(Last of three articles)
Father Ted Colleton
I always like to give the impression that I am overworked, extremely busy, under pressure and in great demand. Some people even believe it. I don’t! But when I get back from “Safari” there are usually messages and the news is more often bad than good.
The other night I returned from a long plane journey around midnight and fell into bed to enjoy the sleep of the “exhausted.” Next morning I was barely awake when the phone rang. It was the Interim office reminding me that my column was due by June 30 at the latest. This was June 20, so I said to the caller, “Thanks. That gives me a few days.” The reply was, “Don’t forget that you are leaving for the Alliance for Life Convention on Prince Edward Island on Friday, June 24.” I had completely forgotten it and with a bad dose of “jet lag” I couldn’t even think of what to write about or where the words would come from.
Then I followed my usual procedure of phoning my wonderful secretary at her home to find out what had happened now that I was back. Mary (Wildfong) as usual gave me the run down on “the state of the office.” One of my messages, compared with which all the others paled into utter insignificance was this, “Amanda has had her baby. It’s a boy, seven pounds, ten ounces. And she’s going to keep him.” Needless to say the name “Amanda” is not the truth. The rest is. Why should I be so elated at the news that a baby has been born? After all, it has been happening since the world began. Well, this is a very special baby and, even as I write, there are tears in my eyes.
An urgent message
The story – at least my involvement in it – goes back some months. One evening I arrived home and was told to phone the Campaign Life Coalition office. It was urgent. I was asked if I could “find time” to go and see a Catholic unmarried girl who was scheduled to have an abortion on Tuesday. This was the previous Thursday. If I couldn’t “find time” for that I couldn’t find time for anything. So, after a few phone calls I arranged to meet Annette, who had all the necessary information and had phoned the girl at her home. Annette simply said that she and a friend would like to come and “talk to her about her pregnancy.” The girl agreed without asking questions. A friend had phoned the Campaign Life Coalition office and – asking not to be identified – gave the name, address, phone number and the fact.
Annette and I arranged to meet and we found the house. We rang the bell and waited. I must admit I felt somewhat fearful. Would we be welcome or rejected? How would we begin? There is no set pattern. Every case, like every person is different.
The door was opened by a very pleasant Phillipino girl. She looked a little startled when she realized that I was a priest. But she asked us to come upstairs to her apartment. It was far from “plush” and I got an immediate sense of Loneliness – a single girl, living alone in a huge city far from home. Like “every picture, it told a story” and a sad one at that!
“Amanda” made tea and we sat down and appraised each other. Annette and I had no “plan of campaign,” so I looked at Annette and implied that she should take over. I then pressed the secret spiritual button which puts me in touch with Heaven. I never feel closer to “the Other World” than when I find myself face to face with the cruel facts of this one!
I can’t remember how Annette began but whatever she said was the right approach. It was sincere and sympathetic without any trace of “patronization.” Amanda, an attractive and intelligent girl, poured out her tale of woe. By this time, she knew which side we were on. She was alone in Canada and missing the affection to which she was accustomed. She made the acquaintance of a man of “different race” and one thing led to another.
They had ceased their relationship when she found out that she was pregnant. She phoned him and his reply was – and I quote – “get rid of the bloody kid and don’t come buggin’ me any more. Anyway I’m getting married next week.” The phone was banged down.
There are times when I think the “women’s libbers” have something! So, there was Amanda – alone, afraid, rejected, deserted and hopeless. Where could she turn? The Church? Well, it is supposed to be the “refuge of sinners.” But it isn’t easy for a young girl to knock on the rectory door and say, “Hi, I’m pregnant.” She hadn’t heard of Birthright or Right to Life or Campaign Life or Rosalie Hall. She spoke to a “friend” who gave her the “ready reckoner answer.” Have an abortion, of course! It will be all over in a few hours and everything will be back to normal. One “friend” said, “Do you want to have this darned kid hanging round your neck for the rest of your life?”
So, Amanda fell for all the arguments and the abortion was arranged. It all seemed so easy. But it was obvious that Amanda was not at ease. Oriental women have a love for babies which is deeper than the ocean. And as she gave us all the reasons for having the abortion – inability to look after the baby, having to keep her job, hoping to continue her education, etc., it was clear that they were losing their power to convince. She stopped searching for words and Annette took over.
Annette showed her a picture of a ten week old baby in the mother’s womb. Amanda burst into tears. Annette gently explained to her that her baby – not her fetus – was a “real baby” and that abortion meant killing her child. I kept my finger firmly pressed on the “Heavenly button” and Annette seemed to be inspired as she continued to speak. When she had ended, Amanda wiped her eyes and said, “I’m going to have my baby.” Next day she phoned the hospital and cancelled her appointment.
The practical aspects
One of the most frequent accusations thrown at us is this, “You ‘pro-lifers’ care only for the unborn baby. You don’t give any help to the mother before or after the baby arrives.”
This is nothing less than a big lie! When word got around that there was a girl who needed help in having her baby and looking after him/her after birth, all kinds of wheels began to turn. The people for whom she worked as a baby sitter told her that if she did not have an abortion she would be dismissed. A new job was found for her immediately; a new and much better apartment was acquired; the Kane family – Mary, Charlie and their daughter, Maureen, held a “baby shower” for her which provided the usual items of baby clothes, a carrier and mother’s outfits. The Pastor of her parish was most sympathetic and helpful and Amanda realized that she was living in a world “full of love.”
The obvious question arose, what should she do when the baby arrived? Should she give her child up for adoption? She did consider it. But when the baby arrived on the scene, Amanda said, “No. I shall keep my baby.”
Whether that decision is for the best, time alone will tell. But of one thing I am certain and it is this: Timothy James, the name by which I shall baptize him, will not lack the most important gift a child can receive from his mother next to the gift of Life. It is another “four letter word” and it is spelt LOVE!