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Supporting a friend when she’s unexpectedly expecting

   
I had been brought up to believe that life is always a gift, but it certainly didn’t feel like one when I gazed in shock at a positive pregnancy test. As a mom who had my first baby in college, I know that an unexpected pregnancy can sometimes bring fear, shame and doubt.
 
However, I also know that an unexpected pregnancy can bring joy, excitement, awe, gratitude and deeper love than I knew was possible. About nine months after looking at that pregnancy test, I received the very best gift I have ever been given: my daughter, Maria.* An unexpected pregnancy might be confusing along the way, but life -- though at times difficult -- is ultimately beautiful.
 
Perhaps one of your friends has become pregnant unexpectedly. As someone who has been there, I encourage you to support her in her new journey of being a mother; it’s important that she knows you are thinking of her and supporting her.
 
An unexpected pregnancy can send a woman into crisis mode. If your friend just found out she is pregnant, she may not be thinking clearly, and she may feel she has no control over anything at the moment. When a woman experiencing challenging circumstances confides she is pregnant, the reaction of the first person she tells tends to set the tone for her decision-making.
 
Avoid responding with shock or alarm, and be calm and understanding. Be aware of how she is responding to you. Listen to her and let her know you love her, you are there for her, and it’s going to be OK. Pay close attention to her emotional state, and act accordingly.
 
Depending on where she is emotionally, it may or may not be helpful to congratulate her at that time. However, it is always important to affirm that every person’s life—including her child’s and her own--is precious and beautiful no matter the circumstances.
 
Pay attention to what might make her feel most loved. One person might appreciate encouraging words, while another might feel more supported if you help with specific tasks. Don’t be afraid to ask her if she needs help with anything or to make specific offers to help. For example, you might offer to help with cleaning, finding a good doctor or running to the store to pick up the one food that won’t make her feel sick. (But remember to read her cues and make sure you’re not being overbearing.) Simple things -- letting her know that you care and are always ready to listen, that you are available to help her, that you are praying for her -- can give hope and courage when she might otherwise feel alone.
 
The most important thing, though, is to pray; it’s the most effective way we can help. Pray for her, for her child and for guidance in how you can give her the best possible support.
 
Your support might be the only support she receives. Even if we never know how, the smallest things we do can change someone’s life. You can make a difference in her life.
 
Will you?




 
* Name changed for privacy.
 
This issue of “Life Issues Forum” has been adapted and shortened from “10 Ways to Support Her When She’s Unexpectedly Expecting,” originally published in the 2015-16 Respect Life Program. Visit bit.ly/10WaysRespectLife for the original version. A directory of pregnancy services can be found at heartbeatinternational.org/worldwide-directory.
 
  • Published in Nation

Father Mattison reflects on synod

By Father Thomas Mattison, pastor of Christ our Savior Parish in Manchester Center and Arlington

Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne has convoked a diocesan synod. What? Why? And why care?
 
A diocesan synod is a legislative action by which a diocesan bishop, after broad consultation, establishes the laws that will govern his diocese. But, we thought the pope made the laws! Well, he does – for the universal Church. But it is obvious that the situation of the Church in Vermont is different from that of the Church in Africa. So, the Church in Vermont will need to have rules and procedures that it will use in applying the universal law.
 
Moreover, Vermont may well have unique needs, unforeseen by the universal law, that require unique approaches and treatment.
 
Let me list a few:
‐ Vermont is divided in two by the Green Mountains; east-west travel takes a disproportionate amount of time.
‐ Burlington is a long way from the whole of southern Vermont. (Bennington is closer to the sees of Albany, N.Y; Springfield, Mass.; Worcester, Mass.; and Manchester, N.H., than it is to Burlington.)
‐ The population of Vermont is concentrated in Burlington, as is the wealth and everything else but the scenery.
‐ The rest of the population is scattered in small towns and villages.
‐ There is little industry in Vermont and, so, few jobs for our youth.
‐ Thus, the population of Vermont is weighted to the gray end.
‐ More Vermonters describe themselves as “church-less” than in any other state.
‐ Of these, 60 percent call themselves “ex-Catholics.”
 
The Catholic Church in Vermont, since it is made up of Vermonters, reflects all of these issues. Obviously, then, the Catholic Church in Vermont faces challenges and has opportunities that must be met and seized that the universal law of the Church could not have imagined.
 
One might just decide to leave each scattered little population center to work things out for itself. The ensuing chaos is not hard to imagine, but it is very hard to imagine that this would create a meaningful Catholic presence in the state as a whole. Besides, such “congregationalism” is absolutely antithetical to the very meaning of “catholic.”
 
So a synod is necessary:
‐ to assure that every section of this “scattered” diocese is heard
‐ that the religious needs of every section are met
‐ that the pastoral priorities of the diocese as a whole are clearly laid out
‐ that lines of communication and responsibility are well defined
‐ to draw up fair and uniform policies for the allocation of assets – money, personnel, buildings
‐ to define criteria for the creation, modification or closure of any Church ministries.
 
A synod is big business. Its work will touch every single one of us. We should watch its work, support its outcome and pray for universal wisdom and charity.
 
For more information on Father Mattison’s parish, go to christoursaviorvt.com.
 
 

Project Rachel

By Tom Grenchik, executive director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
 
For any of us who have joined in a Divine Mercy Chaplet a few times, the response is automatic.  We simply hear: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion…” and our lips are already responding with: “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.” 
 
How consoling it is to embrace our Lord’s Divine Mercy and be confident in His forgiveness.  We know He will forgive any sin, if we are truly sorry. But for some, especially those who have lost a child to abortion, trusting in that forgiveness is not so easy. Even if they trust in God’s capacity and overwhelming desire to forgive them, they still often struggle with forgiving themselves. 
 
Many in our culture are deeply wounded, including many Catholics who are in great need of God’s mercy and healing. Twenty-eight percent of women having abortions identify themselves as Catholic, which translates into as many as 10 million Catholic women affected by abortion. An equal number of men have been involved, even if the extent of their involvement was to abandon the woman on discovering she was pregnant. Then there are the grandparents, other family members and friends who have also been affected. The impact on our culture and our Church is far-reaching.
 
Rare is the individual who has not encountered the trauma of abortion in the suffering of friends and family members.
 
Immediately after the 1973 Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion in our land, the U.S. bishops not only condemned that action, but they also prophetically called for the creation of diocesan post-abortion healing ministries as an integral part of the Church’s pro-life response. Being pro-life means being missionaries of mercy to those now suffering from a past abortion.
 
Project Rachel, the Catholic Church’s ministry to those who have been involved in abortion, is a diocesan-based network of specially trained priests, religious, counselors and laypersons who provide a team response of care for those suffering in the aftermath of abortion. In addition to offering sacramental reconciliation, the ministry provides an integrated network of services, including pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, support groups, retreats and referrals to licensed mental health professionals. For many who struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness, Project Rachel can gently open the door to embracing His forgiveness and mercy, as well as learning to forgive oneself and praying for the forgiveness of one’s child.  
 
In a homily as chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Boston Cardinal Seán Malley stated: “The Good News is that God never gives up on us. He never tires of loving us. He never tires of forgiving us, never tires of giving us another chance. The Pro-Life Movement needs to be the merciful face of God....”  
 
The bishops are firmly committed to extending that offer of God’s infinite mercy. More and more dioceses are increasing their pastoral outreach to women and men who have lost a child to abortion.
 
To find information on the Church’s resources near to you or a loved one, visit HopeAfterAbortion.org or EsperanzaPosAborto.org.
 
For information about the Project Rachel Ministry in the Diocese of Burlington, go
vermontcatholic.org/index.php?sid=5&pid=1050&subnav_id=100009
 
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This article was originally published March 21, 2014, in the USCCB Life Issues Forum.
 
  • Published in Nation

Obituary: Sister Mary Clare Naramore

Sister of Mercy Mary Clare Naramore, 102, of the Sisters of Mercy Northeast Community, Vermont, died at Mount St. Mary Convent in Burlington on April 12, in her 73rd year of religious life.
 
She was born in Lowell on May 28, 1914, the daughter of Louise (Stephenson) and Donald Naramore. She attended Lowell grade school and Peoples' Academy in Morrisville. She also attended Strayer Business College in Washington, D.C., and graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in education.
 
Before entering the Sisters of Mercy, she taught in Lowell Village and Westfield schools and worked as a clerk in the Valley Savings Bank.
 
She became a Catholic in 1942; she entered the Sisters of Mercy on Sept. 8, 1944, and made her profession of vows on May 16, 1947.
 
She taught in parochial schools in Burlington, Barre and Montpelier. Following her retirement from education, Sister Naramore served as a volunteer missionary to Matsu, China, for 11 years. When she returned from China, she worked in prison and hospital ministry.
 
She is survived by her nieces, Mary Speroni and Nancy Naramore; a cousin, Irene Hayes; and by her sisters in religion, the Sisters of Mercy. She was predeceased by her parents and her brother, William Naramore.
 
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated on Tuesday, April 18, 2017, at 11 a.m. in Mount St. Mary Chapel. Visiting hours will be 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a prayer service at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 17, at Mount St. Mary's. 
 
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