It all began with a simple call. Monica* was a single mother of three looking for housing. Nothing in her voice indicated that she was pregnant. She was in the process of being evicted from her apartment and had no place to go. After I gave her a few numbers, I asked, “Are you pregnant?” Her reply was a cool “I’m 8 weeks and 5 days pregnant and I’m scheduled for an abortion tomorrow afternoon.” She had been told that she could take a pill up until the 9th week; after that, the abortion would be surgical. Her decision was made. We talked for a while and I learned that her children are four, three and seven and a half months old and now she is “8 weeks and 5 days pregnant.”
I invited her to come to the convent to talk more about how we could help her and she agreed to come in the morning but reiterated that she was keeping her afternoon appointment. I sent out an urgent fax to all the convents asking our Sisters to storm heaven for Monica. The next day the morning passed and she didn’t arrive. At noon I went into prayer with a heavy heart. While we were in chapel Monica left a message on the answering machine saying that she wasn’t able to come to the convent, but she would call me later (meaning after the abortion).
On the other side of town: Monica rushed out of her apartment grabbing a slip of paper with the address of the abortion clinic on it. As she and her cousin drove up East 66th Street, they saw Sr. Mariam walking out the front door of the convent. Monica thought, “Oh No!” She had “mistakenly” grabbed the wrong address off her kitchen counter and now she and her cousin were sitting in front of the convent instead of the abortion clinic. By God’s grace, she got out and talked with Sister who then invited her in.
Sipping on a hot cup of tea, Monica began by explaining what had happened. Sr. Magdalene responded with, “I think the Lord wants you to have this baby.” Her cousin piped in saying, “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell her.” I was sitting in awe that this was actually taking place. It reminded me of how Cardinal O’Connor would say that he believed that somehow, mystically, life-giving grace can radiate from each of us into the heart and womb of a pregnant woman tempted to have an abortion. He’d compare it to the grace that radiated from Mary to Elizabeth at the Visitation. We can experience that same power by receiving Jesus into our bodies in the Eucharist and carrying Him forth to all those in need of His presence. We asked Monica what she would need to continue her pregnancy and to care for her children. When we spoke about the possibility of moving to other states, Monica became encouraged.
She has two sisters in Florida and thought moving there might help. Over the next several days, we fervently searched for maternity homes, shelters, contacts, etc. in Florida. Prayers continued with great hope, that if Monica needed to go to Florida, God would open a door for her. During that time, we talked frequently and she told me that meeting the Sisters was the third time that God had intervened as she was trying to schedule an abortion for this child.
I decided to send out a mass e-mail to all of our Co-Workers of Life, entrusting to them a special mission of praying for Monica and helping us with any possible contacts in Florida. Fifteen minutes after sending out the e-mail, I received a call from Genevieve Matthews, sharing that she has an empty house near Tampa (in the same city in which Monica’s sister lives) and that she would be willing to let her live there! Another Co-Worker offered a month’s rent. Yet another Co-Worker offered a second month’s rent. A gentleman in Florida offered to help Monica with furniture, household needs, job opportunities and even help finding a car. Others offered their time to pick her up from the airport and help her move into the house. Another has agreed to be a “handmaid” to her, walking with her and encouraging her throughout her pregnancy and afterwards.
Monica was prepared to leave everything behind since she had no way of getting her things down to Florida. A few weeks before her flight, I received a call from a pro-lifer in Florida, Mark Hall. He was going to be driving a moving van to Philadelphia and unloading it there. He offered to come to New York the day before Monica was scheduled to fly to Florida with her children, pack up her entire apartment, drive down to the Tampa area and move her into Genevieve’s house! I was amazed at the providence of God so concretely revealed in this network of support.
It is a joy to walk with Monica. I am more and more in awe of God’s extravagant love as He continually makes His presence known. With each conversation, Monica is opening up and asking many questions about the faith. Misconceptions have been cleared up and there is a greater receptivity in her to receive the graces that are being poured out. She has hope. In the midst of this all, Monica has become an evangelist herself, sending a pregnant friend to us and telling others about the work we’re doing. Truly God is present and active in our lives. If each of us opens our eyes and hearts to Him and responds by simply doing our part, then we will each participate in building a Culture of Life!
*Name has been changed for anonymity.
Originally printed in IMPRINT Magazine Spring 2008.