A trio of good tidings warmed the hearts of San Diego Catholics who attended a Culture of Life dinner at the Coronado Golf Course clubhouse, Saturday, November 15. Sponsored by Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Coronado, the dinner was originally planned by that parish's Culture of Life coordinator, Margi Pearson, for the purpose of welcoming a visiting priest, Father Walter J. Quinn, O.S.A. of New York City-based Priests for Life. However, through a series of "holy coincidences," the event expanded to include two more happy aims: to present a check to a North County Catholic pregnancy care clinic, Culture of Life Family Services, for the purchase of a Phillips ATL 4D ultrasound machine; and to provide an update on the California Tell-a-Parent ballot initiative.
Culture of Life Family Services is a clinic that offers free pre- and post-natal medical care as well as ongoing psychological and spiritual counseling to women and families in crisis pregnancies. First conceived by Deacon and Mrs. Ken Finn, the clinic was founded in May 2001 by Doctor Nicholas Jauregui, 35, and his wife Marya, 34. Until this month, Culture of Life operated within another pregnancy care center in North County. But it will be moving to its new 5,500-square foot location at 430 Rose Street in Escondido later this year. A second Culture of Life clinic is planned downtown next to Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Little Italy.
Before leading grace, Kent Peters, director of the Diocese of San Diego's Office for Social Ministries, credited Margi Pearson with being a model for other Culture of Life coordinators throughout the diocese.
Margi Pearson later explained how she and her husband Bob became involved in supporting the Culture of Life center. "Kent Peters has asked that each parish adopt a pregnancy care center by providing financial support, volunteers, goods and services like diapers, and also he would like to see the youth groups participate more." (See the Diocesan Life Options program at www.diocese-sdiego.org/respect_life.htm.) "We have a couple of crisis pregnancy care centers in San Diego close to Coronado," Margi continued, "but I wasn't real happy with what they were doing, and they already have a fair amount of support from local Protestant churches. I wanted to see that where we were putting our efforts was somewhere that is really working toward a Catholic culture."
The ultrasound funds were raised in just a month's time after the Pearsons hosted a home luncheon on October 12 to introduce the Jaureguis to Sacred Heart parishioners. Youth Minister Peggy Smisek, also spearheaded a "baby bottle" spare change donation campaign.
"I started getting phone calls the day after the luncheon," Pearson says, "and for several days after that, from people saying, 'We really like what the Jaureguis are doing, and we really think that it's important that they get an ultrasound machine.'"
Sacred Heart parish sponsored a matching funds challenge, and within three weeks time, enough money was raised to purchase the machine. "My husband and I were prepared to take a second mortgage on our house to help come up with the money," said Pearson. "I had called the Jaureguis and said, 'This is what we're doing; this is going to happen, so you can order that ultrasound machine.'"
The Pearsons didn't have to mortgage their house. After the dinner, the Culture of Life center had $10,000 more than they needed for the ultrasound machine. Margi Pearson credited the Holy Spirit. "The same with Father Quinn coming," she added. "I had been trying to get him out here since last April to come in October (for Respect Life month), but the earliest he could come was November 16. And, now, the Tell-a-Parent initiative is ready to go. It would not have been ready in early October."
At the dinner, Sacred Heart pastor Father Michael Murphy introduced Father Quinn, a former military chaplain with more than 30 years' experience in the pro-life arena. He joined Priests for Life in 1999 and now preaches on abortion and euthanasia to clergy and laity throughout the nation.
Before launching into the heart of his talk on the relationship between life, law and love, Father Quinn recounted his experience earlier in the weekend touring the Culture of Life center. "I've been all over the country," he said, "in some 40 states for Priests for Life, but I have yet to see anything quite like it. I don't think you could go out and find a facility more adaptive and more ready and set to go than this one. It's going to be one of the finest examples of consolidated, integrated pro-life healthcare that's available to all citizens."
In his speech, Father Quinn addressed the modern American mentality approach to human dignity. "The three great pillars and marks that encourage and enable every human being on this earth to seek and to achieve happiness and contentment in this world -- life, law, love -- are being denied, destroyed, abolished, ignored, re-invented, and given meaning and purposes by creatures that the Creator never intended. The utilitarian ethic, that what is useful is good, is now the prevalent rationale used by individuals and government to justify federal- and state-appropriated destruction of life on a massive scale."
"In the name of law," continued Father Quinn, "the life of the innocent human live unborn baby, so helpless and dependent, has been brutally killed, dismembered, cut up into little pieces, like a piece of meat, destroyed by the knife and by those who no longer grant the same dignity, care and respect to a helpless human infant that they daily demand for themselves."
"And so, as a result of personal convenience, euphemisms and the utilitarian ethic have now become the wheels moving the American boxcars along the legally-protected rails of the worldwide culture of death mentality -- the very same mentality, by the way, that the world witnessed with the Nazis in the '30s and the '40s."
Father Quinn drew applause when he said, "It's high time we remind the whole world that these pro-abortion people are the ones who are imposing their beliefs on the rest of society. So let the whole world know that the pro-death people are the ongoing cause of the destruction of life, of the usurpation of law, and the impossibility of love's continued existence in the human heart."
"It's no longer sufficient just to say 'I'm pro-life,' Father Quinn concluded, "We have to go out and defend life, and put our lives on the line in the defense of all human life."
Next, Father Murphy presented a check to Doctor and Mrs. Jauregui for the Phillips ATL 4D ultrasound machine, saying, "Many in our community in recent weeks have given so generously so that one healthcare professional can truly respond to a personal vocation that he has been given. With hope and with prayer, I believe that Culture of Life Family centers will someday outnumber Planned Parenthood centers in this country."
Doctor Jauregui responded, "This is very overwhelming for us. Marya and I have been doing this pro-life ministry in North County for the last two-and-a-half years, and over that time we've had an ultrasound that we've been able to borrow but us being able to borrow that ultrasound is now coming to a very close end. So this new ultrasound has come in the nick of time; it really has. We were not going to have an ultrasound at the [new] center and we were wondering where it was going to come from. I praise God that these people in Coronado, the community of our Catholic brothers and sisters, have stepped up to the plate and allowed us to have an ultrasound which is going to save the lives of hundreds of children. There are going to be little children that are in the grocery store and places you'll pass by, and they'll be there because of what you all have done."
Marya Jauregui told this reporter, "The common pregnancy care center offers pregnancy tests and counseling, but then the woman needs to go out into the real world where all her pressures are, and she doesn't receive support through her entire pregnancy. There are a lot of pressures from parents, boyfriends, and friends who encourage abortion because it seems like the easy alternative. Instead, we show the women the reality that if they do choose abortion, their chances of suicide and depression are drastically increased, all these other negatives, that Planned Parenthood is not going to tell them. And we show them the positive beautiful side of pregnancy and raising children, and all the love and healing that can come from that relationship."
"Most pregnancy care centers may have a couple doctors that they refer the girls to, but do those girls make it, and do they have the ongoing support and checkups? We have a special understanding of what all these girls are going through. These girls have a lot of issues. They have a lot of past abortions, a lot of psychological problems, addictions. When they get referred out to a regular private practice doctor, the doctor may not be cognizant of all those issues."
Now, said Marya, pregnancy care centers will be able to refer women to the new Culture of Life clinic for medical care instead of to private practice doctors. "We're going to have electronic medical records, with a computer in each exam room. Also, we're going to be able to hand out all the educational materials right there in the room on nutrition, breast feeding, fetal development, and birthing."
Doctor Jauregui added, "We have to have the same level of care Planned Parenthood does. We have to be on par with them. If we're not, they've always got an edge up."
Mrs. Jauregui cited a study showing that pregnancy care centers that offer counseling have a 20 percent chance of saving a pre-born baby's life whereas, with ultrasound coupled with medical care, the chances increase to over 90 percent. "The 4D ultrasound machine is going to save a lot of lives," Mrs. Juaregi believes, "by showing women a three-dimensional real-time image of their unborn babies that they can recognize."
She continued, "We're not there to convert people to Catholicism. We're there to serve them in their needs and to help them form Christian families. But a lot of our girls become more mature as they make correct decisions, such as deciding to keep the baby, and to start getting their own life in order. A lot of them get married. We've seen this progression from a selfish child to a responsible parent and family. And because we keep caring for the babies after they're born, we provide an ongoing formation. A lot of the girls are very hungry for spiritual direction and we're there to provide it under one roof."
In the evening's final segment, Sacred Heart parishioner John Bowen updated dinner guests on the status of the California Tell-a-Parent ballot initiative to enact a state constitutional amendment requiring that at least one parent be notified when their daughter under age 18 seeks an abortion. By the end of May, 598,000 valid signatures must be gathered to qualify the initiative for the November 2004 ballot.
Bowen prefaced his remarks by explaining that the difference between "involvement" and "commitment" can be likened to sitting down to a breakfast of bacon and eggs: "Two animals played a large part in that, the chicken and the pig, but whereas the chicken was involved, the pig was committed."
Bowen described how he went from being "involved" to "committed" when he was invited a couple of years ago to attend a Planned Parenthood presentation at Coronado High School. "I knew about Planned Parenthood," he recalled, "but I had no clue who they really were. And so, I went, heard what I needed to hear, got on the website, learned a whole lot more, and quickly went from interested, to involved, to committed to getting those guys out of Coronado High School. With the help of about a dozen other people here, we did that."
Now, Bowen is helping with the Tell-a-Parent initiative. "It's pretty darn simple," he said. "The legalese involved in writing this has been [carefully crafted]. It will be ruled on by the California attorney general, and then petitions will be made available in January. From then, we'll have 150 days to get just under 600,000 signatures in order to get this on the ballot for November 2004. It's going to be in the form of a constitutional amendment so that current courts can't overturn it."
Bowen said the Tell-a-Parent initiative "polls very well, in the neighborhood of 70 percent-plus." A study last year by World magazine found that the number of abortions among teenagers is plummeting in states with parental consent or notification laws. Yet, asserted Bowen, politicians will oppose the law in order to protect big-money abortion. "About six weeks ago," he said, "I was walking across Spreckels Park, and Congresswoman Susan Davis happened to be out there. So I introduced myself and asked her what her position on this was going to be. She said, 'I would not vote for that.' I asked, 'Why might that be?' Her answer was that good families don't need this, and with bad families, you don't want it because there's risk that the young woman might be kicked out of the house or abused by the family. And that's the argument that we're going to hear. But we all know the real money reason behind this: the abortion industry."
Bowen told the diners the story of the recent death of Northern California teenager Holly Patterson who on September 10, 2003, after becoming pregnant at age 17, went to Planned Parenthood in Hayward and was given the "chemical abortion" regimen, RU486. One week later, and just two weeks after her 18th birthday, Holly died from a massive septic shock infection caused by fragments of the baby left inside her uterus. Since her death, the Patterson's have called for a new bill, named "Holly's Law," to suspend and review RU486.
"The Pattersons are doing whatever they can to help with that law and to support the Tell-a-Parent initiative," said Bowen. He read an excerpt from an eight-page letter sent to lawmakers from the Pattersons stating, "Because Holly has died this way, we have educated ourselves about the grave dangers of this drug, [and] become conscious of the current lack of parental notification/consent laws in California."
Bowen told the silent crowd how he had decided to e-mail the Pattersons, "and tell them what we're doing here tonight, thanking them for this incredibly well-written letter and their commitment to this thing. So I did that; I sent them an e-mail about 3:00 this afternoon, and at about 5:00, they called."
Overcome by emotion, Bowen paused for several moments, and then continued, "[The Pattersons] were getting on their way to go to a radio show in San Francisco to talk about this. We talked for about 20 minutes, and I gave them some more updated facts that they were going to use tonight on the radio show up there. And [Monty Patterson] said, 'Tell those people tonight that we will be there till the finish, and we'll win this thing.'"
A fundraising dinner for Culture of Life Family Services, featuring Father Ken del Priore's famous spaghetti, will be held January 24 at Resurrection parish. To purchase tickets or to help COLFS with volunteer and financial support, visit http://www.colfs.org/ or call (760) 735-8461. COLFS is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, and checks made out to COLFS can be sent to 17052 Old Yucca Trail, Escondido, CA, 92027.
For more information about the Tell-a-Parent initiative, to volunteer to gather signatures or to offer financial support, visit www.tell-a-parent.org, call (213) 896-9554 (toll free (866) 828-TELL), or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Sacred Heart parish Culture of Life activities, call Margi Pearson at (619) 435-5014.