Weekend 4 Life highlights mothers' stories of courage

QUINCY -- The Weekend 4 Life took place April 13-14 in Quincy, with a Mass at Sacred Heart Church and a prayerful celebration at the Quincy Marriott, honoring the courage of mothers facing the most difficult circumstances during pregnancy and parenthood.

This annual pro-life event is sponsored by the Flatley Foundation and organized by the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth and the Men of Divine Mercy Prayer Group. It typically includes eucharistic adoration, praise music, and guest speakers sharing their testimonies or highlighting different pro-life topics. Representatives from local pro-life organizations come to distribute information about their resources.

The two-night event began on April 13 with a "Mass 4 Life" celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley at Sacred Heart Church. After the Mass, Angletta Georges, a former resident of Friends of the Unborn maternity shelter, shared her testimony.

Georges was born and raised in Haiti. Her life changed in 2015 when she became pregnant through rape and decided to go to the U.S. in the hope of a better life for her child. She met Mother Olga Yaqob and the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth through their work with Friends of the Unborn. With their help, she found a pro bono lawyer to help with her documentation, and when her son was born, she was able to baptize him in accordance with her Catholic faith.

"Mother Olga stayed with me, and the sisters were always there to support me. Meeting my son's godparents and having my son be baptized was a new beginning for me," Georges said.

She said she hoped that her story would give strength and hope to other single mothers, "especially ones that get pregnant through (a) difficult situation."

The second evening, called Youth 4 Life, was held at the Quincy Marriott. Mother Olga helped to emcee the event, and music was provided by Brandon Fitts and Friends. Students from the Respect Life Club at Montrose School led the rosary during Eucharistic adoration.

The featured speaker was Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America (SFLA). Hawkins has spent over 16 years building a network of more than 1,400 student-led pro-life groups throughout the U.S.

In her talk, Hawkins said that she launched Students for Life "as a post-Roe organization, knowing that the moment Roe was reversed, our movement would need a trained army spread out in all 50 states leading the charge."

She also talked about the dangers of chemical abortion pills, which have been a focus of much recent news in the courts. More than half of all abortions are carried out using this method, which can harm both the women who take them, and the environment taking in chemically tainted blood and tissue.

"Even if you're pro-choice, chemical abortion pills should concern you," Hawkins said.

She challenged everyone in the audience to use a technique from sports psychology and envision a future without abortion.

"Winners always envision the win. We will not see an America where abortion is abolished, where every human being has rights, until we in our mind's eye can see it, until we begin to work towards that," she said.

Hawkins also emphasized the necessity of speaking the truth about abortion and sharing resources for pregnant women. SFLA and Heartbeat International made a website, StandingWithYou.Org, that will show women anywhere in the U.S. where they can find the closest sources of nonviolent healthcare and assistance. Students can go to PostRoeGeneration.com to learn about advocacy and start their own pro-life groups.

"You have to be the ones to lead the way until we reach that final destination of equal rights for all human beings," Hawkins said.

The last speaker was Arryn Vogan, a young wife and mother of four.

Vogan, who gave her life to Christ as a child, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was pregnant with her fourth son. Her doctors advised her to have an abortion since the best course of treatment was not safe during pregnancy and could cause miscarriage or birth defects.

"I never imagined that I would be in this position, an unwanted pregnancy with the option to terminate the pregnancy before me. Now let me clarify: I absolutely wanted this baby; I just didn't want to be pregnant at this time. It was truly awful," Vogan said.

But she remembered the story of Esther, who risked her life in order to advocate for her people when they were in danger. She thought of Esther's words, "If I perish, I perish."

"I would say yes to my baby, even if it meant the end of my life," Vogan said.

Despite pushback from her doctors, she began a course of treatment that would be harsher on her body but would not impact the fetus.

"This baby deserved a chance, and I was the voice for my baby when it had none. I was putting my trust in the Lord and trying to trust in the same way that Esther did that God would protect my little one," Vogan said.

Her son, Asa Lewis, was delivered by C-section in January 2019. He sometimes came with Vogan when she went to the hospital for chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and his presence brought joy and smiles to other cancer patients.

"God has already been working in big ways in Asa's little life, and he doesn't even know it yet," Vogan said.

Although she beat breast cancer, in 2021, it was discovered that she now has cancer in her brain. She is still undergoing treatment.

"It's a lot, I know. It feels heavy and uncertain, and yet I still believe that God is good," she said.

After Vogan shared her story, her four sons joined her on the stage.

Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch spoke at the conclusion of Youth 4 Life. He said he had been reflecting on the lyrics of the hymn "Here I Am, Lord." Although it is a popular song for funerals, he pointed out, it is actually a call for the living to be "that light in the world."

"May we continue to be the light and the voices for the voiceless," Mayor Koch said.