Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sisters of Life teach college students how to aid pregnant peers

The Sisters of Life training at Seton Hall University that I helped organize in my position as director of the Cardinal Newman Society's Love and Responsibility Program was a great success. Many thanks to all the blogs who helped publicize the training, including ProLifeBlogsCausa Nostrae Laetitiae, and The Curt Jester (apologies if I'm forgetting anyone).

Here is the press release I wrote about the training's outcome, which is also on the Cardinal Newman Society's Web site:

“A great success” is how Sister Magdalene of the Sisters of Life described her order’s first-ever on-campus training for college students seeking to learn how to support peers in crisis pregnancies, held Nov. 17 at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., and sponsored by The Cardinal Newman Society with SHU’s Campus Ministry.

“Fifteen students rose early on a Saturday—something just short of a miracle—to join us for a new look at how to serve a pregnant college student,” says Sister Magdalene, who directed the training. Also in attendance were several members of SHU’s Campus Ministry as well as Archdiocese of Newark Campus Ministry Director Maureen Madigan.

Since their founding by John Cardinal O’Connor in 1991, the Sisters of Life—whose members take a fourth vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of every human life— have trained hundreds of Co-Workers (volunteers), but never before on a college campus.

The five-hour training included presentations by Sisters of Life about understanding the heart of a vulnerable pregnant woman, communication skills to help students listen to a pregnant woman’s needs and be fully present for her, and information on the various ways the students could place their individual talents and skills at the service of life.

At the heart of the training was a talk by a college student who had stayed at the Sisters’ Sacred Heart residence in Manhattan, where the order gives shelter and Holy Respite to pregnant women. The young woman, accompanied by her buoyant two-year-old daughter, spoke movingly of how the nuns’ love and support enabled her to escape an abusive relationship.

Sister Magdalene observed afterward that “many of those that attended seemed to view this approach as a breath of fresh air.”

“They seemed to see in it a special focus on the dignity of the woman, knowing that the better we serve her, the better she will be able to care for the life within her,” she said.

SHU student Jennifer Nelson, a graduate assistant in Campus Ministry, agreed. “In my work with Housing and Residence Life for over seven years, I saw many women struggling with how to help friends through crisis pregnancies, or were dealing with the issue themselves,” Nelson says. “The training that the Sisters of Life provided our students with will give these young women some place to turn. It will allow them to know that both they and their babies are loved by God, and they will see God through the caring actions of those around them.”

“The students loved the training and are very excited about working in this important ministry,” said Noreen Shea, SHU’s Campus Minister for Catechetics. “We are very grateful to the Cardinal Newman Society for sponsoring such an important and powerful event for the students on our campus.”

Archdiocese of Newark Campus Ministry Director Maureen Madigan likewise thanked the society for introducing the Sisters’ apostolate to the archdiocese. “We look forward to collaborating with the Sisters of Life in the near future, inviting them to provide similar trainings to our student leaders at the ten public universities, colleges and technical schools we serve,” she said.

For Sister Magdalene, the most important fruit of the training was the opportunity to share their charism of love with college students. “Our focus is not to change the culture by force but one heart at a time—this seemed to resonate with those who attended,” she said. “May all the glory be given to the Lord and may many be saved from the suffering incurred by obtaining an abortion.”