna Center of Long Island on Deer Park Avenue in Babylon will offer an alternative to in vitro fertilization, which the church opposes, officials said.

“It’s an exciting day,” said Bishop John Barres of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, who along with officials from Catholic Health Services inaugurated the center. “It’s a celebration of the Catholic Church’s unique service to the common good of Long Island.”

Dr. Paul Carpentier, the center’s medical director, said it will provide expertise in “restorative reproductive medicine” to help women who have trouble becoming pregnant, have had miscarriages or face other related problems.

The concept is an alternative to in vitro fertilization in which an egg is combined with sperm outside a woman’s body and then later is transferred into a woman’s uterus. The Catholic Church opposes the practice, saying children should be conceived through a natural sex act between a man and a woman.

Carpentier said the center tries to figure out what is causing problems with women who cannot conceive or who suffer miscarriages, and then remedy the problem or problems.

“We specialize in those underlying causes and fixing them so a couple can achieve a pregnancy in their own bedroom,” he said. “The Catholic Church is very excited about this movement of restorative reproductive medicine because it is about healing. It is about figuring out what’s wrong and fixing it.”

Among the approaches are nutrition and sleep management techniques. The facility does not have operating rooms, and no surgery will be performed there.

The center also will assist men who have infertility problems, Carpentier said.

Officials did not immediately have available the cost of the center, which is in a building adjacent to other Catholic-run health offices. It serves Catholics and non-Catholics.

The idea for the facility came from Bishop William Murphy, who retired as leader of the diocese in January and was replaced by Barres. Carpentier and other medical personnel have been offering services at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip for 18 months, and now have their own facility in Babylon.

Carpentier and his staff assisted about 200 women in the last year, and he expects that number to double with the opening of the new center.

The center is named after Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, the patron saint of mothers, physicians and unborn children. The center has a relic — one of Saint Gianna’s sweaters — that was donated by one of her daughters.

Saint Gianna was an Italian physician who in 1962 was diagnosed with a tumor in her uterus while pregnant. She declined to have an abortion or a hysterectomy, choosing instead to have the tumor removed. She gave birth to her daughter on April 21, 1962, but died a few days later from infection.

She became a saint in 2004.