Pro-life spotlight #5: We Dignify mentors pro-life students to lead with charity and humility

Abortion is part of a quick-fix culture, said Morgan Korth of We Dignify. A woman finds herself with a scary pregnancy, and the pro-choice world tells her she can solve all her problems by simply getting an abortion.

But the pro-life world sometimes looks for a quick fix of its own, explained Korth and her guest Zac Davis of America Magazine, in a recent podcast. There’s the temptation to try to swoop in and intellectually clobber our pro-choice opponents with a single conversation or a devastating scientific fact.

But this approach is not only futile, it doesn’t take into account the perspective, life experience, and dignity of pro-choicers or of women in difficult pregnancies. We Dignify is an organization that seeks to train and mentor young people “how to not only be pro-life, but live pro-life.”

The mission of We Dignify is to “mentor college students into skilled, virtuous, pro-life leaders, so they can build and nurture a culture of life on campus and in their future communities.”

Based in Illinois and founded in a dorm room in 2006, they want to transform college campuses into “centers for a culture of life where people treat life with love, new life is welcomed with joy, and people suffering from abortion are led to healing hope.”

They connect pregnant or post-abortive students with resources they need, and train students in practical skills like how to advertise pro-life events and how to lead pro-life groups that may be made up of students with various degrees of conviction.

And they train students how to engage in “dialogue with dignity.” It’s about more than giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, but also “the benefit of their life experience,” said Davis, who interned with We Dignify when he was a college student at Loyola in Chicago. They encourage you not to let yourself see others as a project, or to approach the conversation as a challenge to win.

In an age of hot takes and snarky memes, they challenge you always to consider how what you’re saying is going to be received, and to give the best possible interpretation to what the other person is saying; to avoid being defensive, in person and on social media; and to discern whether to be bold or to be content with helping pro-choicers realize that pro-lifers aren’t thoughtless, heartless caricatures.

In the recent podcast, Davis said that pro-lifers sometimes have a “savior complex;” but they need to be willing to accept that they are here in large part to be witnesses of love, life, and joy, and that much of what they do is to plant seeds.

At the core of it all, said Korth, is “charity and humility.”

They laughed somewhat ruefully over how everyone exclaims happily, every year at the March for Life, at how young the pro-life movement is. But when the march is over, where do young people go? Often, they disengage. WeDignify seeks to train students not only how to help and witness effectively on campus, but how to bring the skills and virtues they acquire forward into their future lives.

Davis said that he’s learned it’s normal for pro-lifers’ fervor to wax and wane, and so he knows what it’s like to become disengaged with the movement. He encourages pro-lifers to have the courage and humility to reengage, and to challenge their peers to do the same.

He said the pro-life movement does include a lot of people who are well-meaning, but crazy. It’s best not to seek these folks out, but instead to seek out those who are good at heart and also good at what they do.

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Contact: info@weDignify.org
217.255.6675

We Dignify podcasts

WeDignify on Facebook

WeDignify on Twitter

WeDignify on Instagram

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Previous volumes of the Pro-life Spotlight:

Gadbois mission trip to Bulgarian orphanage

Mary’s Shelter in VA

China Little Flower

Immigrant Families Together

Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center

If you know or have worked with an organization that works to build a culture that cherishes human life, please drop me a line at simchafisher at gmail dot com with “pro-life spotlight” in the title.

Pro-life spotlight #4: Gadbois mission to trip to Bulgarian orphanage

In haste, because I got back from a truly excellent conference yesterday and have an avalanche of stuff to get caught up on!

I’ve been Facebook friends with Nissa Gadbois for many years and am always a little intimidated by her tremendous focus and drive and willingness to serve. She and her husband, who is a deacon, have dedicated themselves to what I can only describe as several apostolates, including overseas adoption of special needs orphans. Look around Gadbois Family to get an idea of the many things they do.

Today, Nissa and her son Nick are preparing to travel to Bulgaria to bring educational supplies to the orphanage where he lived before being adopted.
Here’s some more about their work and how to help them reach their goal for travel expenses:

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Thank you for helping us to set down the first support of a bridge that will join our apostolate in America with children, youth, and young adults in Bulgaria! It’s why we call it The Bridge Project.

We begin in small ways – bringing educational materials to a little village in Bulgaria. While there, we have the opportunity to better understand what we can do to help, and how we are to accomplish our work. We will meet with people along the way to help us support our work with prayers, counsel, time, and talent.

This will lead to establishing a Bulgarian home for our work – not an office in a city, but rather a home, or a group of homes, meant to nourish body, mind, and spirit of the young people we serve as well as those of our missioners and volunteers.

And you’re part of it when you share our fundraiser with a heartfelt endorsement, or when you give in any amount.

God bless you! +

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Previous volumes of the Pro-life Spotlight:

Mary’s Shelter in VA

China Little Flower

Immigrant Families Together

Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center

If you know or have worked with an organization that works to build a culture that cherishes human life, please drop me a line at simchafisher at gmail dot com with “pro-life spotlight” in the title.

Pro-life Spotlight Vol.3: Mary’s Shelter offers so much more than shelter

“Why do pro-life activists only seem to care about unborn lives?” asked a Slate writer in 2017, echoing a question asked by scores of people who want to discredit pro-lifers for focusing only on the fetus.

Well, some of them do only care about the unborn. But many of them, including the folks at Mary’s Shelter in Virginia, have a much wider and humane vision, offering not only physical shelter and goods to pregnant mothers in time of crisis, but also classes and mentorship, so women who want a better life get get themselves and their children on a track toward independence.

Mary’s Shelter volunteers warmly supply a broad range of encouraging and educational supports, from cooking and knitting classes to book clubs, mentoring, doula services and roundtables, transportation, a private thrift store, academic tutoring, guest speakers, and baby showers. Residents get help earning their GEDs or degrees and finding jobs, finding counseling, and building new lives. The homes are cozy and friendly, and many women go there and find hope when everyone, including other shelters, have abandoned them.

Mary’s Shelter provides an expectant mother, and any additional children she may have, with housing for up to three years in order to further her education and/or secure employment. She must receive counseling, attend in-house parenting and life-skill classes and adhere to the program covenants which offer structure, self-discipline and guidance.

Each resident is blessed with a mentor who provides hands-on support, compassion and encouragement. This foundation ensures that our mothers have the necessary time and tools to work toward their goals and provide for their children, making the possibility of independent living a reality.

They rely very heavily on donations and volunteers, and since their founding in 2006 have helped more than two hundred pregnant women work toward a goal of independent living. They started out with a basement apartment and now have four houses, capable of sheltering and mentoring as many as fifty women and their children.

Here’s a video from Mary’s Shelter that features some of the women telling their stories and explaining how their needs were met:

In 2014, I did a short interview with Kathleen Wilson, the director of Mary’s Shelter. Here’s an excerpt that gives more detail about what kind of support and community they offer:

Kathleen Wilson: If the woman is abortion-minded, we’ll give her a place to live, if that’s what’s holding her back. If a woman walks in and she’s in a domestic violence situation, we get her counseling.  We don’t even kick them out if they’re drinking or doing drugs; we give them an opportunity to do a program and stay with us.

We give women up to two years with us; and women who are “rock stars” – the ones who are really looking to move on and get a nursing degree or something like that — she can stay up to three years while she does school and work and gets everything together. That’s all about the woman. That’s for her.

SF: I was amazed at the long list the services you offer: cooking and knitting classes, book clubs, mentoring, doula services and roundtables, a private thrift store for residents, academic tutoring, guest speakers, baby showers, and on and on. How many people do you have on staff?

KW: We have so, so many volunteers. The main group is me and two people that get small paychecks – a total of only $24,000 a year, and that’s for crazy hours. Then there are two or three volunteers I consider staff. Then there’s a whole slew of people doing other things.

For instance, we hook up every resident up with a mentor or two. And there’s a woman who comes every other week with a van, to take them shopping. A local church sends over volunteers to do service projects, paint room, put in a swing set, redo a bathroom – big projects like that.

SF:It sounds complicated. How do you coordinate everything?

KW: We started out in a basement apartment – didn’t even have a file cabinet! But it’s evolved. Everything we need comes along. Someone says, “Oh, I can do that.” We say we want a book club, book club leader comes along. These volunteers just fall out of the sky.  We even have a volunteer coordinator who is a volunteer herself.

SF:I know you sometimes fit in more residents than you comfortably can. What’s the ideal number of women you’re set up to shelter?

KW: Yes, we will roll beds into our office, or put women in hotels in an emergency. We have four houses now, and we’ll be opening our fifth on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15th . When we open the new house, it could be seventeen or eighteen families in the homes all together.

We’re one of the few shelters that take in women with additional children. That really is rare. We’ve got a lot of kids floating around the houses. We don’t offer daycare, but we do have babysitters available during for classes, guest speakers, and baby celebrations.

SF:Do you feel like the residents form a community?

KW: Some of them do. At one of our houses, the women have family dinners together once a week. There’s independent living, but they get together once a week, and their kids play together.

They have babies, and they have to lean on each other a bit. They have to ask for babysitters, or just had a C-section, and they have to step up to the plate. A majority of them haven’t had family relationships. This starts opening that door.

SF: Are you a Catholic organization?

KW: Most of our staff is Catholic, but non-Catholic Christian churches have been getting involved. We’ve had a Muslim resident; there’s no religious criteria for getting involved. We believe life begins at conception, and we ask that if you work for this ministry, you respect that.

It would be lovely to convert everybody, but that’s not our mission. It’s to show them God through our witness, and we hope they will sees God’s hand in everything.

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More information about Mary’s Shelter:

You can donate to help sustain Mary’s Shelter residents here and find out more about how to donate goods, volunteer, or help in other ways here.

Expectant mothers, who are at least eighteen years of age and are motivated to make positive changes in their lives, are welcome to apply.

We welcome all races and religions and will support and respect your decision to keep your child or place him/her in a loving adoptive family. Please call us for an interview.

Intake Number: 540-376-2108
540-374-3407 • info@marysshelterva.org

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Previous volumes of the Pro-life Spotlight:

China Little Flower

Immigrant Families Together

Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center

If you know or have worked with an organization that works to build a culture that cherishes human life, please drop me a line at simchafisher at gmail dot com with “pro-life spotlight” in the title.

Prolife Spotlight #2: Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center

I was wondering which group to spotlight today, and this message fell into my lap from the family of Laura Tepen, a Facebook friend from Bloomington, Illinois:

The Tepen family is heading down to McAllen, Texas to volunteer at the border for a different kind of field trip. We will be working with Catholic Charities at the Humanitarian Respite Center for those families who are released from ICE detention, often sick and underfed. Our family has a call to help together in the small ways we can, and this cause has been weighing on our hearts. We now have the opportunity to show the corporal works of mercy to people in need, as a family.

As volunteers, we will be assisting with the everyday operations to serve up to 450 people who stay at the center every day. Please read the links below for more information on what the center does for people seeking asylum at our southern border. Our kids will be able to help with distributing items to those who need them, and they can play with the children staying there to be a welcoming and loving face of our country to them.

We will be collecting goods to take with us, as the center is in constant need of toiletries, clothing, medicines, etc. If you would like to donate, the following items are needed, and I can get them from you before we leave on February 21st:

The Humanitarian Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Humanitarian Respite Center needs the following items:
– Toiletries for men and women (deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, etc)
– Shoes (sandals, tennis shoes, loafers, etc) for men, women, children and infants of all sizes
– Clothes (pants, t-shirts, blouses, underclothing, etc) for children and adults of all sizes
– Baby supplies for toddlers (Pampers, baby wipes, baby bottles, etc.)
– Sealed snack food (granola bars, chips, peanut butter & cheese crackers, etc)
– Gift cards to purchase food items
– Phone cards
– Plastic bags for families to pack sandwiches, snacks, and water for their trip.

“The Humanitarian Respite Center, is a scant three blocks from the downtown McAllen bus station, where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement releases refugees who have been cleared to stay in the country until their asylum claims are ruled on. Sister Norma has established a contingent of volunteers to take the immigrants to the center for a meal, a shower, a nap, a change of clothes, and to assist them in getting to their next location. “We’re just helping them to restore their dignity,” she says.”

Although we will be doing this trip on the CHEAP (we are staying in an RV for $33 per night and bringing all of our food), we are starting a GoFundMe in case anyone has it on their heart to contribute to our mission. If you choose to support our cause, please specify if you would like your money to provide items for the center or for our family’s travel expenses.

For more info:
This Texas Charity Offers Border Crossers Warm Welcome to the United States

The Border Crisis Up Close: Local Volunteers Help at Migrant Respite Center in Texas

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Previous volumes of the Pro-life Spotlight:

China Little Flower


Immigrant Families Together

If you know or have worked with an organization that works to build a culture that cherishes human life, please drop me a line at simchafisher at gmail dot com with “pro-life spotlight” in the title.