Last summer I almost left PT school to become a religious sister.
I wanted to become like this woman, Sr. Bethany Madonna, SV. She’s a Sister of Life. The Sisters of Life are an active contemplative order, which means they pray a LOT (duh), but they are also ACTIVE in doing things in the world. Specifically, they are ceaselessly active in the work of helping mothers in any income setting and of every race who struggle with the decision to keep a child in the womb. They invite pregnant mothers and their children to live in their convent for the early years of the children’s lives. They provide oodles of practical supplies to families who are struggling and give emotional and spiritual support to fathers and mothers who are in the midst of the difficult period of having a child, wanted or unwanted. They help with logistics of giving up children for adoption. They hold joyous baby showers for single mothers. They go shopping with women who just need a pal. I went to the Bronx once to help the Sisters of Life babysit four children of a single mother so that she could have a tiny bit of rest for the evening. They are the mothers, sisters, listeners, and girl friends of women who are hurting (plus babysitters to their children and supporters of fathers). It is NEVER through force or manipulation but only through hospitality, gentleness, and self-giving love…and gosh darn it, I’ve never heard of anything more feminine than that.
Obviously, I’m not a nun right now. Ultimately, I didn’t feel like Sisters of Life was where I was meant to be, and I desired to come back to Boston to do clinical, finish school, and see what God had in store for me there (it’s been good btw). But the work of the Sisters of Life is not limited to just them, not just to those who chose that path of life. Because of the Sisters, married and single people of all ages and races help support this ministry – not just through a remote donation via Facebook but through real, physical help. For example, my friends and I had the privilege of visiting, befriending, and helping a happily married mother whose latest baby boy has an intestinal disease that required him and his mother to stay in Boston Children’s Hospital for 3 months last fall, away from their family. This wasn’t an issue of whether she wanted to keep her child or not, but this was an opportunity for support, kindness, and empowerment in her state of life as she supported the life of her son without her husband by her side.
This post is not going to answer or address every (or any) pro-choice argument that is out there. This post is not to toot my own horn, because I have done very little in the grand scheme of things. But this post hopefully shows that there is an understanding on the pro-life end that women need to be helped in order to help their children. I’m sitting on a plane currently, and the thought that comes to mind is, “Put on your oxygen mask before helping others.” Women, ESPECIALLY those who are victims of rape or incest, absolutely need to be helped in every way possible. But those “others” still need to be helped too. This post is to show that there is a way to do BOTH, and people are doing it because it matters. There are people, women, in fact, who make it their life’s work and mission to FIGHT for women – those in abusive relationships, those who never wanted to be pregnant, those who do want their babies but can’t support them financially. They do practical things in order to support and dignify and empower WOMEN while also protecting new life as well, thus raising up a whole host of new women. I, too, want to be a woman who can do both.
I’m not a Sister of Life; I am a woman who is pursuing a doctoral degree, but I don’t ever want to let go of this attitude and action of real, personal, compassionate support of women and their children. As a future physical therapist, one of the things I admire most about it is it’s inherent fight for the weakest and most vulnerable. We care for people who literally can’t breathe on their own, who can’t sit up by themselves, and we fight our dang hardest to get them to a point where they can do SOMETHING, ANYTHING functional. I think that same fight for an unborn child (yes, from the moment of conception) who may or may not grow up with a low quality of life is fair and dutiful. Can we as a society give them the chance at SOMETHING, ANYTHING in this beautiful life?
A law won’t necessarily change hearts to consider the life of an unborn child, but feminism like that of the Sisters of Life might, because they care about all life – those of women and those who have not yet seen the light of day.
There is work to do, absolutely, and Lord, allow me to do it wherever I go.