It may sound incongruous to say, but I believe that I found my faith at an abortion center.
Perhaps “rediscovered” is a more appropriate word.
I had been a lukewarm Catholic, attending Sunday Mass (mostly), ignoring the sacrament of reconciliation, questioning some of the teachings of the Holy Father. Then, the pro-life movement grabbed hold of my soul, and my spiritual life hasn’t been the same since.
The interesting thing is that, based on conversations I have had with other pro-lifers, I know the spiritual reawakening I had as a result of my pro-life work is not unusual.
Susan Karlovich of York, Pa., has been a stalwart pro-life activist for 25 years.
Despite some serious disabilities — she is blind and uses a wheelchair to get around — she is an energetic and engaging pro-lifer, writing letters to the editor and regularly calling local radio talk shows and C-SPAN about critical pro-life issues. Susan has found that the pro-life cause has drawn her closer to Christ.
“When speaking the truth about abortion, insidious attacks and persecutions often occur,” Karlovich told me recently. “I have not only been able to share in the sufferings of Christ, but, like him, when I see the fruit that comes forth, I am satisfied because the more I die to self, the more I can impart his life to others.”
Delores Euker of Hershey, Pa., began sidewalk counseling outside a busy Harrisburg abortion center in 1988.
“I felt like I was there for Christ. … It was as if the Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit got together and got me there. It felt like Calvary every time I went,” Delores said.
Delores quickly found that there were numerous people involved in the pro-life movement — particularly young people — whose spirituality she wished to emulate. She was especially impressed with an aspiring doctor who gave up a year of medical training to devote himself to the pro-life cause.
She also discovered that a number of the pro-life activists she met were “very spiritual people, very giving people, very loving people, very active Catholics.”
Many of them were people who went to daily Mass and who served the Church through lay movements such as Cursillo and the Legion of Mary or who volunteered as lectors and extraordinary ministers of Communion in their parishes.
And it came as little surprise to Delores that the priest who began Rosary processions to the local abortion center — Father Kevin Rhoades — eventually rose to become bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg in 2004.
As I began my own journey in the pro-life movement, I seemed also to be embarking on a parallel journey of faith. I became drawn to the writings of Pope John Paul II, and I gradually understood the wisdom of his words.
I returned to the sacrament of reconciliation with a renewed fervor and began praying a daily Rosary — often with the intention that abortion would end.
In fact, I first learned the Divine Mercy Chaplet from a caring and patient sidewalk counselor who prayed the chaplet in the alley behind an abortion center. Pope John Paul II, in fact, encouraged the recitation of the chaplet to combat the culture of death around the world.
In the past few years, I have discovered Rosary meditations that utilize pro-life themes and Stations of the Cross prayer cards that show Christ’s solidarity with the suffering of unborn children.
Meditating on the passion of Christ seems to lead naturally to reflections on the death of children in the womb.
The Missionaries of the Gospel of Life Lay Associates, founded by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, gives voice to the call, based in faith, to protect the lives of unborn children.
The spirituality of the Missionaries recognizes a Biblical basis for pro-life work and the fact that the pro-life movement is ecumenical in nature, bringing together people of various religious denominations as perhaps no other citizen-driven movement has.
In fact, the organization I work for, the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, boasts members of all religious faiths.
As Susan Karlovich notes, our love for God and our pro-life dedication enable us to transcend denominational barriers and pray together in power and unity.
Meanwhile, for Delores Euker, the movement “opened her eyes to loving — loving someone we can’t see.”
And isn’t that what faith is all about?
Maria Vitale is education director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, an affiliate of National Right to Life.