This story appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Instaurare. Subscribe today!
Alumnae on the Front Lines in the Battle against the Tragedy of Abortion.
Philadelphia—the city of brotherly love. It’s the city made famous by the movie Rocky—a home of underdogs, of the undying belief that one person can overcome the odds and make a difference. And it’s the perfect place for two alumni fighting for the pro-life cause—one baby at a time—in the inner city. Despite the swell of public opinion against them, they are showing the city that unborn lives matter and that, in the words of Christendom College founder Dr. Warren H. Carroll, “one man can make a difference.”
Alumna Edel Finnegan has been on this path since graduating from the college in 1991. She volunteered at a pregnancy care center in Northern Virginia for a time after graduation, and soon after became the director of A Woman’s Choice Center in Falls Church, Va. She fought for life in one of the biggest abortion locations in the country before returning to Philadelphia to become the executive director of the Pro Life Union in 2006, taking over for John Stanton — the father of two other Christendom College alumni and a hero in the pro-life movement.
In her position, Finnegan has been able to make waves for the women of the city, opening up a 24-hour help line for pregnant mothers, and making more options available for them in the city as well. One of the more tangible expressions is the Guiding Star Ministries maternity home, which houses mothers and their children and supports them as they make the choice for life.
When asked why she is so committed to the pro-life movement, Finnegan responded that the destruction of human life through abortion is a great tragedy, and one that must be ended if the true meaning of human dignity is to return to our culture.
“Through the generosity of so many people, who support both the Pro-Life Union and Guiding Star, I’ve been able to be involved full time in efforts to defend the sanctity of life,” says Finnegan. “The struggle to restore the sanctity of life so that we can once again live in gratitude for the gift of life, aware of our dignity as children of God, is very much a spiritual battle. It is important to fight for laws that will once again protect the right to life of the unborn, and be bold in working to change minds and transform hearts. The impact that is made might never be known in this world, but, if it pleases God, in the next we will see beautifully the lives and souls saved.”
Her desire to become involved in such a heart-wrenching yet incredible mission was strengthened during her time at Christendom, where the classes, the professors, and the spiritual life prepared her to fight for life in some of the nation’s darkest places.
“I laugh at how often the philosophy and moral theology classes I struggled with at school have helped in this work,” says Finnegan. “I’ve referred back to Mr. O’Herron’s doctrine class more times than I can count, and I’m so very grateful for the gift of faith, which was nurtured by my parents and grew at Christendom.”
While Finnegan is doing her part to make the alternatives possible, alumna Faith Leopold is fighting the same battle inside one of those alternatives: the Philadelphia Women’s Center, which was originally funded by Finnegan’s Pro-Life Union. A 2014 graduate, she was an avid supporter of the pro-life cause during college, and served as a missionary in Brazil immediately after graduation. Upon returning to the States, she joined the Philadelphia Women’s Center as a counselor, helping to give women an alternative to abortion at the most personal level possible.
“We are able to bring them hope by helping our clients visualize a future that has a set plan, wherein their obstacles have been overcome through planning and preparation,” says Leopold. “We get to know our clients and figure out the obstacles that are pressuring them to abort, and advocate for them to eliminate these obstacles. We ask our clients questions about their beliefs and give them time to process and explore the moral ramifications of the thoughts they are already thinking. The most important aspect is speaking in a kind, professional tone and asking questions in a neutral and inquisitive way. We always treat our clients with love, respect, and mercy, and try our best to empathize with where they are coming from. Most importantly, we pray throughout the day.”
It is important to fight for laws that will once again protect the right to life of the unborn, and be bold in working to change minds and transform hearts. The impact that is made might never be known in this world, but, it if pleases God, in the next we will see beautifully the lives and souls saved.”
The daily experience can be an incredibly emotional one, but Leopold’s education at Christendom helped give her a foundation that makes everything easier, particularly thanks to her studies in philosophy.
“Christendom’s incredible philosophy program definitely makes my job a lot easier,” she says. “Most of my counseling consists in helping my clients come to basic logical conclusions, such as ‘I really want to understand where you are coming from with your beliefs. You had said that you feel this might be murder, and you said that you usually feel murder is wrong. How do you feel doing something that you personally feel is wrong?’ It works well. In 2015, The Legacy of Life Foundation, of which our center is a part of, set our new record, with 386 women, who were actively seeking abortion, choosing life.”
As Leopold moves forward in her life, she plans on moving from counseling into fundraising, so she can continue to support organizations such as the Philadelphia Women’s Center, and help others come to fruition, allowing the pro-life movement to flourish in Philadelphia and other cities in the future.
Across the nation, the majority of abortions occur in major U.S. cities. In the case of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is in one of the four top counties in the state where abortions occur. This city needs help, and Finnegan and Leopold are providing that help. They may be the underdogs in this ongoing fight, but with their determination, they have the chance to truly save people, and make this world a better place as a result.