Interim staff

Pro-lifers are a lot like other Canadians when it comes to getting away from it all. They take their work seriously but they recognize the need to step back and take a breather from the daily grind.

Many workers surveyed by The Interim look forward to their quiet time to recover from the pressures of continuing pro-life work. In an environment characterized by hostility and ridicule from pro-abortionists, thinly veiled contempt by the mainstream media, diminished resources and scarce personnel, pro-lifers need time to be away from it all. Anything that will recharge the mind, body, and spirit is a welcome change for pro-life workers.

Some especially committed pro-lifers, such as Linda Gibbons of Toronto and a number of U.S. –based activists, don’t have much choice when it comes to leisure activities. These people wait out prison terms for violating laws or injunctions against pro-life witnessing at abortion clinics. While not every pro-lifer is called to that level of commitment, some find that the regular day-today activity can be a trial.

Herm Wills, president of Campaign Life Coalition –Nova Scotia, is modest in his leisure activity. Early in the fall, he invites his colleagues, friends and neighbours to a pig roast on the grounds of his Mount Uniacke home, north of Halifax.

“It’s more of a social gathering than some kind of strategy thing,” Wills said. “We get the people together to celebrate some fellowship.”

Wills who has been involved in pro-life work since 1988, also takes the occasional day off simply to relax from a busy schedule of meetings, lobbying and administrative duties. He also enjoys a day of fishing on the small lakes near his home.

Although the summer is the ideal time for most vacations, Wills believes it’s better to keep active between May and September.

“The pro-abortion crowd seems to be at their busiest during Christian holidays,” he said. “That makes the summer a more acute time for out kind of work. It’s a time to be accountable to pro-life. If I want to take a breather, I usually wait until after the summer.”

While Wills looks to fishing and pig roasts for relaxation, Karen Murawsky of Ottawa favours travelling and camping expeditions with the family.

Now active as Campaign Life Coalition’s political affairs officer, Murawsky is a pro-life veteran of 22 years. She has also served with Action Life, Alliance for Life and Eastern Ontario Alliance.

“I flee to the family when I feel the need to get away from it all,” Murawsky said. “The camping trips in different parts of North America provide a little refuge from the daily routine.”

Murawsky has recently discovered bicycling and rollerblading as another leisure distraction from the task of lobbying federal MPs. And she doesn’t feel the need to take her work with her when on holiday.

“Sometimes you have you have to absolutely forget everything,” she said. “You’d probably go crazy if you didn’t.”

Her views were echoed by Cindi Loforti, president of Campaign Life Coalition- Niagara. Loforti escapes the pro-life battles by spending time at her Parry Sound cottage with her husband and three children.

“We think it’s tremendously important for pro-life people to recharge their batteries for a few weeks each summer,” Loforti said. “We often carry an enormous emotional load in working to defend unborn children and it can get frustrating if we don’t take a little time for ourselves. You want to be on guard for the unborn all the time, but you have to think of your own needs once in a while.”

Loforti also said organizations which depend on the goodwill of volunteers should not neglect occasional human comforts. “If you don’t relax a little in the summertime, you might find it more difficult to keep help around,” she said.

Joanne Dieleman of Aid to Women is another pro-lifer who richly deserves whatever time off she can find. In addition to counseling pregnant women in distress against abortion, Dieleman is one of the strongest supporters of jailed activist Linda Gibbons. She is constantly in touch with the pro-life prisoner of conscience and helps organize vigils on her behalf.

Dieleman has been involved with Aid to Women for four years. She has been active in pro-life work since 1984.

Dieleman recuperates from the pro-life wars by returning to the country each summer. She travels to her son’s farm near Woodstock, Ontario, for a few days of working in the fields.

“I put on the work clothes and go out among the chickens, gathering eggs and doing whatever needs doing.” Dieleman said. “It can be incredibly relaxing to get away from it all on the farm. I find that a change of scenery is as good as any holiday. It’s a chance for some hard work and to be away from the cares of the office.”

Some pro-lifers find it difficult to leave work behind when they go on vacation. Mary Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition- Kingston recalls being on holiday during a federal election campaign. Because pro-life work intensifies during elections, Douglas wound up making several trips to an isolated pay phone to direct election strategy.

Douglas relaxes by reserving two weeks each August to get away from it all at an eastern Ontario cottage.

“Sometimes the work follows me there, but the plan is that I leave it all behind and devote the two weeks to myself and the family,” Douglas said. “I make a point of ensuring that there’s no telephone at the cottage. It would be too tempting to check up on things at the office.”

Anna Desilets of Alliance for Life, another long-serving pro-life worker, said whatever kind of recreation a pro-lifer follows, the key is to keep work and leisure in the proper balance. The Winnipeg- based Desilets has been executive director of Alliance for Life since 1983. She’s been involved in pro-life work for the last 25 years.

“I’ve trained myself not to take my work home with me,” Desilets said. “I find it more important to change entirely once I get home. It’s crucial for pro-life people to take that time for themselves every so often. There’s always the danger of burning out if you try to do too much.”

Along with the daily stress of running an office and attempting to promote the pro-life, pro-family message in the community, Desilets said pro-life workers face the added burden of maintaining their motivation in times of setback and frustration.

“There’s certainly stress in simply preserving in pro-life work,” she said. “We have to take heart in the small victories we see, such as a positive letter to the editor of a newspaper. These can be sources of encouragement.”

Desilets is looking forward to a visit to the islands of St. Pierre and Michelon as part of this summer’s get-away tour. Otherwise, she’s happy sitting under a tree in the backyard with a good novel by her side.

Fellow Winnipegger Joe Borowski has had to modify his leisure activity due to recent health problems. “You’ll find me sleeping most of the time,” Borowski told The Interim, “…sleeping or praying the Rosary.”

He recalled the hectic days of the 1980s when his diligent pro-life work took him across the country on countless speaking tours and engagements. Although some would find the travel exhilarating, Borowski came to regard it as a chore.

“All that hotel living tends to take a lot out of a person. It’s disruptive of one’s personal life and it can become stressful.” It also interfered with the running of his health food store, an enterprise Borowski took up in earnest in 1977.

Realizing the pleasures in simple things, Borowski came to enjoy simple tractor rides on his nine-acre farm in La Salle, near Winnipeg as his break from it all.

“If it wasn’t out on the golf course, I’d jump the tractor and head for the fields,” he said. “It was my way to get some fresh air and recharge the batteries for the next round in the struggle.”

But whatever form of recreation is enjoyed, pro-life workers are encouraged to take that time for themselves. There is no doubt that there are increasing pressures and stress associated with pro-life work (see related story, next page). Many or these pressures are exacerbated by the constant efforts by pro-abortion advocates to link pro-lifers with violence and fanaticism. Often this campaign is aided by the mainstream media, which readily reports acts of violence against abortion clinic operators, but fails to draw attention to reports of violence and intimidation against pro-life personnel.

Recent studies undertaken in the U.S. by the Los Angeles Times and by the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference, revealed a disproportionate amount of negative coverage against pro-life groups and those with religious beliefs.

“Current media coverage often tends to give the impression that the pro-life position is extreme and politically dangerous,” said a spokesperson for the U.S. bishop’s conference. “It also contributes to the notion that pro-life supporters are most conservative extremists on the edge of violence. Such portrayals bear no relation to the diverse pro-life movement in North America.”

Some of these findings were backed up in a recent address by a prominent American film and media critic who said the Hollywood film and TV industry tends to ignore those with religious belief, except to ridicule or humiliate them.

Most pro-lifers believe a sense of humour, and the effort to take time for themselves, will see the movement through some rocky times. Those who have taken up pro-life work on a full-time basis are optimistic that with constant effort, increased support from allies and personal care for body and soul, the struggle against the anti-life mentality will only intensify.

A little distance or separation from the regular routine can only provide some much-needed perspective. While the battlefield metaphors can be overdone in pro-life work, there’s no doubt a little “R & R” can work wonders for the body and soul.