WARR ACRES — A Roman Catholic chapel and an abortion clinic are neighbors in this suburban city.
The location of Holy Innocents Chapel is intentional, said the Rev. Price Oswalt its pastor.
The chapel opened in March at 6114 NW 63, next door to Outpatient Services for Women in a small office complex.
Oswalt, 52, and longtime anti-abortion advocate Debby Krisch, 62, said the chapel provides a year-round place of prayer for anti-abortion advocates.
“My goal was to put the ultimate good — God — next to the ultimate evil, because it is the destruction of human life,” Oswalt said.
Despite Oswalt's strong words to a reporter, the clinic's office manager, who only gave her first name as “Telena,” said there have been no problems between the chapel attendees and clinic employees and clients thus far.
“We're fortunate. They're not yelling or yelling ugly things,” Telena said. “Most of the protesters are friendly. They know us by name, and we know them by name.”
Does she think the chapel and the anti-abortion advocates who talk to the clinic's clients are intimidating?
“Some women are annoyed by it, but I think they've made their decision by the time they get here. They've thought it through and are making it for a particular reason,” Telena said.
Krisch believes otherwise.
She said the chapel volunteers are keeping a count of the women and couples who they say have decided against terminating a pregnancy after talking with volunteers.
She said before the chapel opened in March, anti-abortion volunteers who kept vigil at the clinic reported one baby a month had been “saved” from abortion. She said about 20 have been saved since Holy Innocents opened in the office complex.
Among that number are two couples who were headed for the clinic but mistakenly entered the chapel instead, she said.
‘Life and death'
Oswalt and Krisch use terms that some might find extreme when they talk about the chapel and its neighbor.
Oswalt pitches the relationship as God and the “ultimate good” versus the “the ultimate evil, because it is the destruction of human life.”
To Krisch: “It is about life and death.”
Oswalt said the idea to open a chapel next to the clinic was based on a situation he knew about in Albuquerque, N.M. He said he prayed about it for several years and eventually tried to lease available space next to the Warr Acres clinic for the house of worship. He said he was told the space was not available for rent or purchase.
But a Christian man found out he wanted to create a chapel and paved the way for the Holy Innocents Foundation to buy the building space, Oswalt said.
The chapel construction costs and furnishings totaled about $750,000, including in-kind and monetary donations, Oswalt said. The house of worship operates on private funds, with no money coming from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, he said.
Oswalt said the chapel's connection to the archdiocese is through him because he serves as pastor of the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus in Prague and the St. Michael Catholic Church in Meeker.
Mistake or destiny?
Krisch said she and other anti-abortion volunteers are grateful for the chapel's presence. She said it has provided a refuge for some of the women and couples who seek out the services of the nearby clinic.
In two cases, the chapel was mistaken for the clinic by people seeking out the latter, she said.
“I think they get a little emotional, and a lot of them are scared and get confused,” Krisch said.
She said a sign on the chapel door also might have caused the misunderstanding. The sign promises aid for someone who is pregnant and needs help.
Krisch said one couple that mistakenly entered the chapel went to a faith-based pregnancy crisis center nearby, at the recommendation of anti-abortion volunteers. She said the other couple told volunteers they were headed home.
“Actually, it was an answer to prayer,” she said.
As for Oswalt, he said he has served for many years as a “Project Rachel” counselor, providing one-on-one counseling to women seeking spiritual healing after an abortion.
The priest said the chapel has given him a role in the abortion debate that he did not foresee.
“I never thought I'd be on the front lines,” he said.