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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Hearts go out to women in crisis pregnancies

It didn't take long for Nicky Peters to feel the drama of being a sidewalk counselor outside Planned Parenthood in St. Paul.

The 19-year-old sophomore at St. Catherine University in St. Paul and member of St. Ambrose Parish in Woodbury had decided last spring to take her pro-life passion to the streets. She signed up to volunteer with Pro-Life Action Ministries in St. Paul and paired with Ann Redding, the organization's sidewalk counseling coordinator.

This past June, the two showed up hoping to encounter women with unwanted pregnancies. It was Peters' first time.

"That day was amazing," she told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. "I met Ann there, and within the first hour, a woman came up to us and told her (Ann) that she had changed her mind about having an abortion, but she had already had part of the procedure done."

The woman told them that clinic workers had inserted laminaria sticks to help dilate her cervix to prepare for the abortion, but she had changed her mind. She jumped off the examination table and left the clinic without having them removed. When she encountered Redding and Peters on the sidewalk in front of the clinic, Redding hustled into action, leading the pregnant woman to nearby Abria Pregnancy Resources. Two months later, a healthy baby boy was born.

Peters, who is studying sign language interpreting at St. Kate's, as her school's known, will never forget that day. In fact, it's what gives her the strength to spend hours alone on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood, sometimes enduring insults and profanity hurled her way by vocal abortion supporters.

"It all goes back to that first day; the passion that I have is about helping these women," said Peters, who does sidewalk counseling twice a month for about two-and-a-half hours each time. "My heart goes out to them, honestly. A child is such a wonderful thing that I'd do anything to help (the pregnant women)."

The seed of her current volunteer role was planted one year ago at the annual March for Life in Washington, marking the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in all 50 states. She made the trip out on a plane, but rode back on a bus chartered by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis when flights were canceled because of a powerful storm that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in the mid-Atlantic region.

She rode back with other teens and young adults from the archdiocese, plus three women who belonged to Katies for Life on her campus.

"All these women were talking about how involved they were in the pro-life movement," Peters recalled. "One girl in my college group who does a little bit of sidewalk counseling and is a prayer supporter described what it was, and it really sounded like something that I was called to do. I loved being pro-life and I really, really wanted to be more involved, so I looked into it, did some research and decided that this was for me and I wanted to do it."

After going through a seminar and training, she went to Planned Parenthood with Redding, who has been in her role with Pro-Life Action Ministries since 2000.

"I'm just really glad she's on board," said Redding. "She's out there to be compassionate with people. Whether it's a 'save' or not, we're recognizing the humanity of the child that's (in danger of being) killed. Secondly, we are letting people know that we care about them."

Redding noted that Peters is the perfect age for counseling because most of the women who come to Planned Parenthood for abortions are 20 to 24 years old. She estimates that 30 of the 200 regular sidewalk counselors who volunteer through the pro-life group are in that age group. Many are seminarians who come regularly on Friday afternoons.

"This is the best age group to be out there on the sidewalk," Redding said. "The college-aged have physical strength, idealism and beauty. Young people have that beauty that draws someone to talk to them."

However, the responses can be negative, even ugly, at times. Peters has discovered this, which initially surprised her.

"I do take a lot of heat, especially on the sidewalk, and even from people on campus," she said. "I get profanity, the middle finger. I get anywhere from, 'Oh, you're just totally wrong,' to large profanity statements."

In between the encounters are long periods of silence, in which she sees no one and must figure out useful ways to spend her time.

Her go-to practice on those occasions is prayer. She recites decades of the rosary and calls on the intercession of the saints and Mary. Her words to God and to the people she meets are steeped in a deep faith that believes she is making a difference, and a faith that keeps her coming back for more, even when the coldest days of the year may lay ahead.

"I just love it, honestly," she said. "It can get a little bit discouraging, but I always have to go back to that first day of helping that woman. I just have to go back to that day because I know that that truly was amazing, and I have to keep doing that so I can help more women. Even though people will give me the middle finger, I just have to sit there and pray for them and pray for a change of heart."
  • Published in Nation

Women’s March on Washington

After being removed from a list of partner organizations for the Women’s March on Washington, members of a pro-life group based in Texas decided they still would take to the streets Jan. 21 to take part in the historic and massive event. And they said it was a good decision.
 
“Overall, it was an amazing experience,” said Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, of New Wave Feminists, one of the groups removed as a march sponsor.
 
“We were prepared for confrontation and instead were supported by so many women,” Herndon-De La Rosa told Catholic News Service.
 
The group posted photos on their Facebook and Instagram accounts of their participation, holding signs that read, “I’m a pro-life feminist.”
 
“They kept coming up and telling us how glad they were that we were there and how, even though they didn’t necessarily agree on the abortion issue, they thought it wrong that we were removed as partners,” said Herndon-De La Rosa. “It was very cool.”
 
Women like Herndon-De La Rosa marched for a cause. In her group’s case, they are concerned about President Donald J. Trump’s changing position on abortion and say they wanted him to know they’d be watching what he does on pro-life issues such as abortion, the death penalty and violence.
 
Margie Legowski, a parishioner at Washington’s Holy Trinity Catholic Church, said she took to the streets “in support of values that I don’t see in this administration.” Those values include equality for women and also caring about immigrants who need help.
 
“I want to take a stand. I don’t want to be passive about it,” she said. “In our faith we’re called to solidarity.”
 
That means standing up against wealth inequality and defending the vulnerable, she said. It’s a means of building the Kingdom of God on earth, and she doesn’t see that as a priority for the new president.
 
Jean Johnson, another Holy Trinity parishioner, attended the march with 11 nieces and four grandnieces. They arrived in Washington from around the country, some driving long distances and picking up other family members along the way. She said she felt pride in her large group, particularly because they adopted the values of her Irish Catholic immigrant parents and are concerned about the common good, for women and for others.
 
She wasn’t marching against a cause or person, but rather marching for women’s dignity, she said.
 
“I went to a Catholic school where the nuns told me I’m a temple,” she told CNS. “The march is for that dignity.”
 
Some women who attended said they didn’t feel president Trump valued that dignity, particularly after a leaked recording was aired during the campaign in which he was heard making lewd comments about women to an entertainment reporter.
 
Jack Hogan, who once worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the U.S. bishops’ domestic anti-poverty program, said he was attending the march with neighbors and friends because he considers what Trump goes against Catholic social teaching. He said he was hoping other Catholics, as organizations and groups, as well as Church leaders, would speak up more forcefully for the poor and vulnerable at this time.
 
He said worries about the new president’s stance on climate change, on the poor and other issues that seem to go against what Pope Francis, as the leader of the Catholic Church, says are important. He thinks Trump lives and espouses the opposite of what the Church values, including family.
 
As a citizen, “what (Trump) stands for is not what our participatory democracy stands for,” Hogan said, adding that he could not celebrate his inauguration. Ever since Trump was elected, Hogan said he has participated in various protests and prayer events with other organizations because he worries about what will happen to the vulnerable in society. The Women’s March was one of those instances, he said.
 
While organizers said the event was to “promote women’s equality and defend other marginalized groups,” some pro-life groups that wanted to be partners in the march were either removed as official sponsors days before the march — or their application to be a sponsor was ignored.
 
In an interview before the march, Herndon-De La Rosa told CNS no one contacted members of her group to give them the news they were taken off a roster of sponsors, but they found out after a flurry of stories about it. The groups And Then There Were None and Students for Life of America also were denied or taken off the Women’s March roster.
 
However, many members of those organizations attended the march.
 
  • Published in Nation

'9 Days for Life'

The U.S. bishops' nationwide "9 Days for Life" campaign is "a great way to put our faith into action," said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
 
He made the comments in a video posted on a website about the Jan. 21-29 campaign, www.9daysforlife.com. The site offers four ways for participants to receive daily prayers, suggested reflections and practical actions for the campaign, along with links to the free "9 Days for Life" smartphone app.
 
"We're praying for a lot of things this month, including racial harmony, Christian unity and the protection of all human life," Cardinal Dolan said in a Jan. 19 statement inviting Catholics and others to take part in "9 Days for Life." He noted that the beginning of the campaign overlapped with the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, observed this year Jan. 18-25.
 
"As we pray for that unity, I invite our brothers and sisters in Christ to join in the '9 Days for Life' prayer campaign. Together, our prayers and actions can witness to the dignity of the human person," he said.
 
"9 Days for Life" is the U.S. bishops' annual prayer and action novena taking place around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion throughout nine months of pregnancy. This year's annual March for Life to mark the Roe anniversary is Jan. 27.
 
At "the heart" of the campaign is prayer "for an end to abortion," said Deirdre McQuade, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat of Pro Life Activities. "But each day treats a different aspect of respecting human dignity -- from the beginning of life to its natural end. The most delicate, defenseless members of society deserve the most legal protection, but under Roe v. Wade, they have the least.
 
"That has an eroding effect on respect for everyone else, including their mothers and other vulnerable people," she told Catholic News Service. "During the '9 Days for Life,' we will beg God to make all forms of violence and exploitation a thing of the past."
 
"We live in an abortion-wounded nation," McQuade said, "but we also know that God's loving mercy is limitless. He offers it so freely to us if we ask. So we're also praying for the healing of those who've been involved in abortion in any way." She noted that the intention for the campaign's second day is for post-abortion healing.
 
During the nine days, "thousands of individuals will make a kind of 'virtual pilgrimage' in solidarity as we all pray the same daily intentions together and consider making the suggested acts of reparation," she explained. Participants can pray daily, gather for fellowship and discussion, and share their experiences on social media with the hashtag #9daysforlife.
 
"The four ways to receive the daily intentions -- mobile apps, text messages, emails and social media -- will unite us in prayer and action on the 'digital continent,'" McQuade added.
 
Parishes, schools, families, youth groups and others are all encouraged to participate using the available resources and materials "as they see fit," she said.
The "9 Days campaign" was started in January 2014, and according to McQuade, participation in it "has grown by leaps and bounds every year.
 
"As a massive spiritual project, we may never know all the fruit it yields in this world," she told CNS. "But God is certainly at work and we entrust the future to his providence."
 
McQuade pointed to "two encouraging signs of hope" that the campaign is having an impact. "We do know that abortion rates are going down each year, and more people are reaching out for confidential post-abortion healing as Project Rachel expands across the country."
 
She also remarked on the novena's overlap with the prayers for Christian unity.
"Cardinal Dolan beautifully invited our brothers and sisters in Christ to join us in the effort," McQuade said. "Promoting the dignity of the human person throughout the life span isn't just a Catholic task. Praying and working together, we can make a difference for our most vulnerable neighbors."
 
  • Published in Nation

Pope offers prayers for Trump as he becomes 45th U.S. president

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis sent best wishes and prayers to incoming President Donald J. Trump shortly after he took the oath of office.

"I offer you my cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers that almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office," the pope's message said.

Saying that the human family faces "grave humanitarian crises" that demand "far-sighted and united political responses," the pope said he would pray that Trump's decisions "will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have the history of the American people and your nation's commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide."

The pope also said he hoped that America's "stature" continued to be measured by "above all its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door."

The message concluded with the pope saying he would ask God to grant the new president, his family and all Americans "peace, concord and every material and spiritual prosperity."
  • Published in Nation
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