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Among Women 209: Women Leaving the Abortion Industry, with Abby Johnson

Among Women 209: Women Leaving the Abortion Industry, with Abby Johnson

This latest episode of Among Women is poignant and powerful. My guest, Abby Johnson, works in a ministry “And Then There Were None”, dedicated to helping women come out of the abortion industry. Her new book is riveting: The Walls are Talking: Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 9.23.48 AMFormer Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their StoriesTogether we talk about how our committed friendship and love can help more women say no to abortion and re-start lives outside of the industry.

In our “Blessed are They” segment, I’m happy to be reading an excerpt from Melanie Rigney’s Blessed Are You that profiles the life of St Gianna Beretta Molla. Plus I share about Holy Doors and the Year of Mercy. Listen here to this new episode, or find #209 on iTunes.

Sisters of Life featured in NY Times & WSJ! #YearOfConsecratedLife

Sisters of Life featured in NY Times & WSJ! #YearOfConsecratedLife

Did you know that the Sisters of Life were founded by the late Cardinal John O’ Connor to serve the Church and, in particular, to spread the pro-life teachings of our faith and fight against the culture of death? And as this is the Year of Consecrated Life, let’s just take a few moments and send up a prayer or two for this religious order.

You might also be interested in this article that recently ran in the NY Times regarding the Sisters of Life…”Nuns of a New Generation Forge Their Own Path”…


The members may hold to traditional teachings, but as they see it, there is nothing more countercultural in 2015 than a young woman’s becoming a nun — eschewing careerism, material possessions, sex.

….

All of the 84 Sisters of Life have joined since 1991, when Cardinal John J. O’Connor, who was the archbishop of New York, founded the order. Ten postulants, or first-year members, are expected in September. On Thursday, at the order’s retreat center in Stamford, Conn., eight sisters professed “final vows,” making a commitment for life. To the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the Sisters of Life add a fourth vow, “to protect and enhance the sacredness of every human life.”

“They have a very clearly defined focus,” said Brother Paul Bednarczyk, the executive director of the of National Religious Vocation Conference in Chicago. “There was a very real need which Cardinal O’Connor responded to, and that real need captures the imagination of younger women.”

The Sisters of Life work with about 1,000 pregnant women a year, at several sites including a home for expectant and unwed mothers in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in Manhattan, a mission on the East Side of Manhattan and a mission in Toronto. They operate a house for first-year members in the Bronx. Last year, at their Stamford retreat center, more than 4,000 people attended retreats, including weekends for women “healing after abortion.” Next month, four sisters are opening the order’s newest mission in Denver.

“Our experience is that once a woman is given the love and practical support that she needs and deserves, she almost always desires to carry her baby to term,” said Sister Mary Elizabeth, who was acting as a spokeswoman for the group.

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The Wall Street Journal also captured some cool ideas about final profession, when sisters take their final vows…

The idea of religious sisters as brides of Christ is easily lampooned. But the metaphor isn’t just a pretty substitute for the weddings and husbands they give up. Just as the ideal of conventional marriage calls upon husbands and wives to rise above themselves to put their spouses first, so it is for these nuns.

For it is precisely the abandonment of self to Christ that sustains these women in those moments when perhaps they’d rather not obey, when they might prefer not to get out of bed in the middle of the night to help a pregnant mother who is throwing up in the next room.

In other words, the vows they make today and the rings they received as a sign of these vows isn’t about “no.” It’s about a radical “yes,” an echo of the assent given more than two millennia ago by a Jewish girl in Nazareth: Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to thy word. Or, as a young redhead in Florida says she put it in her own prayer when she first considered religious life: “You know that I’ve had my wedding planned since kindergarten . . . but I can take a hint if you want me to be Yours.”

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While I was on retreat at Spiritual Direction School, (my Summer Jesus Camp), I met a couple of fabulous sisters from this order who were also learning to be spiritual directors. In fact, one went to the same high school I attended, albeit she graduated several years after me. I was just happy to meet another native New Yorker in Florida. (What am I saying? Florida is full of native New York transplants. But I digress…)

If you’re a fan of helping women through crisis pregnancies, or you know a woman who needs to heal following an abortion, I highly recommend the Sisters of Life for counseling and retreats! Find more details about their mission here and their retreats here. 

Find an earlier post about the Sisters of Life here. 

This makes me think… all women are called to promote a new feminism, even those who have had abortions

In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination”, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.

Making my own the words of the concluding message of the Second Vatican Council, I address to women this urgent appeal: “Reconcile people with life”. You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship. The experience of motherhood makes you acutely aware of the other person and, at the same time, confers on you a particular task: “Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb … This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings not only towards her own child, but every human being, which profoundly marks the woman’s personality”. A mother welcomes and carries in herself another human being, enabling it to grow inside her, giving it room, respecting it in its otherness. Women first learn and then teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty or health. This is the fundamental contribution which the Church and humanity expect from women. And it is the indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change.

I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.

-Pope Saint John Paul II-
The Gospel of Life, 1995, par. 99. [Emphasis mine.]