Recently we screened the film “Unplanned” at the Freed Theater in the Cultural Center on the campus of Christ Cathedral. The movie tells the true story of Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood Employee of the Year who, after years of working for the organization, finally left. I was able to meet Abby Johnson and hear her powerful testimony at this year’s OneLife LA event.
When I introduced the film, I did so as the son of Theresa Vann. You see, my mother was a nurse who frequently served by caring for infants in the neonatal ward. Even if they weren’t expected to live, my mother gave them her utmost care. She saw that even in their short lives they were very much created in the image and likeness of God.
She earned two Masters degrees in nursing (while she and Dad were raising the six of us!). She did this precisely so she could support and help future nurses, especially in pro-life and maternity nursing. Upon her death, and later my father’s and sister’s deaths, we established a scholarship in her name, for Saint John’s College of Nursing in Springfield, so that the care for nurses and expectant mothers and their children would continue.
As a maternity nurse she always had a special care for children and mothers; especially for women who were in difficult economic situations.
“Unplanned” has been given an R-rating for its official release, which is in itself an acknowledgement of the violence of abortion. But the film, with its accurate depiction of the frequency of abortion, also reminds us that many of us suffer from the effects of abortion: the women and men who are parents to these unborn children, their siblings (current and future), and grandparents and extended family. Many, many people are hurting, often silently. To this end, I want to take this opportunity to highlight the excellent resources we have here in the Diocese of Orange to help heal those who are suffering.
The Office of Pastoral Care in our diocese oversees the Hope and Healing After Abortion ministry, through which women and men who have been hurt by abortion are accompanied toward healing. If you or someone you know has experienced the pain of abortion, please call 1-800-722-4356 to initiate your participation. As a resource, business cards with the confidential hotline number are available at no cost from the Office of Pastoral Care. They can be made available in parishes or any place where they might reach their intended audience.
In addition to the appeal to seek healing, I would like to offer a word of caution. Many individuals who are hurting from the pain of abortion seek to respond or offer a sort of amends by engaging in activism. This can be spiritually dangerous, as unhealed trauma is exacerbated and affects other areas of our lives. Seek healing first, then prayerfully consider how you may be called to be involved.
For those who are ready, there are many ways to witness to the Gospel of Life. As faith formation begins in the home, Catholic parents should find age appropriate ways to help children learn to respect life at every stage, from beginning to end.
Local opportunities at the parish level and in our diocese include:
- The 9 Days of Prayer for Life campaign
- Mass for the Protection of the Unborn on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision every year in January
- 40 Days for Life and other prayer vigils throughout the year
- May Rose Collection
- Pennies from Heaven Campaign that supports local pregnancy clinics, shelters, and centers such as:
- Obria Medical Clinics
- Horizon Pregnancy Clinic
- La Habra Life Center
- Santa Ana Life Center
- Precious Life Shelter
- Casa Teresa
- Mary’s Path
- Viet Respect Life
More information is online on our website at rcbo.org/abortion.
I would also like to remember the Care Center in Springfield, Illinois which was begun by three women from Blessed Sacrament parish in Springfield: Mrs. Fritzi Belz, Mrs. Joan Reardon and Mrs. Carolyn Bodewes. Their goals were not only to offer women another choice instead of abortion, but to journey and to walk with them in challenging situations of pregnancy, birth and parenthood. I was privileged to work with them in this special center, which in many ways was supported by Saint John’s Hospital and the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis.
Individuals, families, and parishes can volunteer, pray, and financially support these centers as they care for those in need. Yet the work of accompaniment begins long before someone shows up at a Planned Parenthood or, better, one of the centers just mentioned. Through our commitment to teaching the Gospel of Life and to addressing also the “demand side” of abortion by promoting economic, social, medical, and spiritual well-being, we can make abortion unthinkable. We work toward this through our pastoral ministry that cares for the whole person and families.
The Office of Life, Justice and Peace works to promote the protection of life throughout all stages. The office produces a useful Help Card, which is available at rcbo.org/abortion and can be made available as a resource at clinics, near the confessional, or in a parish restroom. Greg Walgenbach, director of that office, is available to answer any questions about how to get involved. www.rcbo.org/lifejusticepeace
I hope to join 40 Days for Life on an upcoming weekend. I do so both as your bishop and as the son of Theresa Vann. Please join us in prayer throughout these forty days of Lent.