This month, I am thrilled to introduce you to a personal friend of mine who has boldly, bravely, and in a most Catholic manner, shared her personal testimony – not just to myself, but to many Catholic women in various communities. As we turn the corner from September and stare into the Month of October, we are urged to remember October is one of the two pro-life months during the year. In her own words, Theresa is, “A beer and Mt. Dew drinking mom to more than she thought God would give her. She is married to her best friend, embracing the suck of whatever the Army throws at them, and is loving life.” On a personal note, I attest that Theresa’s faith, and her ability to live as a “Bold, Brave, Catholic” has served as inspiration in my own personal faith journey. I pray that her words written here will resonate with my readers. If you are a post-abortive woman, I pray that you will come to know the healing power of the ministry Theresa discusses below. If you know a post-abortive woman who is struggling from the difficult decisions made, I encourage you to also share this resource.
Individual names in this piece have been changed in order to protect privacy. The names appearing below reflect two of the well-known saints involved as patrons of the pro-life movement: St. Gianna Molla (wife, mother, doctor) and St. Faustina Kowalska (the “Secretary of Mercy”).
It was a rather beautiful Monday morning in late September when I went to my friend’s house to help her sort through a couple boxes of pro-life materials. I had moved to this duty station in the early spring and had met Gianna a month before my move. She was helping me find my feet in ministries within my new parish community. As I climbed the steps to her house and warned my kids to not touch anything they’re not supposed to, I wondered what I was getting myself into with the pro-life group. I hadn’t done anything with any kind of pro-life work but I had been on a Rachel Vineyard’s retreat and was familiar with the leading pro-life organizations across the country simply due to my own curiosity and wanting to learn more. So, going into Gianna’s house, I truly didn’t know what to expect.
About an hour and lots of chatting later, Gianna and I were going through boxes of pro-life materials when I come across envelopes that had images of aborted babies. I started looking at all the images and that’s when I noticed the ages of the babies. 8 weeks. 9 weeks. 10 weeks. 6 weeks. Image after image and I could feel my anxiety rising. I’m not afraid of graphic images at all, and I wasn’t worried about Gianna finding out about my abortions, but I knew I wasn’t ready to be open with anyone. I wanted to tell her on my time.
I noticed Gianna looking at me and, in a way only Gianna could do, she flat out asked me “You’ve had an abortion, haven’t you?” The first thought that crossed my mind was “Ugg… Seriously, Holy Spirit? Are you kidding me?” I wasn’t about to lie to a friend and I figured that was a good time to be completely honest, so I said “Yeah, two. Not my most shining of moments in my life, at all.” She asked me how I felt about it all and I told her I felt ok after having been on a Rachel Vineyard’s retreat. I acknowledged I didn’t know what my next step would be in the healing process. I expressed a sincere desire to take things slow, maybe work behind the scenes for the pro-life group. I wanted to sort of get my feet wet.
That’s when Gianna’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. With a huge smile across her face, and in rapid fire speech like a squirrel on speed, she said, “Give your testimony! I know a great time. It’s in October, when it’s Pro-Life month. We’ll get you on the speaker block for our church’s Catholic women’s group and you can do your testimony. It’ll be fantastic! I’ll talk to Faustina! She’ll be so excited to have a speaker!” Before I could even process everything I had heard her say, I said, “Sure!”
Going home later that afternoon, I was in shock. My first real thought was about how horrible of a public speaker I am. I get so nervous that you can hear my voice shake. All I could think of after that was how afraid I was.
I don’t get scared often, but I was terrified of the mere idea of me talking to such a large group of women about some of the most painful times of my life. Why the hell did I agree to this? It would be a lie to say I didn’t cuss out my Guardian Angel at that point in time too. I’m almost confident I heard it laughing. I’m also one of those women that do care about what people think of me and here I am about to tell them about my abortions. The thought of, “Great. Just what I need, to give some of the gossips some fodder.”
Since I was on the permanent schedule for Adoration, I used my Adoration time to have a “Come to Jesus” meeting with Jesus about this presentation. Yelling did occur in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. I made up at least 50 excuses as to why this presentation wasn’t a good idea. I was just so, so terrified. Crying…. lots of crying… also occurred, and when I was exhausted, in a blubbering heap on the floor in front of Jesus, I finally relented and said “Fine. I’ll do it but you better write the speech. I don’t know what to say. Tell me what to say.”
It took four more Adoration Fridays to get that presentation written. When I thought I was finished, I gave it to Gianna for editing. After I used her editing ideas, I took a final printed copy to my Adoration time for one last evening with Jesus before Thursday morning. I placed the presentation in front of Him and told Him, “Here it is. This is your story that you want me to tell. I’m terrified and you know it, but please give me the courage to do this.”
The Thursday morning of the presentation came as quickly as anything you’re dreading does, which is to say, with an uncanny lightning speed that is mind boggling. I couldn’t eat that morning because I was afraid I’d throw up and I even had to fight with myself about calling Gianna to tell her “I can’t do this. I’m too sick.” I knew I was under spiritual attack. Arriving at the parish center a half hour before the meeting time, I made myself busy with helping to set up. I started to notice the looks and whispering from some of the ladies and in an instant, I was ready to just go back home.
When it was my turn to get up to the podium for the presentation, Gianna flashed me her rosary beads. I watched as another friend locked eyes with me and did the sign of the cross. I took courage in seeing these two actions because I now knew I had prayer warriors praying for me. I had spiritual protection.
I placed my speech on the podium, said a very fast prayer that was begging God, “Remember, this is your story, not mine. Please just don’t let my voice waver so if someone needs to hear this, she can hear confidence, not fear.”
The first words of my presentation had a few nerves in it, but by the second sentence, I could feel my nerves calm. I could feel the Holy Spirit surrounding me and holding me up. The more I spoke, the stronger I became, and the fear I had felt all this time started to melt away. I wasn’t even afraid about being judged when I got to the parts of my presentation that are raw, emotional, and humiliating.
When I got finished with my presentation, I looked up and found my two prayer warriors. They were both beaming at me as if to say, “Well done! You did it! You can breathe now!” I scanned the rest of the room and there wasn’t a dry eye to be found. When the entire morning was finished, I had women coming up to me afterward to tell me how touching my testimony was and they wanted more information on Rachel Vineyard retreats. By the time I got home, I had 17 emails from women, sharing their stories with me and admitting that they have been hiding in shame all these years and were now looking to take their first step in the healing process. It wasn’t until a month later when I got an email from a woman I didn’t even know asking me about my testimony and if I was willing to help her take her first step in healing. Come to find out, my story got out of my chapel group, and I became known as “that post-abortive woman that gave her testimony at the chapel.”
This is when I realized that God wanted me to work with post-abortive ministries. I thought I wanted to take things slow, stay behind the scenes, but God had other plans. He used my life, as humiliating as it is, to reach people. He used my testimony to show them that God loves them and wants them to seek Him, to seek forgiveness, to learn how to live again. Hidden within my fear, my terrified self, my desire to run, I had to be bold and brave.