Where, oh where has the last month gone?! I was so blessed in October to speak at a number of events locally and across the nation, and I have been fully planning to write about them but the month of October certainly got away from me, and here it is November 12th already. Better late than never, I guess!
The month of October started out with speaking at a local parish in Moville, Iowa, at the Immaculate Conception. Although the number of attendees compared to national events was small (less than 50), it was still a joy to meet with all of the parishioners present, share my testimony of God’s grace, the true reality of abortion, and the power of love, hope, and forgiveness with all of them. And as always, I was humbled by the compassion of the parishioners and was moved by their own personal stories about how abortion and adoption had touched their lives.
One young woman, in particular, holds a special place in my heart who was in attendance. Although she had not been impacted yet by abortion in her life, she had been impacted by adoption. As a pre-teen, this beautiful, bright young lady had been removed from the custody of her biological mother due to her mother’s neglect and abuse of her and her siblings. She has since remained in foster care for a number of years, and although her mother’s parental rights were not terminated to her, due to her age and relationship with her mother, she will remain in foster care until she reaches adulthood.
What struck me about this young lady was that although our experiences as foster/adoptive children were certainly quite different, we could still relate to one another in terms of being children that are often viewed as unwanted or unloved. And just like me, she was not unloved or unwanted and has been in the same amazing foster home for many years now, where she plans to remain until she ages out of the foster care system. Just like I had found a wonderful adoptive home, she had found a wonderful foster home that isn’t just a foster home to her. It is her home, her family.
On Sunday, October 11th, I hit the skies for the first time in almost a year, heading out to Washington D.C. for the International Week of Prayer and Fasting. Not only was I blessed with this amazing opportunity to give my testimony about the power of prayer and the impact of abortion with the attendees of the event, but so, too, was I blessed to have my adoptive mother, Linda, one of my aunts, Gladys, and my daughter, Olivia traveling with me. Traveling with a toddler definitely poses its own unique struggles, but it was well worth it to have my dearest Olivia with me on this trip!
That evening, my mother and I attended the fundraising dinner for the International Week of Prayer and Fasting at the Omni Shoreham Hotel (while Aunt Gladys so kindly cared for Olivia upstairs in our hotel room). It was a grand affair, and held many of the “who’s who” of the Catholic faith and Pro-Life movement. At our table alone sat Maureen Flynn, founder of the International Week of Prayer and Fasting, Father Machado from Rome, Former Senator Rick Santorium, and Jennifer O’Neill, among others. Both Mr. Santorium and Ms. O’Neill received two of the pro-life awards given out, and Mr. Santorium later went on to give the keynote speech for the evening.
Prior to Mr. Santorium’s eloquent and inspirational keynote, however, I was able to “take the podium” and share my testimony of surviving a failed abortion attempt and the story and glory of the Lord’s hand in my life with the audience. I am always humbled by the response of individuals and groups everywhere I go, but by far, the gracious response of this audience full of the venerable “who’s-who” meant the world to me. To have a group of individuals, who themselves are leaders and visionaries in the Catholic faith and pro-life movement give me a standing ovation was a surreal moment to me. As if that wasn’t enough, I was doubly blessed to have my own mother there, tears in her eyes as she listened to me speak and saw the compassion of the audience in return to the telling of not just my story, but her story, too.
I was honored to meet so many wonderful people that night, and had a moving conversation with Randall Terry in the outside courtyard, but by far, I was most moved by meeting a father and daughter that evening who were in attendance. We had a lengthy discussion about the difficulty of being a pro-life student on a college campus that was not very supportive of the cause for life, and the struggles that all of us as pro-lifers often have in facing a predominant culture, at least in terms of mainstream media, that is pro-choice. Although I heard many moving stories that evening about how abortion and adoption had affected people’s lives, there was just something special about having this father and daughter present, two generations that have been impacted by abortion, yet two generations that stood strong in their faith and commitment to the unborn that really touched my heart that night. Maybe it was the fact that we shared a warm group hug with one another as we ended the evening that got me (it certainly didn’t hurt)!
After a good night’s sleep (as good of a night’s sleep as you get with a toddler taking up half your bed), we headed out the next morning to the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. If you haven’t been there, I would highly recommend it. It is truly a sight to behold, both inside and out. I had been looking forward to speaking at the Prayer Service for so long, and it certainly lived up to my hopes and expectations. With attendees and speakers from around the globe, it was the most diverse group that I had yet had the opportunity to speak to. I had the wonderful chance to watch and listen as the African nations shared the Divine Mysteries with the audience immediately prior to my speech. As they spoke in both their native tongue and in English, I was struck by just how blessed I have been in my life to participate in events like this.
My speech went off without a hitch (except for when I went to have my mother bring Olivia to the stage so that I could introduce her to the crowd and she was sleeping in her stroller ), and although the chapel that I was speaking in was HUGE, I could see from the stage that they got my message loud and clear, tears streaming down many faces, they were moved by my testimony of the power of prayer, God’s grace and sovereignty over suffering, and the impact of abortion in my life and in our world.
As I left the stage after speaking, I was met with a host of individuals from around the world, including Greece, Poland, China, and Ghana, who greeted me warmly, hugged me, and requested to have their photo taken with Olivia and myself and information about me so that they could continue to pray for me. Words can not express how much such a warm reception meant to me and to my mother and aunt, for that matter.
I later had the opportunity to listen to Jennifer O’Neill provide her personal testimony about having an abortion, suffering miscarriages and many other painful experiences in her life, and ultimately her salvation in finding the Lord. I feel very honored to have been in the presence of a woman who has had so much yet is at the same time very humble, indeed. After lunching with Jennifer and other speakers for the day, I had the blessed chance to meet Father Frank Pavone briefly before he took the stage for his speech.
Although we didn’t have long to speak, I feel honored to have been in his presence, and pray that we get the chance to speak with one another again soon about how we can work together to share our ministries about the true reality of abortion with the world. After my brief encounter with Father Pavone, I excitedly got to listen to him speak in person, for the first time. And although I always enjoy listening to him on the radio and watching him on EWTN, his presence in person is astounding. I would have loved the opportunity to meet with him more after his speech, but Miss Olivia made it clear that her little toddler self had just about reached the end of her rope for the day and we headed back to our hotel for the afternoon and headed back to Iowa the next day.
Even though I like to think that I am rather eloquent with both the written and spoken word, I don’t think that I can truly express to all of you what a blessed time we had in Washington for the International Week of Prayer and Fasting…..it was a chance of a lifetime, and I hope and pray that I have the opportunity to cross paths with the wonderful folks that I met there again someday, and likewise, I hope and pray that there are many more events like this to come.