Fledgling Mattapoisett Respect Life group launches
successful ecumenical effort to support Birthright

By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor

MATTAPOISETT, Mass. — It all started with a small announcement in a parish bulletin this past winter, and it led to a donation of nearly $1,500 and a plethora of much-needed clothing for newborns and new moms in desperate need of assistance, through Birthright of New Bedford, Inc.

And it led to the formation of an ecumencial friendship among three Catholic parishes and two Protestant congregations.

Early this year Alice Proia, a parishioner of St. Anthony’s Parish in Mattapoisett, asked her fellow parishioners to join her in starting up a parish Respect Life group. Feeling a “strong calling” to join, Donna Fortin connected with Proia and the two became friends and co-directors of the fledgling group that grew quite quickly.

“I read the announcement and called Alice up right away,” Fortin told The Anchor. “I felt the Lord was asking me to get involved in the Pro-Life movement.”

The group has a core membership of 16 individuals, including pastor Father John Ozug.

“We didn’t want to pressure people to have to come to regurlar meetings, but we did ask people to pray for the movement, for the unborn and for their mothers,” added Fortin. “Our goal was to educate people about being Pro-Life, and what the pro-choice agenda does. Everyone who joined the group was ready to do whatever they could.”

Fortin had a friend, Ann Tremblay, who is director and president of Birthright of New Bedford, Inc. Fortin contacted Tremblay and learned the non-profit agency that provides love and support to women facing unplanned pregancies, was in great need of funds and supplies.

“Birthright is a wonderful organization that provides guidance for the women to find medical care, housing solutions, community services, day care and legal advice,” said Fortin. “Ann told me the agency was in dire need of financial support and layettes given to the mothers Birthright follows after they give birth.

“The St. Anthony’s group decided to raise money by asking for donations for roses after five Masses on one weekend at St. Anthony’s Parish and at St. Rita’s Parish in Marion.”

The group ordered the red and white flowers and when everything was in place, the flowers were offered to the parishioners, who responded far beyond the group’s expectations.

“We sold each rose for $2 and when all was finished we netted $1,384. We were blown away. People were coming up giving us $10, $20, $30 and one man bougth a rose for $40. People gave from the heart, knowing what an important agency we were supporting.”

Fortin then contacted Nancy Machado at St. Joseph’s Parish in neighboring Fairhaven. “I knew the parish had a Prayer Shawl Ministry and asked if they would consider knitting blankets and hats for the layettes. The response was outstanding again. The women asked what colors and sizes we wanted. I told them to do as they pleased.

“The group has some homebound members as well and they happily took part and in the end, the colors and the items blended seemlessly. It was all so beautiful.”

Fortin, Proia and the group weren’t finished there. They contacted Rev. Jeanne O’Leary at the New Life Christian Fellowship in Fairhaven for assistance. “I’ve known Jeanne for years,” Fortin told The Anchor. “The congregation there was also eager to help and collected many beautiful items.”

Next up on the agenda was to contact Pastor Dennis Barrett from Victory Baptist Church, also in Fairhaven. “Dennis was eager to learn more about Birthright, and especially what happens to the women after they give birth,” explained Fortin. “I put him in contact with Ann Tremblay; that way she can advise him how he and his congregation can best help. Both congregations had great interest in seeking volunteer opportunities.”

With its inaugual successful venture, the St. Anthony’s Respect Life group is far from finished. It will continue to meet, educate and find ways to help all God’s people whose lives are in peril, from the elderly to the unborn.

“There has been much to reflect upon during this time,” Fortin said. “People have come together to support the children of God, not knowing them personally yet giving from their heart because of their Pro-Life beliefs, that everyone deserves the right to life.

“That is exactly what our Respect Life committee stands for, and why I have consecrated our ministry to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

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