This is the third in a series for Respect Life Month, which is observed annually in October. This year’s theme is “Faith opens our eyes to human life in all its grandeur and beauty.” As Pope Benedict XVI said during his recent apostolic visit to Lebanon, “The grandeur and the raison d’être of each person are found in God alone.”
By Anne Marie Amacher
Being public witnesses to life requires a commitment that some people in the Diocese of Davenport are willing make year-round to seek an end to abortion.
An invitation to stay after Mass and attend a right to life meeting seven years ago led Judee Albert to become the executive director of Johnson County Right to Life (JCRTL).
After daily Mass, “a sweet lady asked me if I’d like to stay for the right to life meeting immediately following. Within a few weeks I got the job of executive director. It still makes me smile to reflect on how fast it all happened,” Albert said.
The member of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Iowa City became executive director in January 2006, but prior to that had felt called to pray outside abortion clinics and met several people from JCRTL while praying.
Albert also organizes 40 Days for Life each fall and spring. “In recent history there is not any other event that has drawn more people to stand in witness to the sanctity of life from the moment of conception. The accomplishments of these campaigns are truly amazing: lives saved, clinics closed, abortion workers converted — it’s phenomenal. It also is so very simple,” she said.
“Standing in silent prayer is far less complicated (than sidewalk counseling). It’s not necessary to be an expert on politics and legislation, nor are you required to counsel women in crisis. The hardest part about participating in 40 Days is working up the courage to step onto the sidewalk that first time. Once people get over that hump they generally come back.”
Wherever she goes, people have questions or a story to share when they learn about her pro-life work. “It constantly amazes me how many people have been touched personally by issues like abortion.”
She prays in front of Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City every Friday at 12:45 p.m., reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet. On Saturdays, she joins a group at 8:15 a.m. to pray the rosary at the Iowa City Planned Parenthood. “We are considering ways to extend a prayer presence at Emma Goldman beyond the 40 Days for Life.”
Karen Crossland of Jefferson County Right to Life explains why she participates in 40 Days for Life in Fairfield: “I truly believe that every child conceived is a gift from God. God has a plan for that child and we are losing our most precious resource when a child is taken from us through abortion.”
Her friend, Therese Cummiskey, a fellow parishioner at St. Mary Parish, Fairfield, was adopted as a child. “She is probably the most faith-filled Christian I know. Though a single lady, she has touched the lives of more children than any married-with-children mother ever has. She is the naturalist at Jefferson County Park, and school-aged children, from kindergarten through eighth grade, come to the park for classes. She also teaches religious education classes and cantors at Mass,” Crossland said. “It is because of Therese that I stay active in the pro-life movement. If her birth mother had decided to abort her, the loss to me and to our community is impossible to measure.”
Crossland pointed out that the late Steve Jobs, creator of Apple computer company, was adopted.
Matt Stutzman, who also was adopted, just won a silver medal at the Paralympics in London for archery (shooting with his feet). He now lives in Fairfield. “There are many adopted children who have made immeasurable contributions in this world. What an unimaginable loss it would have been if they had been aborted instead of being given life,” Crossland said.
Jefferson County Right to Life has strived to increase participation by pro-life churches in the 40 Days campaign even though Fairfield doesn’t have an abortion clinic. “We know there are people here who have had abortions or are thinking of having one. We are having the churches ‘own’ one of the six weeks of the 40 Days.”
Participating churches are St. Mary, Immanuel Lutheran, Foursquare, Friends and Word of Life Lutheran. One week the meeting room of First National Bank in Fairfield was open from noon to 1 p.m. for silent prayer for those who might not have been affiliated with a church but wanted to pray for an end to abortion. Crossland believes it is important to speak the truth about abortion to other people, but it is their responsibility to act upon that truth.
Bonnie Mattaliano and her son Joe, members of St. Mary Parish in Solon, pray outside the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City as part of a 40 Days for Life campaign.
Mattaliano said she offers the witness of prayer “to draw attention to what the clinic’s ‘business’ really is in the community. I pray that I am not a threatening presence, but a compassionate and approachable one. I pray for God’s mercy to be on everyone involved in the abortions. Women have asked God to give them a sign that they should not go through with an abortion. Many times, simply seeing someone praying out front has been the sign they were looking for,” Mattaliano said. “Joe and I want to be that sign.”
Jen McIntosh of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf and her family attend the annual Life Chain in Bettendorf. She and her husband Jim, and their six children participate to support life. “It’s something the whole family can do,” she said. They have been doing this for seven years.
Jen is also in the process of becoming a volunteer at the Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf, a pro-life facility. “I’m almost finished with my training,” the mother of children ages 1-21 said.
During prayer time, especially during Advent and Lent, the family focuses its intentions on praying for an end to abortion, she noted.