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Those attending Nampa Respect Life event learn importance of accompaniment, empathy

The following story appeared in the April 28 Idaho Catholic Register.

Cara Morales, Lori Chaplin and Father Justin Brady (ICR photo/Michelle Wonacott)

By Emily Woodham

Staff Writer

Lori Chaplin was scared to death when she found out she was pregnant with her first child. Her boyfriend of 16 months left her the day before she learned she was pregnant. “I was deathly afraid to tell my parents because they were devoted Catholics,” said Chaplin, president of Respect Life at St. Paul’s Parish in Nampa.

She had just started a career at the Art Institute of Minneapolis and was working a second job as a waitress. She felt alone, afraid and ashamed, but she did not want an abortion. Not knowing where else to turn, she went to Birthright for help.

“I knew I could go to them because they advertised so well,” she said. Birthright in Minneapolis helped her with all her needs, including finding a place for her to live when she could no longer afford her rent. She also found the courage to tell her parents.

The birth of her daughter brought Chaplin – and her parents – tremendous joy. “I still marvel today at how God will bless someone, even though she may not be doing God’s will,” she said.

After her daughter was born, Chaplin lived with her parents for five years, which was a time of healing in their relationship.

Chaplin eventually married and had four more children. Her first born is now 28 and is pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame.

“When a woman is facing an unplanned pregnancy, her best friend is the crisis pregnancy center,” she said. Her gratitude for the help she was given and her passion to help women in need with their pregnancies motivated her to found Treasure Valley Billboards for Life, which raises funds for billboards that spread the word about pregnancy resource centers.

In support of the billboard ministry and other prolife work, St. Paul’s Respect Life hosted a dinner on April 21 at Marist Hall in Nampa. About 140 attended the sold-out event.

Cara Morales, a licensed marriage and family therapist and former high school theology teacher, gave a talk entitled, “Live Pro-life.”

Living pro-life, she said, is based on knowing why one is pro-life, which is “to connect with your own dignity and to honor the dignity of those around you.” Also, a person is pro-life based on his or her personal experiences and beliefs about human value and dignity.

People need to know why they are pro-life and live in a consistent pro-life manner in all areas of their lives, Morales said. Prolife believers need to remember that even those who disagree with them have dignity and a reason for their beliefs. “If we can live this out – that each person has unique dignity – I think it would revolutionize our world.”

Because pro-life topics are “potentially messy conversations,” it’s important for advocates to combine a “heart” (pastoral) response with their “head” response, which may be based on theology or apologetics. A way of combining these responses is through what Pope Francis calls “accompaniment,” she said.

“How do we accompany people on their journey?” Morales said. “Pope Francis says, ‘The Church will have to initiate everyone — priests, religious and laity — into this art of accompaniment, which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other.’ ”

A practical way to accompany a person is through listening and connecting with others, she said. “Our nervous systems are designed to be co-regulatory. That means that if I am upset, one of the ways that I can calm down is to be in the presence of someone who is calm,” she said. When people are in the presence of one who is calm, their brains release oxytocin, a hormone that makes a person feel safe, she said.

Difficult or painful conversations requires empathy, she said. “In empathy, I am trying to understand your experience, your situation. I want to understand where you are coming from and what’s going on in you.”

The Sisters of Life, a Religious Order whose charism is to help woman in crisis pregnancies, share these responses that can help bring empathy in a difficult conversation:

“I don’t know what to say, but I’m glad you told me.”

“Tell me more.”

“Do you want my advice or do you want me to just listen?”

Practicing empathy needs to begin at home, Morales said. Her husband’s parents became pregnant with him when they were seniors in high school. Because of the loving persistence of her husband’s grandmother, his parents decided not to abort him.

“Mother Teresa said, ‘If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.’ How are you loving your spouse and your kids? Consider the ripple effect of those conversations, even if they’re hard, with our kids and our kids’ friends.” We can’t comprehend the impact of our home life on the world, she said.

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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