In Warner: small school, big mission

[Update, 2015: the school is now called Northeast Catholic College. Same location, same faculty.]

Recently, I attended a commencement at a small college in Warner, New Hampshire. I mean small. Why make the trip, when I had no child in the class? Because those graduates are shifting the culture. I came to cheer them on. A more joyful morning would have been tough to arrange.

Posing for the class portrait: College of Saint Mary Magdalen class of 2014, with Bishop Peter Libasci.
Posing for the class portrait: College of Saint Mary Magdalen class of 2014, with Bishop Peter Libasci.

For my day job as well as from personal inclination, I spend a lot of time looking at state legislation. It’s easy to get tied up in that. Every little success is magnified, as is every little failure. A committee votes the “wrong” way … a bad bill goes to interim study … a long-awaited floor vote gets postponed: the highs and lows could get completely out of hand. Balance comes from faith, family, and anything in the community that doesn’t have a direct line to the State House.

CSMM banner at the national March for Life
CSMM banner at the national March for Life

Hence, my admiration and respect for the people who have built up the College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner. They’re working with a long view. The founders and faculty members are neither content with the current culture nor defeated by it. The College is Catholic. “Pro-life” ought to go without saying. Times being what they are, though, it bears stressing that this is a pro-life community. The students who come and who choose to stay through graduation are thoroughly steeped in the richness of faith and the best of the liberal arts tradition. The students’ commitment to respect for life flourishes naturally.

My husband and I are graduates of a state university. More than thirty years ago, we could see that while our state institution was in no danger of going under, some of the Catholic colleges whose work we admired were definitely struggling. We made the decision at that time that to the best of our ability, in good and lean times alike, we’d do what we could to support the schools that were standing up for the right to life. The College of Saint Mary Magdalen has been one of them.

Forgive me for one State House digression: I’ve seen some CSMM students in action at legislative hearings on life-issue bills, where they’ve signed in and testified. Few other schools encourage this. The students make much more of an impact than they realize. People are forced to stop and think when they hear college-age women and men urging legislators to affirm life. It doesn’t fit the normal young-activist template. I know; I hear the conversations in the hallways after the students leave.

This is a long way of explaining why I made the drive to Warner in early May. I’m grateful to those students, most of whom don’t know me personally. I’m grateful to their professors, some of whom I’m known for many years. The culture of life doesn’t sustain itself; it has to be nurtured and preserved and then handed down to the rising generation. That’s what’s happening in Warner.


Abortion facility closures are only one step

“When an abortion clinic closes in your community, then your prolife work is not over.” So says Abby Johnson, ex-PP worker and a woman who knows what she’s talking about.

If you’re on Facebook, be sure you’re following “Abby Johnson: Pro-Life advocate.” Her post today begins with the words I’ve quoted, and then she goes on to say:

In fact that is just the beginning of true prolife work. There are still women who will find themselves in crisis pregnancies. There are pregnant women who will need housing. There will be schools who need educators to come in and teach kids the beauty of abstinence. There will be women who need annual exams from prolife providers. I am not just prolife. I am prowoman. I am profamily.

Abby Johnson (photo from her Facebook page)
Abby Johnson (photo from her Facebook page)

Abby’s reminding me that this isn’t a temp job.

Feeling overwhelmed because the culture of life is such a huge project? No need. Do what you can, where you are. Ministries abound. No need to engage in all of them. I have special authority on this as a mom, in my humble opinion. Parents definitely can’t do it all – but we can take care of our children, which is as downright pro-life as you can get.

On the other hand, are you inactive, thinking that your friends have it covered, or that you can’t make a difference with your limited time & resources? Wrong.

You can welcome and console the young woman you know – maybe your own daughter – who’s pregnant and afraid to tell the people she loves. You can be there for the son or nephew or husband who feels panicked by a partner’s pregnancy.

You can pray.

You can add a box of diapers to your grocery cart once a month and donate it to your nearest pro-life pregnancy center.

You can ask your faith community’s leader if there’s anything you can do in your community to promote respect for life. He or she will probably love you for it. Ministers are stretched to the breaking point already, and knowing more people are willing to take on a project will be a blessing for them.

You can make sure your legislators know where you stand on bills affecting the right to life. I do my best to keep my readers informed about New Hampshire bills; every state has its own resources. Let me know if you can’t find your area’s information, and I’ll try to point you in the right direction.

You can make choices in your own life that will help you disengage from a “health” care provider who also does (or refers for) abortions. Every time an abortion provider testifies in Concord, she assures the representatives that abortion is just a tiny part of the practice, compared to all the Really Useful Work that goes on. If you depend on these providers for your regular health care, you’re being used as a human shield against abortion regulation. Hit those providers in the wallet by taking your business elsewhere.

And so on. The peaceful, constructive possibilities are endless.

Abby is absolutely on target with her post today. Pro-life work isn’t something that will end. It will evolve, though, and there will always be great and small things to be done by peaceful, determined people of good will.

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