Joanne Dieleman, innkeeper of the new Way Inn, waited alone Friday afternoon, February 16, 1990, in the hope that some of “the old faithful” from Harbord Street (Morgentaler’s abortuary) would drop in. A few had come earlier in the week, but where was everyone today, the last day of “Open House week”?

Three weeks before she had mailed out many letters telling people about the exact location of the new Way Inn (165 Carlton Street at Sherbourne) and asked them to come by. Of course, yesterday’s six-inch snowfall hadn’t helped, clogging the streets and slowing traffic. Moreover, she worried that perhaps pro-lifers had lost interest in witnessing at the abortuaries. Perhaps they’d begun to do other things since the Morgentaler injunction in May 1989 (prohibiting side-walk-witnessing and counseling). Perhaps they were disheartened about the whole abortion issue. She could understand because right now the kind of felt that way herself.

Tonight would probably bring only a handful of the “hardiest faithful” weathering the elements to attend the dedication service. She would stay though, because her daughter was coming to take her out for supper. Besides, she had said she’d be here until 9:00 p.m.

Dedication service

Across the street at 7:30 that evening, in the peaceful old “French country style” Roman Catholic Church of Sacre Coeur, Reverend Ken Campbell, cheerful and confident, conducts the dedication service for the new Way Inn. Inside the church doors, two police officers stand to screen “uninvited guests” (they don’t appear). In the church itself, the pews are filling. Where are the people coming from? At least sixty people can be counted now, and in a front pew sits a smiling, relaxed Joanne. Is it possible that in a few hours, in this one day such a dramatic change could occur? Yes, because in pro-life work, unexpected “mini-miracles” occur all the time. Tonight was no exception.

Pro-life clergy

Now, Reverend Ken Campbell calls upon familiar pro-life friends to speak at the dedication service. Reverend Steve Hill (so faithful in leading prayer vigils last fall for jailed pro-lifers) is snowed in north of Toronto. Reverend Fred Vaughan, arrested five years ago for chaining himself to the gate at the Morgentaler abortuary (together with Father Abello, now in India), recalls he incident. He still can’t live it down. Last week he telephoned a pastor in Nova Scotia who asked, “Fred, why are you calling? Morgentaler isn’t here.”

Then Father Ted Colleton, who spent six weeks in jail after last August’s Operation Rescue (he was arrested with Reverend Ken) reminds us that the unborn child has brought people of different churches together, “like nothing else could have. Take, for example, Rev. Ken, a devout Baptist, and me a devout (I hope) Roman Catholic. The only thing we argue over is, “Who’ll pay for lunch?”

Father Comerford speaks. “I’m relatively new (just over a year) on the scene and I don’t say that proudly. But I do say that by witnessing at the abortuaries (every Friday morning) there is a special grace given me, which has deepened my faith and put me in touch with the grassroots.” Then Father Stephen Somerville, whose beautiful baritone voice often leads in hymns at Operation Rescues, gives the final blessing.

Rev. Ken ends the service, reminding us that “The ground is level around the Cross. Forgiveness is open to all and healing will follow. The issue is abortion, but the problem is immorality.” Later, he announces that he is writing a book on rescuing at the Morgentaler abortuary called 5 Years Rescuing at the Gates of Hell! To be published in late April.

Other pro-lifers

During the service other pro-lifers speak briefly. Beverley Hadlarid, founder of “Straight Talk,” a post-abortion counseling service (which has helped over 700 women in a few years), Dick Cochrane, director of Aid to Women, and Joanne Dieleman describe their work briefly. Rick Dees, producer of 100 Huntley Street’s TV program “Nite Lite, sings, accompanied by guitarist Randy Dyer. Then Joanne, like a hospitable innkeeper, invites everyone back to The Way Inn for refreshments – a fitting finale to an inspiring evening.

The story of how The Way Inn found its new home goes like this. Early last December, when the old Way Inn’s lease was running out, Joanne noticed a steady decline in volunteers. Understandably, they had little to do because of the injunction restrictions. She decided the time had come “to move on and start again.”

One day she met an Alberta pro-lifer in the Campaign Life Coalition offices. He informed her that the Pregnancy Crisis Centre in Calgary was located away from the sites of the abortuaries. It served as a satellite centre to co-ordinate volunteers to witness or to counsel at the abortuaries. Joanne liked the idea. Meanwhile, she ran into Dick Cochrane, whose expensive lease was expiring. He couldn’t afford to renew it. Practical Joanne then wondered why they couldn’t get together, use the same facilities and split the rent. Dick liked the idea, especially splitting the rent. They would get cracking on their plan.

Improbable location

Early in January of this year, Rev. Ken Campbell set out with Joanne, Dick and a real estate agent to look at some 50 places for rent. (Rev. Ken is president of the pro-life foundation Choose Life Canada, which sponsored the original Way Inn beside Morgentaler’s abortuary on Harbord Street.) Their first stop was 165 Carlton Street, the end unit in an attractive row of cream-coloured brick townhouses. The chic exterior, with its décor of white walls, black carpeting and gold trim, was elegant indeed. But did The Way Inn belong here?

Down the stairs they went to see the suite for rent – a bright, newly-painted semi-basement, with windows and natural daylight. While looking out of the back entrance, to their amazement they realized the location was at a central angle to all three Toronto abortuaries. One could not ask for a better spot. They would take it. The lease was signed and The Way Inn had a new home.

Aid to Women

Sharing facilities in the new centre is Aid to Women, directed by Dick Cochrane, 64, a semi-retired accountant. He is helped by four volunteers, all nurses. Dick’s ad in the yellow pages of the Toronto telephone directory is responsible for 80 per cent of calls, mainly from women seeking abortions. When a woman calls, Dick or one of his staff asks her to come in for a pregnancy test. Then, if she wants an abortion she is told, “We do not refer to abortuaries, but we think we can help you.” This approach works wonders. Recently Dick did a telephone follow-up with a group of women who had come in for counseling last year. To his joy he discovered that six women had given birth. He remembered a few who had felt the office either ambivalent or adamant about an abortion. Mini-miracles happen at Aid to Women, too.

Joanne Dieleman hopes that new and former volunteers will call The Way Inn (416-920-9910) and offer a regular time (one hour a week or a month) to witness at the abortuaries, to work at The Way Inn or with Aid to Women. She believes the new “pro-life coffee house” is in a more pleasant location (spacious and bright) and in a more neutral setting, which should dispel lingering fears of run-ins with the “other side.” Although Joanne volunteers her time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (without a murmur), she says she cannot do it alone. She counts upon Divine Providence and the goodwill of pro-life groups and individuals to sustain a vital presence in the vicinity of the abortuaries.

The love, hope, and life-giving energy that will flow from the new centre symbolize triumph over tribulation like that of an Easter morn.

Blessings to you all in your new home.