Madrid, Spain, Aug 2, 2016 / 12:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Maria* has not had an easy life. Several years ago, while pregnant with her second child, she checked into a detox center for those with drug addictions. Social services had already taken temporary custody of her first child, as she was in no condition to take care of her. But determination and the help of Project Mater has made it possible for her to move forward.

The 32-year-old is now rehabilitated and receives help from the organization, which is dedicated to supporting mothers at risk of abortion and social exclusion. “If it weren't for Project Mater, I could not have gotten my daughter back. They've helped me to have housing, food and the basics. I am really grateful to them,” she told CNA.

Maria sees the assistance not as a permanent measure, but as “a push to go forward, especially because the children's father is in prison in another country.” Now pregnant with her third child, she is drug-free and finding that life is beginning to stabilize.

“When I got pregnant with my third child I honestly did think of aborting. The first people I told were my mother and Balbi [Balbina Rojas, the coordinator of Project Mater]. She congratulated me and told me she would help me and that everything would work out ok.”

“Without Mater, I couldn't have done it. I wonder what I would have done if they hadn't been there,” she said.

Project Mater was started by Archbishop Braulio Rodríguez of Toledo, who wished to implement a diocesan project that would involve family counseling centers, life and family ministries, the pastoral secretariat of the diocese and Caritas. In the first year since its beginning, some 150 mothers with children less than a year old and in risk of social exclusion or affected by post-abortive syndrome have come through the program.

“For the moms who come, it's basically a process of accompaniment, acceptance, listening, care...We try to address their needs in all the areas that the mother may ask for, including finances,” coordinator Balbina Rojas told CNA.

The initiative was born in conjunction with the Year of Mercy and with a distinct pastoral emphasis. “The heart of Project Mater is the chapel,” Rojas said, explaining that the mothers who participate in the project as well as their children are entrusted to the care of the Virgin Mary. “The volunteers, psychologists, and priests who work in Mater share the mercy that we receive from God, listening, counseling, giving material and spiritual food,” Rojas said.

The goal is that “the moms may heal and cleanse their wounds, to take care of them and their children as long as necessary, to give that warmth, that affection, that tenderness that so many of them need. Also to help them see what things need to change in their lives, to get reoriented, with all the means that the Church, in this case the Diocese of Toledo, has to offer them.”

Cases like Maria’s are common at Project Mater. Rojas recalled another mother who had made up her mind to abort, but changed her mind and went ahead with her pregnancy. “One time she told me that thanks to Mater, she had been able to see her son's beautiful eyes.”

She also remembered the case of a woman whose child had a serious deformity deemed “incompatible with life.” “The mom decided to continue the pregnancy because her child was fighting for his life in the womb despite the difficulties, and so she would also fight for the life of her child,” she recalled. The little boy died two hours after being born, and was baptized. “It was something profoundly moving for us because we were witnesses of this tremendous testimony for life and for fighting for the life of the mother and child,” Rojas said.

Many mothers who have had abortions also come to Project Mater because of the psychological scars they are experiencing. “The person a lot of them first come to is a priest, and it's very important to receive the grace of Confession and forgiveness for that sin,” Rojas said. “But it's also necessary that psychologists provide therapy for them so they can overcome all that's happened that has so marked them, leaving them in pain and laden with guilt.”

*Name has been changed for the protection of privacy.