Defend Life was founded in 1987 by Eileen Bolgiano and Jack Ames. It had actually started a year earlier as the Respect Life group at Baltimore's magnificent Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. Our goal was to promote the Culture of Life proclaimed so eloquently by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vita, the Gospel of Life, while at the same time exposing the evil culture of death exemplified by massive legalized abortion on demand.
It had been 14 years since the Supreme Court had legalized abortion on demand, for any reason at any point in a woman's pregnancy, through its infamous Roe v. Wade decision. Other than an annual pro-life convention, some sidewalk counseling at abortion sites and crisis pregnancy centers, there wasn't a great deal of pro-life activity in our area. We decided an ongoing pro-life lecture series would be a good way to counteract this. Continuously bringing the great names in the prolife movement to speak in Baltimore could only produce good results.
Thanks to Joseph Koterski, a Jesuit scholastic who taught philosophy at Loyola College, we were able to begin our Defend Life Lecture Series at Loyola College in the fall of 1987.
Each year we had a minimum of six outstanding speakers including the luminaries of the pro-life movement. That first year we had Mildred Jefferson, M.D., the first Black female ever to graduate from Harvard Medical School; Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., now the president of Gonzaga University; and Bill Brennan, Ph.D., a sociologist from St. Louis University whose research showed the striking parallel between the Holocaust in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in America that was destroying 4,500 pre-born babies by abortion each and every day.
As time went on, we arranged for our out-of-state speakers to also speak at nearby high schools, seminaries, and churches. In some cases, we arranged week-long speaking tours as we did for Joanna Bogle, a former member of the House of Commons from England. Over the years, we brought a veritable who's who in the pro-life movement to Maryland and nearby states, including pro-life leaders, activists, doctors, nurses, clergy, bishops, congressmen, and even former abortionists. These former abortionists had not only stopped performing abortions, but had become modern day St. Pauls, coming full circle to the pro-life camp. One such speaker, Bernard Nathanson, M.D., a secular Jew, had participated in aborting 65,000 pre-born babies, two of whom were his own children. Several years ago, Bernard Nathanson was baptized a Catholic by John Cardinal O'Connor. Other former abortionists who have spoken include Anthony Levatino, M.D., and Beverly McMillian, M.D. Their conversion stories were thrilling!
Other speakers whose names you might recognize include former ambassador and presidential candidate, Alan Keyes, Joseph Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League; Judie Brown, founder of American Life League; the legendary Father Paul Marx, OSB, founder of Human Life International; Steven Mosher, the social researcher who first exposed mainland China's one child-forced abortion policy; and now heads Population Research Institute, and Congressman Bob Dornan who needs no introduction! Other heroes of the pro-life movement include Joan Andrews Bell and Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue. In its 15 years of existence, Defend Life has sponsored well over 200 pro-life speaking engagements.
Many of the seminarians who heard our speakers are now ordained priests who continue their zeal for pro-life work. Two that come to mind are Father Francis de Rosa, assistant pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes in Arlington,Virginia and Father McLean Cummings, who is presently studying Russian and will be soon proclaiming the Gospel of Life in St. Petersburg, Russia. Charles Sikorsky, Esq., a graduate of Calvert Hall and Johns Hopkins, where he played basketball, and University of Maryland Law School, came to one of our lectures as a result of a poster he saw. Charles was ordained in Rome in December, 2002 and is now studying Canon Law there. Father John Paul Walker, OP, whom we assisted in starting a pro-life while he was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, was ordained a Dominican priest in May 2002. Father Charles Sikorsky and Father John Paul Walker are both outstanding pro-life priests.
Many of the pro-life students with whom we have networked since 1987 are now married and raising large families of their own. Elizabeth Walz, a Loyola graduate, is a splendid example. When Liz, a spirited New Yorker, arrived at Loyola, the student pro-life group was essentially dead. With a little help from us, Liz quickly resurrected it, then became vice-president and president of American Collegians for Life, traveling to various distant colleges campuses on weekends to help nurture new campus pro-life groups. After graduating, Liz worked full-time for three different national pro-life groups while also serving in a volunteer capacity as Defend Life's third director. She and her husband, Andrew, a brilliant chemist, returned to Baltimore recently after completing post-doctorate work at Notre Dame. They now have five small children and have just moved into their first home. If young pro-life families, like Liz and Andrew, do nothing but raise and properly educate large families, while pro-aborts continue to abort their children, it won't be long before we soon out populate the pro-aborts and win by default.
Defend Life publishes an outstanding bi-monthly newsletter, edited superbly by Diane Levero, a splendid writer and journalist who has also written two books of her own. This newsletter publicizes all the good pro-life activities going on in our area, such as pro-life talks, pro-life conferences, picketing abortionists, exposing our enemies such as Planned Parenthood, and picketing pro-abortion politicians whose names are legion in Maryland.
Besides our pro-life speakers, Defend Life also sponsors Lives of the Saints plays. Typically, these marvelous plays are produced and often performed by Leonardo Defilippis, a Shakespearean actor and founder of St. Luke Productions. At a recent presentation of Maximilian, Saint of Auschwitz at Holy Family School in nearby Randallstown, a seminarian who had been questioning his vocation as a future priest, proclaimed with great conviction that during the drama he had felt God clearly calling him to the priesthood. A crowd of 400 attended this inspiring play. Other Lives of the Saints plays include St. Francis of Assisi and St. Therese of Lisieux. We have found these plays are a wonderful way to introduce new persons to the good work Defend Life is doing. To arrange for a Lives of the Saints play at your parish, contact the Defend Life Director.
For persons new to the pro-life movement and for those already active needing a little refresher course, we sponsor pro-life training courses taught by nationally recognized figures such as Scott Kluesendorf, the C.S. Lewis of the pro-life movement, and Brian Clowes, Ph.D., director of research at Human Life International, a West Pointer and former member of Special Forces. Nearly 100 persons attended Scott Kluesendorf's Pro-Life 101 course in April 2002 held in Baltimore. While here in Maryland, Scott also spoke at three Catholic high schools, Johns Hopkins University, met with pro-life state senators and legislators, was the guest on a local radio talk show and gave two abbreviated versions of his Pro-Life 101 course at local churches. Scott returned to the area just last month for a repeat performance.
Because most national and metropolitan news media are overwhelmingly pro-abortion, many persons who claim to be "pro-choice" really have no idea what they are "choosing" when they say they favor abortion. Euphemistic terms such as fetus, tissue and products of conception are cleverly used by those promoting abortion to dehumanize the pre-born baby. Pictures of the pre-born baby at the various stages of development are rarely shown except in medical textbooks. Pictures of babies aborted at the various stages of development are universally banned by the media. Pro-life groups who have attempted to place ads in publications such as USA Today and on network television showing America's Abortion Holocaust have been flatly refused.
Pro-lifers have organized "Face the Truth" tours utilizing many large pictures of aborted babies lined up at heavily trafficked intersections. In 2001, Defend Life organized a successful "Face the Truth" tour of Maryland. It began in Cumberland on Tuesday, August 7 and ended in Ocean City on Saturday, August 11. Thousands of our fellow citizens saw the ugly, evil reality of abortion for the first time. Some passersby jeered us, but, praise God, many cheered us! Some persons even stopped to join us or to give us money. Thousands of pieces of pro-life literature were distributed. Andrea Hussle, a recent graduate of Franciscan University was hired and paid to successfully organize the August 2001 tour. An extremely successful Pittsburgh "Face the Truth" tour held in April of 2002 was a direct result of this tour. For more information about Tour visit our Upcoming Events page.
Where does Defend Life go from here? Besides continuing what we presently do, Defend Life wants to establish Life Corps. Initially Life Corps would consist of two actively pro-life recent college graduates, one male and one female, who would be full time pro-life missionaries working on and around local high school and college campuses. Equipped with cell phones, laptop computers, lots of pro-life literature, and lots of pro-life contacts in the community, their job would be to spread the Culture of Life on local campuses by starting, and nurturing new pro-life groups, and reinvigorating existing pro-life groups.
As Scott Klusendorf has said, "We are losing the idea war at our schools and campuses." With your help, the Life Corps established here in Maryland would begin to counteract the problem. To implement the Life Corps, we must raise an additional $50,000 annually. If you are a recent college graduate who was actively involved in pro-life on your campus and want to work full time in the pro-life movement, please call Jack Ames at 410-337-3721 or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.O. Box 5427
Baltimore, Maryland 21285
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