Rev. Thomas Vander Woude, of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville, Va, made an appeal on the church’s Facebook page searching for a family to adopt an unborn child who has Down syndrome in hopes of preventing an abortion.

The Washington Times reports on the unusual appeal made by the concerned priest. Rev. Thomas Vander Woude had learned that a young couple, who was just shy of 6 months pregnant, were considering an abortion after learning their unborn child has Down syndrome.

The priest was acting under intense time pressure as the couple, whose identity has been withheld, would need to have an abortion soon to be within Virginia’s legal time frame of 24 weeks pregnant.

Rev. Thomas Vander Woude contacted a church volunteer who helped manage Holy Trinity’s social media presence and asked for her help. 

On Monday, July 8, the following message was posted: “There is a couple in another state who have contacted an adoption agency looking for a family to adopt their Down Syndrome unborn baby. If a couple has not been found by today they plan to abort the baby. If you are interested in adopting this baby please contact Fr. VW IMMEDIATELY. We are asking all to pray for this baby and the wisdom that this couple realize the importance of human life and do not abort this beautiful gift from God.”

The post followed up by saying to email Rev. Vander Woude or to call the church, but not until after 9:30am. 

The response was staggering.

“When we got in and opened up around 9:30, it was nearly nonstop. All day long, we were receiving phone calls from people who wanted to adopt the baby,” church staff member Martha Drennan said. “Father Vander Woude has gotten over 900 emails in regard to the baby.”

David Dufresne, a seminary student who plans to become a priest next year, volunteered to help the staff take calls.

“I was taking calls for about three hours straight, just talking to people who are willing to adopt this little baby they never knew about until that morning,” Dufresne said. “I mean, all day long, just receiving phone calls from people who were so generous and within a couple minutes made a life-changing decision. I was really inspired by the goodness of people and what they would do to save a life.”

The search has been narrowed down to three families whom the parents and an adoption agency are reviewing.

The response was both great and wide, drawing people from as far away as London, the Netherlands and Puerto Rico hoping to help.

“I think it is a wonderful use of social media, that word can so quickly get all over the country and even to foreign countries and that the people who see the value of life are stepping up and saying, ‘I will take that baby and raise that baby as mine,’” Drennan said. “It was a beautiful witness all day long that so many people wanted this child and believed in the dignity of that child — Down syndrome or not.”