This past month has been filled with life-changing and learning experiences for me as a acted as coordinator for Religious Freedom Walk 2012.
It was, by far, worth every effort, every sacrifice, every challenge and struggle, and every moment of time that I had to give, for nothing can replace the tremendous beauty and blessing that was bestowed upon me by taking part in this pilgrimage for God and country.
Throughout the 8 days of walking, where pilgrims, who began in the small number of 3 and grew to almost 100 at the end, I witnessed our God doing amazing things.
One that has most deeply engrained itself in my heart involves a Jewish woman, who is now, thankfully, my friend. I received an email from this woman, sharing that while she is not Catholic, she wanted, very much to unite herself in solidarity to the cause of religious freedom for all, and was interested in knowing how she could help the pilgrims along their journey, and even walk with them if that were possible. (She ended up doing both!)
I was delighted to receive a phone call from this new person in my life, late one night. We talked until almost midnight. As “small worlds” would have it, we came to learn that not only did we grow up in neighborhoods which bordered each other, but my eldest brother was a high school teacher of her siblings! (I told you it was a small world!)
I was instantly fascinated by my new friend’s wit, charm, intelligence, and background. She spoke, at length, of how she used to be radically feminist (thanks, in great part, she said, to the university she had attended which was filled with far-leftist professors, curriculum, and students). “It took me almost 15 years to get that feminist poison out of my system” she told me. She went on to say that she used to “proudly” stand in front of abortuaries like Planned Parenthood, and shout vulgarities at Catholics and protestant Christians. “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries” was a favorite chant of hers “back in the day”.
Fast forward, if you will, to the final day of RFW 2012. As on the other eight days of this magnificent endeavor, hundreds of emails, news stories, and photos were sent to me in order that I might sort them and create articles and slideshows for the blog which has been set up to follow the pilgrims. (This Jewish woman not only had joined the pilgrims on the walk but attended Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary with us!)
One photo immediately caught my eye. It was a moving snapshot of priests and pilgrims kneeling on the scorching, hard concrete, praying. Across the street, visible in the picture, were two of the pilgrims, standing side-by-side, in front of a Planned Parenthood building in Baltimore. One of the two was my new friend.
She, who had screamed insults and expletives at pro-lifers so long ago, now stood among her brothers and sisters in the cause of religious freedom, brothers and sisters who are of a different faith than her own; and yet, united, in spirit, for God and country and life!
The posters and images on the windows of PP made my blood run cold. Enlarged photo after photo of smiling babies and young, beaming mothers, dupe the public into thinking that there was “good” to be found for “families” beyond the entrance doors. This place, where evil is committed and babies are mercilessly slaughtered, covers its storefront with images of healthy, jolly, beautiful babies and mothers.
I immediately contacted my new Jewish friend and told her about the photo that had her in it. She could barely contain her overwhelming joy at this great blessing God had given to her. She had been given (and it was now documented by photo) a chance to amend her life. She, who had been so against Christians, so against religion, and so against moral convictions and teachings that stand for justice and freedom for all; and protection for life in all its stages, could now look at a photo of herself, returning to a place much like the others where she had spewed such venom…and have peace in her heart; knowing that this time she stood on the other side of the fence.
It reminded me of Jesus, asking Peter, three times, “Do you love me?” so that he might be amended of his thrice-denial of his Lord.
I was overjoyed that God had given this same blessing to a woman who has worked so hard to turn away from the Culture of Death and use her voice and her life to witness for good instead of darkness. By God’s grace, she has amended her life.
I am thankful that He allowed me to witness and share in this beautiful gift.
Copyright 2012 Judy Dudich