My birthday gift from my husband this year was airline tickets for our whole family to travel out west to visit my sister, her husband and their newborn niece. I hadn’t been to Denver, Colorado in over 15 years and was looking forward to an enjoyable visit with family and some outdoor fun. What I didn’t anticipate was a very special gift God had in store for me during that trip: a visit with two of my friends from nursing school whom I like to call my “pro-life heroes.”
A few weeks before the trip, my friend Erin from Cleveland sent me a link to a National Catholic Register article about a new convent for the Sisters of Life in Denver. This order, founded in 1991 by the late Cardinal John O’Connor, archbishop of New York, is dedicated to the pro-life movement. They carry out their mission in many ways, including caring for women experiencing crisis pregnancies (and their newborn children), providing spiritual retreats and post abortive healing resources. The article featured our dear friend, Sr. Mary Louise Concepta, who had been in our small, tight-knit nursing class at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. The sisters had set up a new outreach in Denver to minister and evangelize among college students at three nearby universities. Because the college attendees receive a large amount of information from Planned Parenthood, the purpose of the new convent is to provide moral presence and support for the female students. The sisters spend much of their time individually ministering to the girls on campus and having dinner with the sororities.
Since I knew I was going to be in the area, I took a chance and called the parish listed in the article and left a message for Sr. Concepta, informing her of my upcoming visit to Denver. I didn’t expect to hear back, but I thought I should at least make an attempt to connect since I would be staying only 15 minutes away from her convent.
A few weeks later, just days before my departure, I received a phone call from an unknown number and was delighted to hear Sr. Concepta’s voice when I answered. We were able to do a quick catch up and made plans for my family and me to come to the convent for tea during our visit.
What’s more, I knew of another one of our former nursing classmates who would be in town so I sent a Facebook message to her to see if she could join us. Once again, it was a shot in the dark because the classmate, Christa, was battling stage four colon cancer and her prognosis was not very good. I hadn’t seen her in almost 15 years, but had been following her story and praying for her during the last seven years of her difficult journey.
Interestingly, Christa is another one of my pro-life heroes. Just weeks after she found out she was pregnant with her youngest, she was diagnosed colon cancer. At her initial oncologist visit, she was advised to undergo a “therapeutic abortion” to increase her chances of survival to greater than five years. Christa and her husband informed the physician that they didn’t feel like that option was very therapeutic for their baby!
My friend and her husband stood their ground and were blessed to find a surgeon who was a man of faith, dedicated to saving both lives present. She was able to have a surgery in her second trimester which successfully removed the tumor and Christa then went on to undergo chemotherapy. At 35 weeks, she delivered a healthy baby boy who is now seven years old. Sadly, Christa’s battle with cancer still rages and her only hope for a cure is a miracle.
As it turned out, Christa was able to join us at the convent for our visit! Before I knew it, the three of us were reunited, sipping tea and watching our children play joyfully together. I couldn’t help but wonder how I, as a mom, could be of more help to these amazing women, even though I live so far away. I recalled the words from the Diary of St. Faustina: “Write this for the many souls who are often worried because they do not have the material means with which to carry out an act of mercy. Yet spiritual mercy, which requires neither permissions nor storehouses, is much more meritorious and is within the grasp of every soul.” (Diary 1317)
I realized that I could offer up my daily sacrifices for the work of Sr. Concepta and her fellow Sisters, a healing for Christa and, of course, I could also pray. To remind myself of these special intentions, I put a charm with each of their first initials on the bracelet I wear every day.
As moms, we may sometimes feel like our vocation limits us in what we can do for the pro-life movement, especially in this month of January as we approach the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. However, our seemingly small deeds and actions as mothers have infinite value if we can offer them up for the good of others. Won’t you join me this month in praying for these two special ladies and the pro-life movement?