Summerside, PEI – “In pro-life work, we should leave nothing to chance: we should put the spiritual first,” say Olive Moore, Eileen Lantz and Esther Steele, of East Prince (County) Right to Life, the second largest chapter in the province.
And they do.
The day we talked, chapter president Olive and secretary Eileen had started by attending morning Mass for the Unborn, as they do every Wednesday.
Care and flair
Membership convenor and spiritual director Esther Steele, who has to work on Wednesday, chooses Friday instead. “Everything I do all that day is for pro-life. Mass, rosary, fasting, my work.”
At the church entrance a poster announced the Life Chain project. It had been prepared with care and flair by Olive’s son Ken, who is awaiting his third kidney transplant.
Often though, they make posters on the spot. “We don’t take just prayer books to church,” laughs Eileen. “We take scissors, crayons, construction paper, tape, etc.”
Today they also provided another of their frequent short educational items for the church bulletin. This time it was briefing parishioners on proposed “right to die” legislation, and urging them to contact MLAs and MPs.
Leaving the Catholic church, they drove to the Salvation Army Citadel to deliver envelopes for the coming membership blitz.
“Our new envelopes are educations. They have an outline of the basic RTL principles printed right on them, along with the registration form. Interested churches distribute and collect them for us.”
They also used the visit to discuss euthanasia with the Salvation Army officers. “They were pleased to receive our information sheet on the book, Final Exit, by Derek Humphry, that notorious promoter of euthanasia.”
Next stop: a diaper shop. “Our members buy baby things on sale. Then several times a year we make up a layette, gift wrap it, and present it to the hospital for a single mothers. Our enclosed card congratulates her for choosing to give her child the gift of life.” Olive explains.
By now it’s time for a break. Confirmed tea drinkers, the pair claim their best work is done in local restaurants over the teacups. There they plan pro-life activities for the coming week. There they study Eileen’s current stack of clippings, often finding in them ideas for new projects.
Today, they share their concern that despondent people may actually follow Final Exit’s step-by-step directions for committing suicide. As a first practical response, they have already obtained from the Mental Health Association a stack of brochures about suicide, its warning signals and prevention. They plan to place them in waiting rooms around town.
Today they also prepare a report of the recent chapter meeting for the CWL pro-life convenor. They believe it’s important to keep as many people of good will as possible informed about pro-life matters.
In the afternoon, Esther Steele joins them to discuss their activities with me.
They tell me that in early summer, Catholic Diocesan officials had asked RTL to suggest practical ways to help emphasize the sanctity of life. The East Prince chapter was delighted to respond.
Prayer for the unborn
Their list included the addition of a prayer for the pre-born to the Mass; a display of fetal models in the church vestibule at least once a year; encouraging the use of pro-life themes in school science fair projects; having men’s groups (e.g., K of C) show fetal models to youth groups and religion classes.
Discussion turns to the coming Membership Blitz, as they re-check arrangements for people to attend to memberships and receipts at all services in the participating churches that Sunday. “We find personal contact works better than waiting for people to respond to ads and notices.”
Membership convenor Esther uses an even more personal touch. She traverses the town on her bicycle, collecting door to door, and personally brings in about 40 per cent of the chapter’s memberships. “Many are old people who say they can’t do much to help us except pray. That’s the help we need most of all,” she say.
Eileen brings in a large heavy bottle of change dropped off for “Pennies for Life.” She explains that for several years, “Penny Lady” Alvina Arsenault has made a special point of urging people to donate their pennies to RTL. She rolls them for deposit, a time-consuming task but a useful source of income.
Reminded by the money talk, Olive writes a check to assist local youth to attend the CYPLO conference later in the month.
Later, discussion about the NDP’s promotion of abortion prompts Esther to show us a card she likes to distribute. It bears a prayer for the unborn and a beautiful picture of the Virgin Mary with grimy hands, weeping over a tiny body she has dug out of a trash bin.
It reminds us again that pro-lifers must continue to work as if it all depends on us, and pray as if it all depends on God – a lesson well understood by this trio of pro-life women.