Fr. Toby’s Thoughts

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Tomorrow (January 22nd) marks the 45th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade to legalize abortion, and this past Friday was the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., a large, peaceful, and prayerful protest for the end of abortion.

This year, I was fortunate to be able to attend the March in D.C. as one of the chaperones for the Skutt Catholic High School students, of which I am an alumnus. I would love to tell you about my experience, but that will have to wait for another day, since I am writing this letter before having left on the trip. I have had the chance to attend the March twice before—once when I was in high school and once in college—and it has always been a moving experience. Seeing so many people gather together, united in defending life, is an impressive sight.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a dinner event for the Catholic business leaders organization, Legatus. I was asked to cover for their chaplain, who was unable to be present. The speaker for the evening happened to be Mr. Brad Burks, the executive director for Essential Pregnancy Services here in Omaha, and one of our parishioners, who gave an amazing presentation. He spoke of his own powerful story that led him to find his place at EPS, and then he described his work at EPS.

I was struck not only by the great work they do there but also by the great battle they are engaged in fighting. The battle that they are engaged in at EPS is, yes, about saving the lives of the innocent children, but it is also, and more directly, about saving the mothers of those children. Brad said that they at EPS focus their efforts on the women that come to them who in turn make the heroic decision to save their child.

Brad shared that the main reasons women choose abortion tend to be lack of financial resources, unhealthy relationships, strain on their future plans, and lack of access to childcare. None of the women Brad spoke with ever said they just didn’t want the baby. Often, the women that come to EPS who are considering abortion have been beaten down by life and by people they should have been able to trust. They’ve been told they are not worth anything, they’ve been abused, and EPS stands there to help lift them up. Brad said that when clients were asked to describe EPS in one word, the three words that came up most often were “empowering,” “safe,” and “loving.”

What a testimony! He spoke of the joy the staff has in seeing the women that come to them begin to smile more and believe in and love themselves. As we care for the children in our efforts, we also care for their mothers.

Brad gave three places where we can focus our efforts in the fight against abortion. The last two he mentioned were expanding medical and social services for pregnant mothers, but the first thing he mentioned is something we can all do, and this will come as no surprise to you. The first thing we need to do is pray for an end to abortion and for the conversion of heart of all involved in abortion! (At this point, I’d like to give a shout-out to our active pro-life group at St. James, who continue to witness to prayer and peaceful protest for the end of abortion!)

As Brad rightly noted, the fight to end abortion is primarily a spiritual one. It’s about reaching the hearts of people who are set in their ways, and many others who are misinformed or confused and need guidance, and God can grab a person’s heart more readily than we ever could through other means.

Through our prayers and actions, we want everyone to come into the light of God’s truth, by which they can also be set free and experience the joy of the Gospel. As Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

As we talk about the tragedy of abortion, I think it’s always important to be reminded of God’s great mercy. No matter what sin someone has committed, all we need to do to be forgiven is turn to Him and ask for His forgiveness. God wants all to be reconciled with Him. That’s why He sent Jesus into the world, and He wants all to enjoy His presence forever.

If you or someone you know has had an abortion, encourage that person to come to confession, to receive God’s forgiveness and begin the process of healing. We’d love to see a smile on their face more often, as they come to believe in and love themselves again through God’s grace. God Bless!