Corrie Young visits the Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative in Glasgow.
More than 200 people are alive today because of the work done by The Sisters of the Gospel of Life.
The Sisters work with The Cardinal Winning Pro-Life Initiative, which began on Mother’s Day, 1997, when Cardinal Winning made an announcement at a pro-life conference that women considering an abortion should keep the child, and that the Church would help them do so.
The Initiative states that it was founded to ‘help provide a caring, Christian response to anyone faced with a crisis pregnancy, from whatever background or faith.’
Sr Roseann Reddy leads the sisters and the initiative.
“The announcement was all over the press. Cardinal Winning knew about my involvement in the pro-life movement that began with St John Paul II’s visit to Scotland in 1982,” she said.
“He got in touch with me that night and asked: ‘I take it you’ve heard about the announcement? I was wondering if you could run it?’”
Cardinal Winning, nine months later, expressed to Sr Roseann – not yet a sister – that for all the pro-life initiatives in Scotland, he had worried that women did not know they could come to the Church for support. That is why he started the initiative.
“In his encyclical The Gospel of Life, St John Paul II said that he fully expected new religious communities to come out of the encyclical, because religious life has always come from a need of the time.
“I had considered religious life before we began the initiative, but my passion was the pro-life cause. But if God wants you, God has a way of getting you. And as far as I was concerned, there was no greater need of the time than to uphold the dignity of all human life.”
The Sisters of the Gospel of Life formed at the turn of the century, January 1, 2000. Currently, there are three sisters in the religious order.
“I could not do what I do if I didn’t have prayer, daily Mass, holy hour, and the Blessed Sacrament in the house. That is what feeds our work, and our work feeds our vocation,” Sr Roseann said.
“We see the Gospel of life being lived fully. We see babies being who otherwise would not have been here. We see women being healed after abortion. It’s faith in action.”
Sr Roseann noted that the Sisters don’t save babies, they enable women to have their children.
“They are the ones that make that decision,” she explains.“Of the thousands of people that we have helped, I could name you at least 200 babies whose mothers have turned back from abortions, some came away at the very last minute from the hospital.
“It’s always a lovely thing when they say, ‘I don’t know what came over me.’ I think to myself, that was the prayers of half of the West of Scotland.”
Sr Roseann is still in contact with mothers she helped 25 years ago, whose children themselves have children now. Most of the people that the Sisters help are not themselves Catholic, and it is by no means a requirement for women who wants their assistance.
“Mothers will often ask, ‘why would the Church help me?’ We answer, ‘because that’s what Jesus told us to do. ‘I was naked, and you clothed me, I was hungry and you fed me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me’,” she reflected.
“Many people are in imprisoned by poverty, mental health issues, grief, so many things. We are there to help them. We don’t speak to people about God but people ask us, and we answer their questions, honestly, openly, with love and without condemnation.”
Sr Roseann commented that, ‘you have to understand the pressures that lead women to abortion in order to help alleviate those pressures.’
“You go through the problems with them, one by one, and ask them: if these issues could be resolved, ‘Do you want to have this baby?’ And the answer is usually, ‘Yes, but how can I?’”
The Sisters provide cots, prams, clothes, nappies, toiletries, for as long as is needed. They organise financial assistance. They help with housing situations and escaping abusive relationships. They are there for emotional support, in person or over the phone.
Often, what matters most is the women knowing that help is there.
“We put on a piece of paper all of the things we can provide for them, they need to know it’s actual help,” Sr Roseann concluded.
“If you can help the mother you can save the baby. We think that a healthy, happy mum is a healthy, happy baby.”
The Sisters also help mothers and families who have never considered an abortion, but need their help regardless. Furthermore, they provide emotional support to women who have had abortions.
At the beginning of the initiative over twenty years ago, Cardinal Winning asked Sr Roseann to become an expert in humanity. The Sisters, who give up motherhood in pursuing the religious life, have at their core empathy and understanding for the struggles these mothers face.