Catholic 'Revert' Silent No More
By Tom McFeely
National Catholic Register
August 26 - September 1, 2007 Issue
Janet Morana and
Fr. Frank Pavone, M.E.V. on the set of their Defending Life Show
JANET MORANA says it was “the intersection of Pavone” that helped restore her
Catholic faith - and drew her to fulltime pro-life work.
Now the associate director of Priests for Life and
co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, Morana was a fallen-away
Catholic in early 1989 when she met Father Frank Pavone shortly after the newly
ordained priest was assigned to her family’s parish in Staten Island, N.Y.
She spoke recently with Contributing Editor Tom
McFeely about her association with Father Pavone and about her own pro-life
McFeely: What was your childhood like as a
Catholic growing up in Brooklyn?
Morana: I was raised in the Church before Vatican
II, so everything was in Latin. When you went to church, you felt like you were
entering into the presence of God.
You never went in church without your head being
covered, and you stopped everything on a Saturday and went to confession at 3
o’clock. And on Sunday mornings you went to church, and on Sunday afternoon the
family got together for Sunday dinner.
I distinctly remember when the Church changed.
Suddenly everything went from Latin, and the priest turned around, the Mass was
in English. Guitars and tambourines - the organ music went out, the incense was
And I think for my generation, especially for me,
it became a time of great confusion.
I distinctly remember standing in line for
confession in high school. I went to a tiny all-girls high school run by the
And suddenly, as I got closer and closer, I said,
“I’m not going to do this any more. This is ridiculous. I’m going to go in there
and say a whole lot of things that had lost meaning to me; I don’t even know
what I believe any more. I’m not going to do this.”
From that moment on, I stopped going to confession.
I continued to go to church for a little while
longer, but I gradually started skipping Mass here and there. You stop doing
this and then you stop doing that and you stop doing this. And before you know
it, it’s like you bottom out and crash.
McFeely: How did you return to the Church?
Morana: What happened was when I started to have my
three daughters, we lived with my in-laws in a two-family house in Staten
Island. And I would let them take the girls to church every Sunday while I
stayed home to cook Sunday dinner. That was my excuse.
And then, two days before Christmas in 1988, I got
called to interview for a job in a school that I had never substitute-taught in
before. And I got the job.
I came home and said, “I got the job! I start Jan.
2.” And my mother-in-law turned to me and said, “Now you’d better go to church
and light a candle of thanksgiving.”
So I went to church and I lit the candle of
thanksgiving. And because I was starting the job, I said, “You know what? I’d
better just start going to Mass. I’ll go with the girls, so we’ll all be going
But I wouldn’t receive Communion because I still
wouldn’t go to confession.
McFeely: What happened to change that?
Morana: In November of 1988, right before I got
that teaching job, Father Pavone was ordained, and he was sent to my parish as a
new priest. Here’s where the story starts to get very interesting - the
intersection of Pavone!
One Saturday evening after the 7 o’clock Mass, we
were near the back of the church. One of my twins, TaraLynn, started pulling me
towards Father Pavone, who was coming in from having greeted people outside of
As we got closer, Tara turned and said, “Father
Frank, this is my mom, you know the one I told you really needed to go to
Well, I turned as red as can be. And Father Pavone
said very calmly, “Tara, it’s okay, it’s okay.” And he said to me, “Very pleased
to meet you.”
And he just turned to me very calmly and said,
“Don’t worry, you don’t have to go to confession. But if you want, you can come
and talk to me sometime.”
So I called him. And he said, “I’ll tell you what.
I normally teach Bible class on Friday night. Why don’t you come to the rectory
right about 9 o’clock, and I’ll see you for half an hour after Bible study.”
I came to that first appointment, and he got a
little bit of my background and then he said, “Well, what do you think is
keeping you from going to confession?”
And I said, “Because I disagree with the teachings
of the Church.”
Janet Morana speaks at a Silent No More
Awareness gathering in front of the Supreme Court.
Father Pavone was very calm. He said, “That’s okay.
But what are the teachings?”
So I started going through my list, my mantra: “I
don’t believe in papal infallibility, I think birth control is okay,” and I went
point, point, point through all that liberal junk of the ’70s and ’80s.
Father Pavone said, “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t
we begin to study some of the documents of the Church? If you’re willing to
read, and then come to me, we’ll talk about it and then you tell me your
objections and we’ll work through the teachings and see how you feel about
So we started with Humanae Vitae - the biggie - and
we went on from there.
It took me until the end of June in 1989, four
months down the road, before I was able to feel I could go to confession - I had
to work through all my “problems,” my “points.”
Then I did my confession on Saturday night after
Mass. And it just felt so good. Because I could feel a weight coming off and it
was such a warm feeling.
And then I said, “Thank you, Father. Tomorrow when
I come to Mass with my kids, I’ll get to finally go to Communion.”
And he said, “You know, you can receive Communion
now.” I said, “What do you mean? Mass is over.” He said, “No, you go up and
kneel by the tabernacle and wait. I’ll be right there.”
So he went back into the sacristy and he met me up
there and he gave me Communion. I knew that he was kneeling there, but at a
certain point I lost all idea he was still there with me. But I felt like I was
with Jesus. I was really with Jesus.
And I really feel that that was my first Communion.
It was incredible. It’s just hard to describe - like a peace and a warmth, and I
was with Jesus.
And I haven’t stopped going to Communion since.
McFeely: How did you become involved in
Morana: Gradually I got involved in activities in
the parish, and in pro-life.
The pivotal experience of that, both for Father
Pavone and me, was in October 1990. This was still during the Operation Rescue
movement. There were some pro-lifers on Staten Island who were rescuers, who
were going to jail. They invited Father Pavone to come to a rescue.
It was a very, very dramatic experience. The
abortion mill was closed all day because of these activities, so whatever
abortions were scheduled that day couldn’t happen. It took them almost until
noon to free people chained to the doors.
And while they were chained to the doors, and the
police were trying to get them out of there, Father Pavone and I were engaging
different women coming for abortions. There was one young lady we were able to
talk to, and give her over to the people there from the pregnancy center. They
took her off to the pregnancy center, so I’m convinced that there was definitely
a baby saved with that one.
That experience - ask Father Pavone about this,
he’ll tell you the same thing - it was like a steel door dropped behind us that
day. And from that point forward, our passion to do something about the issue
became so intense that I felt I had to commit myself to this work.
McFeely: When did you become involved with
Priests for Life?
Morana: In 1993, Father left my parish to do
Priests for Life. And I kept helping him while I was teaching full time in
Staten Island. We set up a little volunteer place in the basement of my home and
we used to ship all the resources out from my home in the early days of Priests
As Priests for Life grew, and as the issue was
growing more in my heart, I came to a crossroads in 1999 where I said I can’t do
both. I can’t help Father and Priests for Life, and teach full time.
I love teaching, and maybe if we end abortion I’ll
go back to teaching. But once I made the decision to leave teaching and work
full time for Priests for Life, I felt a peace that I chose the right path.
McFeely: You are one of the two founders of the
Silent No More Awareness Campaign, which was formed in 2003 to educate the
public about the damage caused by abortion. Why did you decide to organize the
Morana: Georgette Forney and I met through the
National Pro-Life Religious
Council. Georgette is the director and president of Anglicans for Life.
When the pro-life movement was moving towards the
sad 30th memorial of Roe v. Wade back in 2003, people were beginning to look
ahead in pro-life leader meetings and grapple with the question, “What is the
movement’s response after 30 years of abortion?”
At the spring meeting of the council in 2002,
Georgette and I looked at each other and said, “The movement has to have a
Georgette herself is post-abortive, and I knew
that. And she said, “You know Janet, I’m convinced that after all these years of
abortion, there’s got to be more women who have had abortions and are willing to
speak up and say The National Organization of Women and Planned Parenthood and
NARAL, they don’t speak for us.”
And I said, “I am, too.”
From that we developed the concept of the campaign.
Janet Morana, Fr. Frank Pavone and
Georgette Forney lead the women of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign
at the March for Life in Washington, DC
McFeely: In your work with the Silent No More
campaign, what has particularly touched you?
I think the power is in the testimonies. I think
the power is in watching a person get up, who has been healed, who has been
redeemed, who feels the love and mercy of the Lord again, but feels compelled to
come forward and speak to reach those people who are still locked in the sin and
the shame of abortion.
The hope of the campaign is its three goals: one,
to reach people who are locked in that sin and shame of abortion. They think
it’s an unforgivable sin, they think there’s no hope. To reach them and say,
“Yes, there’s hope.”
Two, to reach a girl who is maybe considering
having an abortion, to say, “Hey, listen to these girls, they’ve gone down that
road, they know it’s a dead end.” And maybe they’ll listen.
And finally, to reach the people who are sitting in
the pews. There are so many people who are in church today that somehow think
that women need abortion.
You know, we would rid this whole world of abortion
if every person who said they profess Jesus Christ would stand up and say,
“We’re not going to tolerate abortion anymore in our culture.”
And so our hope is that if those people who are
caught in that mushy middle of culture with abortion hear the stories of women,
they’ll say, “Ah, abortion isn’t good for women. And they don’t need abortion,
it’s not good.”
We all have to be ambassadors of this message.
Tom McFeely is based in Victoria, British Columbia.