“Dear young people of every language and culture, a high and exhilarating task awaits you: that of becoming men and women capable of solidarity, peace and love of life, with respect for everyone. Become craftsmen of a new humanity, where brothers and sisters—members all of the same family—are able at last to live in peace.”
—St. John Paul II
Almost fifty years ago, on January 22nd, 1973, to the devastation of pro-life Americans, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Roe. V. Wade that a woman’s right to abortion was protected by the United States Constitution. In the years following, secular news on the pro-life community and its actions greatly lacked in accuracy and in coverage. Unphased by this, millions of resilient individuals continued to build a culture of life, in ways unrecognized by the masses. Faithfully they continued to pray, fast, march, and appeal for a nation that values and respects every human life from conception to death. All the while, they continued to love and serve women, children, and families, founding and volunteering at thousands of pregnancy resource centers and pro-life ministries throughout the country. Within our own Diocese of Tulsa & Eastern Oklahoma, there are many such individuals and ministries, who have all been working and praying long and hard, behind the scenes, during this time ruled by Roe V. Wade.
What joyful news came to these men and women, and all of the pro-life community, when on June 24th of this year, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution does not secure a right to abortion. Not illegalized across the entire country, but brought down to the state level, abortion lost a great deal of the power of its paralyzing grip on our communities. Pro-life America rejoiced, but did not rest. They knew what would come next. In the days to follow, some states immediately instated the pro-life laws they had sought for years, while others began to establish themselves as abortion sanctuaries.
In the words of Sue Anne Williams, a long-time volunteer and Team Coordinator of Rachel’s Vineyard, “We still have to pray and work hard for abortion to completely be dissolved…Roe v. Wade was a great first step, and it’s the beginning of the end, but it’s not the end.” Good to her word, that is exactly what she and the whole Rachel’s Vineyard team are doing. Rachel’s Vineyard is an international ministry for the restoration and healing of hearts affected by abortion. Catholic Charites facilitates this ministry, with English and Spanish retreats, to our Eastern Oklahoman community. More than ever in this post-Roe time, Rachel’s Vineyard ministry is incredibly essential in healing and restoring our culture into one of life.
What we must do now, as the pro-life people of Eastern Oklahoma, is, as Saint Pope John Paul II once implored, “become craftsmen of a new humanity.” There are many aspects of this craftsmanship, and each pro-life ministry addresses its own. While Rachel’s Vineyard is an incredibly important step of healing those who have already been affected, as Williams said, “we want to make it where no one needs our services.”
This is where the other aspects of creating a culture of life come in. Rachel’s Vineyard is necessary because the current culture is rooted in misunderstanding of the human person, sexuality, marriage, and family. This is the foundation of all pro-life issues. Women need to rediscover their identity and the beauty of femininity; likewise, men must reclaim the differences and gifts of masculinity. Williams explained that “marriage and family need to be looked at as holy [and beautiful] instead of as a noose around someone’s neck” and that “we have lost what it is to be feminine.” Sarah Vestrat, Co-Director of Go Life and Coordinator of Sidewalk Advocates for Life, stated that, while “[impurity] is normalized and even promoted, any kind of purity is mocked.”
Therefore, in order create a pro-life culture, we must uproot these misunderstandings, and deeply re-found the culture in the beautiful truths of identity, relationship, and love. We can begin to do this by educating ourselves on these truths, rediscovering the joy of these truths for ourselves, and spreading them to others by living these truths out. By living out the truth of our identity, God’s plan for sexuality, marriage, and the family with boldness and beauty, we the people of the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma, can begin to lay new roots for a healed humanity. Vestrat firmly believes this and explains that if we do this, “we can, in a small way, change the culture of our community right here,” and by changing our Eastern Oklahoman community’s culture, begin to transform all of humanity, little by little.
This is exactly what Go Life, Birthright, and many others are doing in the area, around the country, and around the world.
Go Life Women’s Services and Mobile Medical offer community and support to women via free ultrasounds, counseling, and pregnancy tests, and connect them to community resources for other needs. Vestrat mentioned that “probably, most [mothers] can’t go out of the state [to get abortions] … and will come to us and other pregnancy resource centers.” With potentially rising numbers of women seeking help, it is incredibly important that the pro-life community does not desert them now, but continues to support them and love them so they can come to see that life is a better and freer choice than death. Go Life is located across the street from Tulsa’s former abortion clinic, and part of their mission is Sidewalk Advocates for Life: trained individuals who bring life-affirming support and encouragement to sidewalks in front of abortion clinics. Now that the clinic is shut down, the advocates are focusing on the Planned Parenthood facility in Tulsa, where potential consultations for out-of-state abortions are being made. There, the Advocates continue to pray and inform women about life-affirming resources available to them. Go Life assists well to answer John Paul II’s plea for “[men and women to become] capable of solidarity, peace and love of life, with respect for everyone,” by providing resources for people to discover their own dignity and the beauty of God’s plan for life.
Birthright is another of many pro-life ministries in Tulsa. Our branch of Birthright was founded the same year that Roe. v Wade took place and will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this January. Birthright empowers all pregnant women seeking help by providing positive encouragement, information, maternity and baby items, parenting classes, and other resources and referrals. They truly are assisting “brothers and sisters—members all of the same family—[so that they] are able at last to live in peace” as St. John Paul II called for, making it possible for people of all religions, ethnicities, and languages to access the resources necessary to choose life. Connie Sullivan, Executive Director of Birthright of Tulsa, thanks the public for their generous help and support and explains that there is always a need of more supplies and volunteers. Like Go Life, they also expect an increase in the numbers of women seeking their help. She also shared that they need help getting the word out about their services, as “the post-Roe generation is not getting attention because they’re not breaking and smashing and screaming, they’re going about, doing good, loving, promoting life, as we’ve all been trying to do all this time.” And this is the goal of Birthright, “to work slow and steady with women, no quick fixes.” “Slow and steady,” she says, “because that’s what love is.”
Although Roe v. Wade is overturned, women still face unexpected pregnancies, our communities still suffer greatly from the effects of abortion, and our culture is still founded on lies about the human person, sexuality, marriage, and the family. We the people of the Diocese of Eastern Oklahoma must take the next step, and not rest until the hold abortion has upon society is dissolved. Actions speak louder than words, and so we must LIVE out our belief that every life is sacred. We must embrace the joy of our true identities in Christ and strive to become virtuous men and women, capable of building a culture of peace and respect for every life, by first learning to LIVE and recognize our life as a gift from Christ Himself. We cannot run and hide from the dark culture we live in; we must enter into it secure in this truth, rooted in the light and love of Christ and begin to transform it. We must be present in our communities, forming relationships with these women, encountering them as they are, and allowing Christ’s redeeming love to be encountered through us. Motivated by this recognition of Divine Life for and within every person, we must be active in our communities, sharing life-affirming resources and support with those around us seeking help. By doing all this, we will continue to build a new humanity founded on correct understanding and love of life as a gift from God, a humanity “where brothers and sisters—members all of the same family—are able at last to live in peace.”