Pro-Life, How I contribute to the miracle of birth

Pro-Life and I are old friends. I am humbled to share with you how I became involved with the Pro-Life movement in my contemplative life of silence, solitude and prayer. It started a number of years ago with Sr. Josephine, a protest march, and my reflections on the word “baby” and how that word fits into valuing the person. 

Sister Mary Josephine Fritz and I were living together in the Contemplative Community at Marygrove in Florissant. She spent a lot of time crocheting beautiful baby blankets for Birthright, an agency in St. Louis that helps pregnant women make the choice to have their baby. Sr. Josephine crocheted the blankets (and still does) for women at Birthright. She believes that a mother who is uncertain about keeping her baby might choose life if she knows someone cares enough about her baby to have crocheted a blanket for the unborn child. 

I had been reflecting on the word baby and the sacredness of valuing the person. I decided that I wanted to join Sr. Josephine in her baby blanket ministry as a way to advocate for Pro-Life. Over the years, the ministry has taken on deep spiritual meaning for me. I have come to realize that through these blankets I am helping to protect and promote life. It is an awesome experience to be interrelated with these women and their babies and to feel connected with them through our handiwork and prayers.

Pro-Life
Sr. Elizabeth Garciano with her latest creations for Birthright.

We are so grateful for the gifts of beautiful yarn that we receive. People who donate yarn to us feel the same connectedness to the women and their babies that we do. God’s grace fills this ministry.

God weaves life in the womb of a woman. In our own small and creative way, Sr. Josephine and I combine yarn colors and form patterns with different stitches. We both weave prayer and love into each blanket we crochet to help protect unborn babies. 

The Beginning of my Pro-Life story

My story has another chapter. In 1998, Planned Parenthood opened an abortion center in Bryan/College Station in Brazos Valley, Texas. People of faith rallied against it, but in time the office was built and Planned Parenthood opened. Each year, the goal of ending abortion in the Brazos Valley seemed to slip further away. And then four members of the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life realized they needed to ask God how He would have them end abortion in their community. 

So in 2004, they gathered around an old wooden table for an hour of prayer. During that hour of prayer, they found themselves drawn to the timeframe of 40 days, a timeframe God consistently uses throughout salvation history to transform His people. 

As that hour of prayer progressed, the four individuals felt themselves called to launch a 40 day campaign of prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a constant peaceful vigil to end abortion. They vowed that even if no one else would join them, together they would cover the entire 40 day, 960 hour, around-the-clock vigil. Finally, they gave their new project a name: 40 Days for Life.

I was a prayer partner of 40 Days for Life. You can learn more about the project at https://40daysforlife.com/

March for Life

People have been protesting abortion for 46 years. The world’s largest Pro-Life event is held each year in Washington, DC, to protest the legality of abortion. The March for Life is a peaceful protest that is held on or around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision issued in 1973 by the United States Supreme Court decriminalizing abortion.

Pro-life
James McNellis from Washington, DC, United States [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

The 2019 rally took place on January 18. The theme was Unique from Day One: Pro-life is Pro-Science. As science evolves, the reality of human development from conception becomes clearer. 

Missouri has been a leader in the Pro-Life movement from its inception and sent a large delegation to the march. The Archdiocese of St. Louis, for example, was the first diocese in the United States to establish a pro-life apostolate. They sent about 50 buses full of young people to bear witness to the truth of human life in the womb. 

According to the World Health Organization, every year an estimated 40-50 million pregnancies end in abortion. That is approximately 125,000 abortions per day. In the United States, 22 percent of all pregnancies, other than miscarriages, end in abortion. 

Connected to God’s creation

The deeper I grow in my life of zeal, the more I feel connected to God’s creation and the more involved I become in the Eco Zeal for Mission core group. Eco Zeal for Mission is the Province’s response to Pope Francis’ call for us to care for our common home. 

In his encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis says, “our new consciousness is realizing that we are intricately part of God’s design – not separate from but interconnected – and on the way to deeper transformation.”

Pro-Life
https://www.facebook.com/MarchForLifeBusTrip/

As people from across the United States gathered at our nation’s capital for the 2019 March for Life, I joined them with my prayerful voice that calls for every human life to be welcomed, “because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.” (LS 42) 

I believe my life of silence and prayer enhances and confirms the importance of our Contemplative essential elements in the Good Shepherd Congregation and in the Catholic Church. I want to be a container of the Divine and make a difference in this changing world. 

I invite you, wherever you are, to join with Sr. Josephine and me in the Pro-Life movement by crocheting baby blankets to save tiny lives in your local community. Babies’ Lives Matter. God will bless your work.

Gratitude

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Rose Vierdag picks up the baby blankets from the Good Shepherd Contemplative Sisters and delivers them to Birthright.

Before I end my story I want to give special thanks to the many donors who give us yarn so we can crochet the baby blankets. And it is with the most heartfelt gratitude that I thank Rose Vierdag for supporting our baby blanket ministry. She comes to the convent of the Maria Droste Contemplative Community routinely to pick up the blankets and then deliver them to Birthright. She has known the Good Shepherd Contemplative Sisters since the 1960s, when she would come to Mass at our convent in Florissant. Rose is a gift to us and our very special friend. We are blessed to have her as a member of the Good Shepherd family.

Baby Onesies 

Sister Josephine Fritz turned 100 years old on December 28, 2018. She received nearly $200 from friends and family for her birthday. When asked what she wanted to do with her birthday money, Sr. Josephine said she wanted to use it to buy baby Onesies for Birthright. On March 8 Sr. Josephine will deliver the Onesies to Birthright. Sisters Pauline Bilbrough and Emilie Mane Ngom will go with her. 

Birthright has been caring for and counseling pregnant women in St. Louis for more than 45 years. Their services include pregnancy tests, professional counseling, community referrals, educational group counseling, pregnancy workshops, postpartum assistance, and distributing Good Shepherd baby blankets. 

Pro-Life
Sr. Josephine Fritz knits a baby blanket.
Elizabeth Garciano

Elizabeth Garciano

Sister Elizabeth Garciano was the Local Leader for the Maria Droste Contemplative Community in St. Louis, Missouri, before taking her sabbatical year as a pilgrim. She also served as Vocations Director for the Contemplative Good Shepherd Sisters in the Province of Mid-North America.