Their stories are not unique: Two women who started out a pro-choice changed their minds.…
Pro-life organizations roll up their sleeves to help women in need
As the crowds begin to mount in Washington, D.C. — indeed, all across the country — to march in support of the sanctity of life, it’s important to remember those organizations working at the grassroots level to promoting the dignity of life in ministries for women seeking health care with a Catholic conscience, pregnant women who are homeless and victims of sex trafficking. Here are their stories.
Dr. John Bruchalski was a resident physician when he visited Tepeyac in Mexico, where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego. During his visit he realized that he did not want to pursue the typical path of obstetrics and gynecology.
“He had an epiphany of what he needed to do,” said Dr. Lorna Cvetkovich, who is on staff at Tepeyac OB/GYN, which Bruchalski founded 25 years ago.
In addition to traditional obstetrics and gynecology services, the nonprofit practice in Arlington, Virginia, offers natural family planning (NFP), infertility treatments consistent with Catholic teaching and hospice care for babies who are carried to full term after a fatal fetal diagnosis.
Five years into her own practice, Cvetkovich faced moral questions about artificial birth control and found answers when she learned about NFP at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska. Bruchalski’s practice was what she was looking for.
“I couldn’t practice this specialty otherwise,” she said. “There aren’t many practices like ours, but I think there’s more focus now, and OB/GYN and family doctors are trying to band together because of the threat to our conscience rights.”
Dr. Kristen Anderson developed the hospice program that begins with specialists working with parents to provide explicit diagnoses, prognoses and plans for delivery. There’s also pastoral and psychological care for parents as well as medical care for their babies.
Some babies don’t survive delivery or soon pass away. Some can go home for a short time.
“It’s in the (medical) literature that parents do better psychologically if they carry the baby to term, even if the baby does not survive,” Cvetkovich said. “Even the people who promote termination are recognizing that this is a wonderful alternative, and they sometimes refer to us.”
The practice takes insurance and has funds available for women who need assistance. Financial support comes from Divine Mercy Care, a nonprofit organization that advances pro-life health care, and by Aslan’s Army, a ministry at St. Veronica Parish in Chantilly, Virginia.
Visit tepeyacobgyn.com for more information.
Little Flower Home
The Little Flower Home in Rhode Island spent $150,000 to serve four homeless women experiencing crisis pregnancies in 2009. In 2016, a budget of $96,000 enabled the Catholic nonprofit to provide homes and services for 24 women in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Their payroll is zero, thanks to volunteers, the partnering in 2011 with Bethany Christian Services and a switch to the Safe Families for Children model. Now instead of group homes, an apartment with a hostess provides private bedrooms for two women, and five other parish-based programs welcome women into private homes.
Board member Lee Gross calls the stability of family living more compassionate than a group home, which was the model used when the Little Flower Home was founded in 1984 by Joanne McOsker, the volunteer executive director and president until 2008.
The vision has remained the same — to provide a safe temporary residence and to assist the women in finding permanent living arrangements.
“The whole parish and community become involved in wrapping themselves around the host family,” Gross said. “Someone will cook a meal, provide transportation, take the women shopping or become a mentor.”
Lareal O’Loughlin and her husband, George, are the hosts in a former convent across from Holy Ghost Church in Tiverton, Rhode Island. Adoration was going on at the church when they went to check out the house.
“George and I looked at each other and we went to our knees,” she said. “We thought that this was something that God wanted us to do.”
O’Loughlin was eight months pregnant with their fifth child when they moved in. (Some of their children are adults on their own.) Her life became one of constant prayer and a testament to the acceptance of grace to love unconditionally.
“It’s like having Christ in your home,” she said. “I can’t describe it any other way.”
The guests have ranged in age from 18 to 40. Some are from broken homes or dangerous situations. They have stories of courage in choosing life, and transformations occur because of the love and acceptance they receive from the program volunteers and community. Many have life-changing experiences.
One guest’s mother had passed away and she was estranged from her father, who reconnected when he saw that she was taking hold of her life. He was present for the birth, but died from cancer six months later. He had asked O’Loughlin to take care of his daughter “because she has no one else.”
O’Loughlin calls this ministry a gift. “Jesus is giving me this opportunity to be able to give,” she said. “I have been really blessed.”
Bethany Christian Services provides caseworkers, and Children’s Friend sends nurses for the guests, both services at no charge. Little Flower Home has hosted more than 800 homeless pregnant women and their children.
For more information, visit littleflowerhome.org.
Many students at the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana, are surprised to learn about the sex trafficking taking place right in their city.
Like many others, they tend to think of it as something that’s happening somewhere else — big cities or far-away Third World nations.
A student group on campus is changing that misinformation.
Josephine’s Hope was founded by Dr. Bill Duffy, a counselor and director of student support. The organization is named after St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave who escaped and became a nun with the Canossian Daughters of Charity.
“We’re trying to raise awareness and start conversations about human trafficking, especially the issues involving women,” he said. “Sex trafficking starts with pornography and strip clubs, and then actual prostitution itself. As far as I’m concerned, they’re all the same. They all involve the objectification of women for money.”
Duffy wrote two prayer books dedicated to St. Josephine, one for the nine-day novena that begins on Jan. 30 and includes Super Bowl Sunday. That’s no coincidence.
“The Super Bowl and other sports events, like the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500, are magnets for sex trafficking,” he said.
Senior Mariah Escamilla, 21, a peer minister on campus, has been involved with Josephine’s Hope since the beginning. She has presented numerous programs on and off campus to raise understanding of how the victims are used and abused.
“God has put it in my heart to want to truly fight the evils of sexual exploitation and to minister to the victims,” she said. “They have been stripped of their dignity. They are being commercialized to being merely numbers and are not recognized as people with dignity and worth.”
She and several other students will soon travel to Cambodia and Thailand with Destiny Rescue, an off-campus organization that works to restore and protect children who have been trafficked in the sex trade.
Visit the Facebook page of Josephine’s Hope for more information.
Marianne Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.