Mary Anne Godleski-Tissot remembers the exact moment her pro-life activism began. It was Jan. 23, 1973, and her mother was reading the paper. She told her daughter, then a senior in high school, about the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of the day before, and how it legalized the murder of children in the womb.
“I remember thinking, ‘they can’t do that,’ but they did,” said Mrs. Tissot, the newest professed member of the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life (or MEV, from the Latin). “The next day in school, I was walking around with a clipboard.”
Mrs. Tissot once dreamed of becoming an ecologist and saving the environment. Instead, she has devoted her life to saving babies.
“I eat and sleep pro-life,” said the resident of Moravia, N.Y., who has lived – and been involved in pro-life work – in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Nebraska.
A mother of three, Mrs. Tissot has learned some hard lessons in her life about love and loss, hardship and miracles.
“When I was in ninth grade, my Mom got pregnant. I learned a lot about life that way,” she said. After getting married in 1984, she and her husband lost twins at 16 weeks in 1988, and because the state of New Jersey did not recognize the unborn as people, “we couldn’t take them home to bury them. There was no death certificate.”
The couple has three daughters, Jennifer, Rebecca and Rachael, and a grandson, 5-year-old Nathan. Twenty-eight-year-old Jennifer was born at 25 weeks, weighing just 1.5 pounds. She survived and thrived but would go blind at age 9. “She was my miracle baby, and she’s taught me since then that we can do anything as long as we’re given the opportunity.”
Mrs. Tissot first learned about the MEV program from seeing Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, on EWTN several years ago.
“He was so full of zeal,” she recalled. “The energy that comes from him is tremendous.” She went to the MEV website (Priestsforlife.org/missionary), but didn’t begin the program immediately. It was three or four years later while involved with the 40 Days for Life campaign in Ithaca, N.Y., that she came in contact with Nancy Belzile, a professed MEV, through an email asking leaders in New York for prayer and support.
“ I noticed the initials MEV after her name, and I said, ‘uh oh, is that the Holy Spirit talking to me?’ I was challenged to get moving.”
Get moving she did, and on November 10, Father Richard Shatzel accepted her promises during Mass at St. Patrick’s Church in Moravia. She’s the first MEV in her church community.
“The ceremony was so moving, and I thought, maybe it will touch someone else,” she said. “I want to do it as a witness, more than anything. We have to tell the world that abortion is not just one of many issues. It is THE issue.”
Mrs. Tissot has always been able to see the big picture, and one thing she’s noticed is that often pro-life groups will work side-by-side, but not really together. Her newest project is an effort to change that. For the first time, a bus headed for the March for Life will leave from Ithaca. A Facebook page, Facebook.com/IthacaIsGoingtoDC has been set up to generate support.
“One day the Lord told me I had to shake the dust off my feet. I went to the March from Syracuse last year, but I kept saying that we had to get something out of Ithaca.” The central New York city is home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, and a Planned Parenthood facility currently operating out of a Victorian house, but with plans to expand to a much larger facility.
“Twenty or 25 of us will be praying outside, and the escorts will come out on the porch,” she said. “They see us as a threat, because they know we have the answer. When you learn the Gospel of Life, you know there’s hope. That’s where we come in as MEVs. We have to tell the world.”