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The F.U.N. Quotient… all God’s creatures small and… small…

And of course, I found a Boston Terrier duo…

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.]

Among Women 162: Culture of Life Africa – How One Woman’s Letter started an international ministry

Among Women 162: Culture of Life Africa – How One Woman’s Letter started an international ministry

In this week’s episode of Among Women, I caught up longtime Among Women listener, Uju Ekeocha. She describes how she was blessed by the ministry of Among Women and how it deepened her faith and helped her strengthened her call to become a saint and be a force for good in the world. Over time she discovered the broad and varied world of Catholic media.

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Obianuju Ekeocha, my guest on Among Women and founder of Culture of Life Africa

In this extended Among Women podcast, Uju Ekeocha describes her own growth in responding to what God is calling her, and us, to do to build a culture of life. A Catholic woman born and raised and educated in Nigeria, Africa, today Uju is a specialist biomedical scientist in Canterbury, England, UK. Last year, her life began to change when her open letter of protest to Melinda Gates against proposed distribution of contraception to Africans in her country went viral and caught the attention of pro-life people around the world, the bishops conference in Nigeria, and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity.  Not bad for a ministry that is less than a year old!

Listen to the podcast!

Here’s that letter that went viral and caught the attention of Catholics in the media and around the world via social media…reprinted with permission.

An open letter to Melinda Gates

by Uju Ekeocha

Growing up in a remote town in Africa, I have always known that a new life is welcomed with much mirth and joy. In fact we have a special “clarion” call (or song) in our village reserved for births and another special one for marriages.

The first day of every baby’s life is celebrated by the entire village with dancing (real dancing!) and clapping and singing – a sort of “Gloria in excelsis Deo.”

All I can say with certainty is that we, as a society, LOVE and welcome babies.

With all the challenges and difficulties of Africa, people complain and lament their problems openly. I have grown up in this environment and I have heard women (just as much as men) complain about all sorts of things. But I have NEVER heard a woman complain about her baby (born or unborn).

Even with substandard medical care in most places, women are valiant in pregnancy. And once the baby arrives, they gracefully and heroically rise into the maternal mode.

I trained and worked for almost five years in a medical setting in Africa, yet I never heard of the clinical term “postpartum depression” until I came to live in Europe. I never heard it because I never experienced or witnessed it, even with the relatively high birth rate around me. (I would estimate that I had at least one family member or close friend give birth every single month. So I saw at least 12 babies born in my life every year.)

Amidst all our African afflictions and difficulties, amidst all the socioeconomic and political instabilities, our babies are always a firm symbol of hope, a promise of life, a reason to strive for the legacy of a bright future.

So a few weeks ago I stumbled upon the plan and promise of Melinda Gates to implant the seeds of her “legacy” in 69 of the poorest countries in the world (most of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa).

Her pledge is to collect pledges for almost $5 billion in order to ensure that the African woman is less fertile, less encumbered and, yes, she says, more “liberated.” With her incredible wealth she wants to replace the legacy of an African woman (which is her child with the legacy of “child-free sex.”

Many of the 69 targeted countries are Catholic countries with millions of Catholic women of child-bearing age.  These Catholic women have been rightly taught by the Church that the contraceptive drug and device is inherently divisive.

Unlike what we see in the developed Western world, there is actually very high compliance with Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae vitae.” For these African women, in all humility, have heard, understood and accepted the precious words of the prophetic pope. Funny how people with a much lower literacy level could clearly understand that which the average Vogue- and Cosmo-reading-high-class woman has refused to understand. I guess humility makes all the difference.

With most African women faithfully practicing and adhering to a faith (mainly Christian or in some cases Muslim), there is a high regard for sex in society, especially among the women. Sex is sacred and private.

The moment these huge amounts of contraceptive drugs and devices are injected into the roots of our society, they will undoubtedly start to erode and poison the moral sexual ethics that have been woven into our societal DNA by our faith, not unlike the erosion that befell the Western world after the 1930 Lambeth conference!  In one fell swoop and one “clean” slice, the faithful could be severed from their professed faith.

Both the frontline healthcare worker dispensing Melinda’s legacy gift and the women fettered and shackled by this gift, would be separated from their religious beliefs. They would be put in a precarious position to defy their faith – all for “safe sex.”

Even at a glance, anyone could see that the unlimited and easy availability of contraceptives in Africa would surely increase infidelity and sexual promiscuity as sex is presented by this multi-billion dollar project as a casual pleasure sport that can indeed come with no strings – or babies – attached. Think of the exponential spread of HIV and other STDs as men and women with abundant access to contraceptives take up multiple, concurrent sex partners.

And of course there are bound to be inconsistencies and failures in the use of these drugs and devices, so health complications could result; one of which is unintended abortion. Add also other health risks such as cancer, blood clots, etc. Where Europe and America have their well-oiled health care system, a woman in Africa with a contraception-induced blood clot does not have access to 911 or an ambulance or a paramedic. No, she dies.

And what about disposal of the medical waste? Despite advanced sewage disposal in the First-world countries, we hear that aquatic life there is still adversely affected by drugs in the system. In Africa, be rest assured that both in the biggest cities and smaller rural villages, sewage constitutes a real problem. So as $4.6 billion worth of drugs, IUDs and condoms get used, they will need safe disposal. Can someone please show us how and where will that be? On our farm lands where we get all our food? In our streams and rivers from whence comes our drinking water?

I see this $4.6 billion buying us misery. I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us streets devoid of the innocent chatter of children. I see it buying us disease and untimely death. I see it buying us a retirement without the tender loving care of our children.

Please Melinda, listen to the heart-felt cry of an African woman and mercifully channel your funds to pay for what we REALLY need.

We need:

• Good healthcare systems (especially prenatal, neonatal and pediatric care).

Needless to say that postpartum and neonatal deaths are alarmingly high in many Sub-Saharan African countries. This is due to the paucity of specialized medical personnel, equipment and systems. Women are not dying because they are having “too many” babies but because they are not getting even the most basic postpartum care. A childbirth or labor complication can very easily be fatal, for both mother and baby. To alleviate this problem new, well-equipped and well-staffed birthing centers with neonatal units need to be built in easily accessible parts of the poorest communities. And if Melinda Gates really insists on reducing population, she can have highly trained Natural Family Planning (NFP) instructors strategically placed in these women’s healthcare facilities.  At least then there would be a natural and wholistic approach.

• Food programs for young children.

This would serve a two-fold purpose if it is incorporated into free or highly subsidized nursery school programs. It would nourish and strengthen the growth of these children, who are so, so vulnerable to malnutrition, and it would also serve to encourage parents to bring their youngsters, ages 3 or 4, to nursery school. In so many parts of Africa, children miss out on nursery school education because it is expensive and considered a luxury reserved for the rich and middle class. As a result, the children miss the first few crucial years when basic math and reading are easily learned.  By the time they are considered “ready” for school, at age 7 or 8, they struggle academically. Many of them never quite catch up and so drop out after six or seven years. This is when a lot of young girls are married off as mid- to late-teenage wives who unfortunately would become the perfect recipient of the Melinda Gates comprehensive contraceptive care!

• Good higher education opportunities

Not just new school buildings or books, but carefully laid out educational programs that work – scholarships, internships at higher levels, etc. – are needed. Despite the problems and obstacles to primary and secondary education, a significant number of young girls make it into universities, polytechnics or colleges. The problem however is that, most of the schools and resources are substandard and outdated. As such, the quality of higher education is low and cannot compare to that of more privileged countries. Even though the teachers put in their very best and the students work hard, the system is inadequate and will always produce disadvantaged graduates who are not confident enough to stand with their counterparts who have studied in other parts of the world.

 • Chastity programs

Such programs in secondary schools, universities and churches would create a solid support system to form, inform and reassure our young girls and women that real love is that which is healthy and holy. Many African girls are no longer sure about moral sexual ethics thanks to the widespread influence of Western media, movies and magazines. More support should be given to programs that encourage abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage. This approach would go a long way to combating the spread of HIV and other STDs through the continent. And it would certainly lead to happier marriages!

• Support for micro-business opportunities for women

 The average African women is incredibly happy, hard-working and resilient. Any support both economic and through training would most probably be used well and wisely.

 • Fortify already established NGOs that are aimed at protecting women from sex-trafficking, prostitution, forced marriage, child labor, domestic violence, sex crimes, etc.

 Many of these NGOs do not have much success because they are not well-funded. Though most of them have good intentions, they lack professional input from those such as psychologists, logisticians or medical personnel needed to tackle various problems.

$4.6 billion dollars can indeed be your legacy to Africa and other poor parts of the world. But let it be a legacy that leads life, love and laughter into the world in need.

The letter’s momentum led Uju to form Culture of Life Africa, an initiative that has just held its first pro-life conference in Nigeria, and  is endorsed now by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity, and the bishops conference in Nigeria.

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On Mission in Nigeria last week!

Find more pictures and links on Culture of Life Africa on Facebook.

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Uju Ekeocha and pro-life colleague Nicole Collins from Delaware on mission in Nigeria.

All because one woman, motivated by her faith in God and love of life, spoke up against the encroaching culture of death.

Teresa Tomeo has also supported Culture of Life Africa both on the radio, and in print.

 

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Also on today’s episode of Among Women we look at some of the writings of St Margaret Mary about the Sacred Heart of Jesus during this month that celebrates that devotion.

Finally, if you’ve read my book, consider sharing your thoughts about the book for an upcoming special edition of Among Women on the subject. More details here.

(photos courtesy of Culture of Life Africa on Facebook and used with permission.)

Among Women 158: Greeting the New Pope, Plus Meet “Theologian Mom”

Among Women 158: Greeting the New Pope, Plus Meet “Theologian Mom”

In this new episode of Among Women, I talk about this history-making week with the election of our new pope, Francis, formerly known as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina. Plus in our first segment I discuss the significance of the Pope’s early morning visit on day one to pray before Our Blessed Mother at her basilica in Rome, St Mary Major. I also give some of the history of Mary and that basilica as I discuss some of its interior treasures.

Salus Populi Romani – a much venerated icon of Our Lady with the Child Jesus (found in St Mary Major)

In our second segment, I’m happy to welcome Angela Franks, PhD, wife, mother, author, professor and moral theologian at the Theological Institute of the New Evangelization (TINE in Boston) — whose twitter handle is “@theologianmom”. Together we talk about some of Angela’s professional interests regarding the eugenic legacy of Margaret Sanger and its harmful longterm impact on our culture, as well as our attitudes toward our bodies, sexuality, contraception, and good health. We explore the Catholic Church’s position of the beauty of the human person, and of women in particular. We cover why the Church continues to oppose contraception and upholds NFP (methods for natural family planning), and why our personal trust in God is key to fuller Christian life. If a new feminism incorporating the beauty of the gospel appeals to you, you’ll want to listen to this episode of Among Women.