Thursday, February 2, 2012

March for Life 2012 An Amazing, Whirlwind Weekend

I was honored to have a busy four day whirlwind of a weekend Jan 20-23. Gabbi and I took Amtrak from New London to Washington DC with our friend Tracy Medling who also authored a book called "The Power of Choices" a powerful testimony about her abortion and healing. We were staying at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill so we could run a booth downstairs at the March for Life vendors area to sell our books. It was so exciting arriving in Union Station toting so many books we had to be assisted by a redcap in a golf cart!
Soon Gabbi and I were unpacked and off to the Kennedy Institute for a reception for the speakers of our First Annual Conference on Poor Prenatal Diagnoses and Therapeutic Interventions. I was honored to serve the lasagna and join Dr Byron Calhoun, Dr John Bruchalski and Dr Alberto Costa for dinner. We discussed the new study which states that abortion is safer than giving birth, and how its flawed. I was able to meet Mary Kellett, Nancy Mayer Whittington, Monica Rafie,  and members of the Kennedy Institute which is a center for the developmentally disabled of all ages.
Early on Saturday morning we were at the Family Research Council for the Conference which you can view in its entirety, here.

It was an incomparable learning experience, and even though I'm not a doctor, I was able to follow Dr Byron Calhoun as he described life saving surgeries for anomalies previously called "fatal" and learned that there are so many advances to save unborn babies, we don't have to lose hope just because a child has a poor prenatal diagnosis. I heard stirring testimony from former abortionist turned pro-life obstetrician and director of the Tepeyac Family Center Dr John Bruchalski. His stories of couples who gave birth to their children who, though only living a few moments, bore witness to the beauty and dignity of every human life was powerful. Dr Alberto Costa shared his stunning research findings using Alzheimer's drug Memantine to mitigate the cognitive delays and early onset of Alzheimer's in those with Down syndrome gave tremendous hope to this mother of a daughter with Down syndrome and proved that the Alzheimer's community and Down syndrome community have a lot to teach one another. Dr Laura Toso of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation shared how her career as a physician was inspired by her role model, French geneticist, Dr Jerome Lejeune. Dr David Prentice clarified the confusion between embryonic and adult stem cells and shared information about the 73 treatments which come from adult stem cells, many of which are life saving. No cures have come from embryonic cells at this time. I was inspired by the testimonies of Samuel Armas the baby whose little arm reached out of his mother's womb during a Spina Bifida operation and traveled around the world and Kristal Dahlegher a law student with a disability who testified that she is "God's Unmistaken Creation". Kristen Hawkins shared about her work with Medical Students for Life, two of whom, Robert Weir and Dominique Monlezun presented papers on their research,  and Jeanne Monahan gave a talk entitled, "Challenging the Perception of Perfection and Human Nature. Filmmakers Jordan and Daniel Allott shared a preview of their film. "Flashes of Color: Disability in the Age of Perfection". Which you can view here;

Soon it was my turn to share about my work with KIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome) in a panel discussion with Melinda Delahoyde of CareNet, Chris Belll of Good Counsel Homes, Mary Kellett of Pre-natal Partners for Life and Nancy Mayer Whittington of Isaiah's Promise all peer ministries who help mothers who are expecting babies with special needs. It was a time of learning and inspiration which I hope many others will share by viewing this recording.
Gabbi, Leticia and Jeni Stepanek

Leticia signing books at the Basilica  Bookstore

Leticia speaking about KIDS at Family Resource Council
Dr Karen Summar, Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Leticia 

Later that evening, Gabbi and I attended the fundraising dinner for St Joseph House, a respite care home run by Cubby and Dan Lahood of Silver Spring, MD. We had a table right up front and enjoyed the Singing Seminarians and the Faculty Singers from The Heights. We saw a video about Cubby and Dan's amazing apostolate, inspired by the death of their son Francis, a multiply handicapped infant who died minutes after birth, where they care for several developmentally disabled people to give their parents a break. Cubby and Dan bring the people of St Joseph's House to Mass, enjoy splashing in the pool and welcome them to their family table; in fact they and their three children integrate those they care for into every aspect of their lives, and treat them with such tender love I was reminded of a documentary I saw about Blessed Mother Teresa and her loving touch with the disabled. No wonder 300 people had gathered to raise funds for St Joseph House, it is a light to all who encounter it. Nancy Mayer Whittington, who herself lost a daughter soon after birth,  works with the Lahoods on Isaiah's Promise, an apostolate for parents of babies with poor pre-natal diagnoses.
On Sunday the Allott brothers and I discussed their plans to finish "Flashes of Color" and attended the Pro-life Leadership Mass with Cardinal DiNardo presiding. He spoke powerfully about the Obama Administration's HHS mandate that Catholic institutions must pay for contraception. He compared the USA to Ninevah in the Old Testament which was being called to repent by the prophet Jonah. At the reception Gabbi and I were honored to meet Jeni StepanekStepanek and author of the book, "Messenger" a biography of her famous son, best selling poet and spokesman for world peace, Mattie Stepanek. Jeni is a warm and engaging person and I am honored to be reviewing her book shortly.
We met USCCB Pro-life luminaries Richard Dorflinger and Deirdre McQuade, and thanks to our friend Valerie Guilloux of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation USA were able to give EWTN "The World Over" host Raymond Arroyo a copy of "A Special Mother is Born".
Then we rushed to the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception where I signed my book next to EWTN Show Host Brother Leo, and Bella Producer Jason Jones. Jason was leading a group in support of Rick Santorum for president in the March for Life and  I gave him a Santorum banner to lead their group. Then Gabbi and I attended a reception for Legalworks Apostolate at Catholic University Law School given for Catholic Broadcasters. I signed books for members which included Michael Hichborn of American Life League and EWTN show host Teresa Tomeo. We met our friends the Franciscans of the Immaculate who filmed this interview of me about my book for their video blog

KIDS members assemble to march for life
Later on the Metro platform at Catholic University we were serenaded by seminarians from Orlando who sang "Panis Angelicus". If only Washington were this Catholic all year!

On Monday at 7:20 I was on the SonRise Morning Show with Brian Patrick sharing my plans for a gathering of KIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome) at 11AM. Gabbi and I attended part of Pro-life Con at Family Research Council watching Dr Gerard Nadal discuss his powerful combination of pro-life apologetics and biology in his writing on his wildly popular blog Coming Home. I met Michael Clancy the photographer who took Samuel Arma's photo and has traveled the world ever since testifying to the dignity of all human life. I was delighted to finally meet Josh Mercer the director of  the wonderful Catholic Vote.
Gabbi and Leticia finish the March for Life at the Capitol
We arrived at the Headquarters of National Right to Life Committee to greet our biggest group of marchers ever, including members of the International Order of the Alhambra,   three Sisters of Charity of our Lady, Mother of the Church, with students from The Academy of the Holy Family, members of Youth with a Mission and our guests of honor Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Dr Karen Summar a developmental pediatrician. Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers shared what she is doing in Congress.  They are pursuing funding the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act, and have introduced two bills, the Centers of Excellence in Down Syndrome Translational Research Act and the Down Syndrome Research Resources Act.  She spoke about how she is connecting with the Alzheimer's research community and how important it was to coordinate research for both Down syndrome and Alzheimer's (because of their close relationship genetically).  She also spoke of the status of the ABLE Act.
We presented Cathy with a beautiful, patriotic hook rug wall hanging with the message "God Bless America," which was made by one of our members, 18-year-old Anna Sheppard who has Down syndrome.
Soon it was time to march for life and KIDS members assembled outdoors for our annual photo since we were too numerous to take a photo indoors. We were greeted by freezing rain but remained steadfast marching up Capitol Hill to the Supreme Court.
Gabbi and I said goodbye to our friends and headed to the Hyatt where my books were selling well. At last the Convention closed and we had a last minute visit to the Sisters of Life stunning pro-life multi media exhibition "You and Me" at the John Paul II Cultural Center.
It was an amazing, evocative exhibit which was the perfect ending to the most amazing weekend of my career! God has granted me so many amazing opportunities to share the joy our special children bring into our lives!
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