An Exclusive Interview with Fr. Tom Euteneuer, New President of HLI

His Alone

TA: Do you have any advice to offer pro-life leaders or pro-lifers at the grassroots?

Fr. Tom: Religion of all sorts motivates people to get into the pro-life movement, because people realize that this is a spiritual battle and they are trying to counter it through many means. But I think most people in the pro-life movement are religious in one form or another. Even if not, they’re motivated by high ideals to put themselves on the side of life. So, a piece of advice I would give anybody in the pro-life movement is to put themselves much more consciously in contact with God and with prayer. The Bishop who ordained me is now the Bishop of Brooklyn. His name is Thomas Daily, and Bishop Daily is a very strong pro-life bishop. He goes and prays in front of abortion clinics once a month, and takes a lot of initiatives against abortion in his diocese. But he said frequently when he was in my dioceses that abortion is such a great evil and it is so powerful and so extensive that only the divine power of God will actually put an end to it —

TA: — Unlike the sudden dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Fr. Tom: — Yes, yes, exactly right! Everybody has to do something. It’s not a formula for sitting back and letting God do it. We have to do it.

TA: But once our efforts of prayer and commitment reach a critical mass we would hope and expect that God would take them from there.

Fr. Tom: Absolutely. If we’re depending on ourselves alone, our efforts can accomplish nothing. So we don’t hope in ourselves and we’re not hopeful for what we can do — we are hopeful in God. It is God who sends us out to do the work. The initiative and the grace to do it are His alone.

TA: Do you have any other comments Father?

Fr. Tom: Let me just say thank you for what you’re doing, Tom. I really appreciate that Catholic Exchange is networking with us and helping us get our message out to a new audience. I hope that somewhere along the line we can help you out, too.

TA: It’s our pleasure, Father. Many of us have been been supporters and contributors to HLI for a long time and were discouraged by the difficulties you experienced during the past couple of years. I'm personally delighted that HLI is back on track, and that a Notre Dame '84 man is at the helm. How much better than that can you get?

Fr. Tom: I feel a bit overwhelmed by it, but the Lord wants me here, so I’m just going to do my best for as long as he wants me here, and let Him take care of the rest.

TA: Well, we’ll be praying for you, Father, and all of your associates as well.

Fr. Tom: Excellent. Thank you so much and may God bless you for what you are doing in service of His Church and the Catholic people.

(Tom Allen is Editor-in-Chief of Catholic Exchange and, like Fr. Tom Euteneuer, a 1984 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. You may visit HLI's website by clicking here, and email Fr. Tom at

Planting Seeds

Tom Allen: Father, could you tell us the trajectory of your faith experience from our time together at Notre Dame, on forward into the priesthood, and eventually into HLI?

Fr. Tom: When I was fourteen a priest in my parish in Florida asked me to think about becoming a priest. He planted the seed of a vocation in my heart and from that point on I believed that God had blessed me with a discernment about a vocation and continued to help me overcome obstacles to getting there. I was not in the Seminary when I went to Notre Dame but I had the intentions of going into the Seminary after I was done with college. One can’t pass up an opportunity like Notre Dame easily, so I jumped at the chance to go there. I studied philosophy with the intention of using that degree as a basis for my theological degree later on in the Seminary. After college I applied to a seminary in Florida and was accepted. I became a seminarian in the fall of 1984 and was four years there before being ordained a priest. Following ordination I went back to the seminary for one more year to finish my masters degree, and from there I’ve been working in parishes ever since. I’ve been assistant in several parishes in the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, and a pastor of one for the past four years.

TA: What did you receive your Masters in?

Fr. Tom: My master’s degree was in Biblical Theology from the Gregorian University in Rome.

TA: How long have you been President of HLI?

Fr. Tom: Since December 15th of last year.

TA: How did you first become involved with HLI, and what were the circumstances surrounding your appointment as President?

Fr. Tom: I had heard about HLI and kept in touch with their activities through their newsletters for many many years. So, I wasn’t unfamiliar with what the organization was all about. The attractiveness of HLI for me, and the reason I followed the goings on there, was I thought it was a totally Catholic institution that recognized the connection between birth control and abortion, and I felt it preached the true doctrine of the church about these issues and wasn’t afraid to preach that doctrine out in the public and to do it with vigor. And of course I admired Fr. Marx, our founder, very much because he traveled around the world and really planted the seeds of the pro-life movement in so many different societies. So, I was always very enamored of HLI but never had an opportunity to attend a conference or come up and see what they were all about. In August, 2000, when Fr. Welch resigned, I happened to be on vacation down in Miami, and on the last day of my vacation I went over to HLI's Miami office, not knowing that Fr. Welch had resigned. I met the director of the office, Magaly Llaguno, who informed me of the resignation and asked me to send her a resume because I was the kind of pro-life priest they were looking for to take over.

TA: Were the directors of the various offices tasked with soliciting résumé’s from pro-life priests, or were you just Providentially identified as a good candidate?

Fr. Tom: No, it was purely the Grace of God, There was a search committee set up to look for a new President, and it was the search committee’s job to solicit resumes. Magaly happened to know about it and decided she could have some input in that process. She simply suggested my name and sent my resume to the committee, and after that, I had a series of interviews with Board members on the search committee. I was chosen at an informal meeting on December 7th, and officially elected at their December 15th Board meeting.

TA: Did [Notre Dame Law] Professor [Charles] Rice play a role in your election?

Fr. Tom: No, he didn’t, not directly, but he was instrumental in helping me to see that HLI was a possibility for my future. He was the one who had publicly called for HLI to set up a search committee to look for a pro-life priest to take over as President.

TA: Actually, he had called for that before Fr. Welch’s resignation.

Fr. Tom: Yes, that was in January of 2000.

TA: Could you describe how that all came about? Touch on the difficult times that HLI experienced and how it happened that Fr. Welch finally transitioned out of the organization.

Fr. Tom: In 1998, the HLI Board of Directors set up a transition committee to develop plans for the orderly transfer of organizational leadership and the operational functions of HLI, due to the fact that Fr. Marx was in his late 70s and talking about retirement. This was a logical and responsible step, and one that many corporations and non-profit organizations have had to address. In fact, HLI leaders reviewed the succession plan of Focus on the Family, which recognized and even published its views about the succession of its founder, Dr. James Dobson. But, not surprisingly, whether in a corporate setting or in an organization like HLI, it is not easy for a founder — particularly one with an entrepreneurial spirit and great achievements — to pass the baton to others to carry on the mission, and unfortunately, there was some friction. In the summer of 1999, Fr. Marx’s religious superior, Abbot Timothy Kelly, recalled Fr. Marx home to St. John’s Abbey, where he has resided ever since.

These events led to media coverage about controversy at HLI, with reports of charges and counter-charges. Since I was not on the scene during that period, I think it is best not to comment on any specifics, other than to say my own view is that probably no one involved is 100 percent right or 100 percent wrong. Sadly, however, the whole matter overshadowed HLI’s critical work on behalf of God’s most innocent ones. In coming to HLI, one of my priorities has been to try and bring peace and healing to the organization, to reach out to those disenfranchised by these events, and to help all parties realize that what we have in common — the fight for life, faith and family — is far more important than any particular matter where there may be disagreement. I firmly believe that pro-lifers should not be wasting any time fighting with one another when lives and souls are at stake. We must focus our energies on exposing and opposing the culture of death in all its forms if we truly hope to have a positive impact on our culture.

Challenging the Culture of Death

TA: How is Fr. Marx doing at present?

Fr. Tom: I’ve had one or two brief conversations with Father Marx since I came on board. I’ve read his books and listened to his tapes and am astounded at how clearly and how early on he recognized the contraception-abortion link, and how he was able to predict so many of the travesties which now confront our culture. I am honored to follow in his footsteps and have pledged to carry on his legacy. I believe he continues to have a lot to offer to HLI and its unique international mission that he himself initiated and nurtured for decades.

I am hoping Father Marx will have some involvement with HLI in the future. His insights and advice would be invaluable and his 50-year history in the movement is simply unparalleled. He is a living legend who understands like no other the problems facing the world today and how HLI is uniquely positioned to address them. Our HLI family around the world — staff, international branches, donors, volunteers — we love him dearly, and want to once again see him involved with his beloved HLI.

TA: How about Frs. Welch and Habiger?

Fr. Tom: Both of these priests are doing pastoral ministry with their respective religious orders. I understand that Fr. Welch is in New York working with his religious order, the Redemptorists, in a predominantly Hispanic parish in Spanish Harlem. He is fluent in Spanish after having spent a dozen years in a parish in Puerto Rico. Fr. Habiger, ironically, is studying Spanish right now, which would mean that his order, the Benedictines, plan to use him in some form of ministry to the Hispanic community in the future. It is not surprising that these priests would leave one ministry of “option for the poor” — that is, the defense of the innocent unborn — and go into another area of ministry to the poor, that of underclass Hispanics. This charism goes deeply into the hearts of all of us who are in the pro-life movement. I wish each of them well in their future ministries.

TA: Since this is a time of rebuilding and refocusing for HLI, please discuss the changes you are implementing and the direction you are endeavoring to take the organization.

Fr. Tom: The business world talks a lot about restructuring and that’s essentially what we’re going through right now. We need to re-conceive of what our place is in the pro-life movement and how we want to go about implementing our mission under new circumstances in these very difficult times. We are right now making a series of decisions about who does what best in our organization. We are hiring some new people and soliciting input from every aspect of HLI’s worldwide family to help us orient for the future. We are getting input about our mission and our core competencies — what we do best, what we should be doing, and what we shouldn’t be wasting our time doing. This is a period of a thorough re-evaluation, particularly of our mission — not to change it, but to improve it.

TA: What is HLI's mission, Father?

Fr. Tom: Our mission is to promote and defend the sanctity of Human Life and Family according to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world. Through prayer, service and education. It’s a very comprehensive mission statement isn’t it?

TA: Yes, but it touches all the important bases.

Fr. Tom: It does, and one of our difficulties is that because it is so comprehensive we can’t do everything we would like to do. Our resources are limited and our numbers are limited; we have fewer employees than we had in the past, and our energies are much more limited than we would like. We are trying to refocus and redefine the mission — or how we should be implementing that mission. When we finish that process we will have gathered opinions and ideas from every part of HLI’s family and will then try to fuse them into one comprehensive plan for moving HLI forward. We want to be a very strong force for the pro-life movement from here on out.

TA: Would you say that the mission boils down to challenging the culture of death?

Fr. Tom: It does, yes. But because the culture of death is such a huge, all-encompassing reality — it’s worldwide and all around us — we cannot possible challenge every aspect of it. So we’re trying to determine what we do best and how to challenge it in the most efficient and effective way.

TA: And what is your sense as to how that’s going to play out? What do you anticipate will be the specific focus?

Fr. Tom: First, we have to remain very faithful to the specific mission of our founder, which was to connect and preach the connection between abortion and birth control. Very few pro-life groups do that, and that is a specific gift that HLI offers to the pro-life movement. We have what we call the “total approach” to the pro-life issues, which means that we don’t ignore any aspect of the attacks on human life. We connect abortion and birth control, and so we're continually developing new ways to raise this consciousness in the minds and hearts of people throughout the world — not just Catholics but the general culture as well.

Strategy and Tactics

TA: What is your strategy for making that connection palatable to the average Catholic who is contracepting and does not recognize the connection in any way?

Fr. Tom: Well, first of all, it’s never going to be palatable, so we don’t have any illusions that this is a teaching that's ever going to be welcomed or popular. It never has been and never will be. The only thing we are going to do is just be faithful to it, because this is what it means to be truly Catholic. We take that seriously and intend to continue reminding people about it because many church leaders ignore it, and if the church itself is ignoring the issue, then somebody has to preach it! It’s not going to be popular and it’s not necessarily going to bring us a lot of donors or people who are happy that we’re preaching this doctrine. But we're going to preach it anyway. And we’re going to do it in ways that remind people of the essence of the Church’s teaching. Pope Paul VI did not write about this in Humanae Vitae because it was an issue marginal to our Catholic faith. This and other encyclicals were written about birth control, and this basic teaching of the Church has been reaffirmed in many ways in the modern era — especially by Pope John Paul II. Every time he goes out into the public arena he preaches on some aspect of the culture of death and the Church teaching related to it — abortion, contraception, birth control and all attacks on human life. So we must be faithful to that despite the fact that it’s never going to be popular.

We’re going to do it in a way that speaks to the modern world and modern mind. For example, we’re going to tell people that the contraceptive mentality leads to the abortive mentality. A person who would never consider supporting abortion, but who nevertheless considers practicing contraception, is the person who gives permission to other people to consider abortion. The use of contraception creates a climate wherein abortion is much more acceptable. If people wouldn’t accept contraception as a general rule, then abortion would be a lot less palatable to our culture. HLI has always reminded people of the intimate connection between the two mentalities. Secondly, we remind them that there is a very thin line between contraception and abortion, a fact that has been easy to miss. But we’re now seeing it more clearly in chemical forms of abortion like the morning-after pill. The morning-after pill is essentially chemical abortion, but it is promoted as contraception. The same holds true with RU-486 — it’s a chemical potion just like many contraceptive pills, but it is also an abortifacient (an abortion-causing substance). So HLI reminds our culture that the contraceptive mentality leads to more direct attacks on human life.

TA: What effect do you think the introduction of RU-486 will have on pro-life strategy and tactics? I mean this shifting of the practice of abortion out of public places like abortion clinics and into the privacy of women’s own homes.

Fr. Tom: Well, I believe that the abortion industry is very weak in its doctors; it is not recruiting doctors to come up the ranks and perform surgical abortions. Doctors themselves feel very vulnerable because most do not want to be known as abortionists. Even though they might, in their own minds, have no problem with doing abortions, they tend to not want it known that they do this. There is a terrible stigma on the practice of abortion and abortionists are routinely ostracized by the medical profession. And so the vulnerable point of the pro-abortion movement is always the doctors, and many people in the pro-life movement have realized that and are now focusing on doctors.

The reason I talk about the doctors in the context of RU-486 is because chemical abortions must also be administered by doctors, so even if chemical abortions are not done in abortion clinics, women still have to go to doctors' offices to get those abortions. For example, with the RU-486 regimen, you need at least three doctor visits to complete an RU-486 abortion. In my opinion, it’s a double-edged sword. They will be able to privatize abortions in a certain sense through RU-486 and other forms of chemical abortions they’re probably going to invent, but the doctors are still going to have to be the ones who administer them. Therefore, the pro-life movement is just going to start identifying these doctors and exposing them and taking initiatives against them, which has already starting happening.

Secondly, RU-486 and other chemical forms of contraception and abortion are injuring women and will do so increasingly as these drugs become more powerful. More and more women are going to get injured and I believe we’re going to see a whole new realm of lawsuits being brought against the abortion industry as a result of these injuries. You can bet that HLI is going to be telling people about how dangerous these drugs are to women, and hopefully some day people will wake up to that reality.

TA: Will HLI be making a special effort to lobby abortionists, perhaps evangelize them, or somehow bring pressure upon them to reconsider their “specialty”.

Fr. Tom: It’s very possible. I don’t have a specific plan in place just yet except for prayer, but it’s very possible, because when you can change the heart and mind of a doctor about abortion you can save a whole lot of babies. Prayer is, of course, the most powerful force for change that there is.

TA: Indeed. As you've probably heard, Priests for Life is now concentrating its efforts on elevating the public’s awareness of the gruesome reality of first term abortions through a graphic image and public education campaign. It seems to me that between your two organizations, two very promising strategies are being covered that could really propel the movement. Does HLI plan to work with other pro-life groups such as Priests for Life in order to to maximize each other's efforts?

Fr. Tom: Yes, undoubtedly. I think the mission is so large and the problems are so extensive that nobody can do it all. And we don’t want to reinvent the wheel if somebody else is covering one aspect of the pro-life mission better than we are. This regular collaboration with other groups is going to be very much a part of our future program. We need to work together with other organizations. I intend to have strong connections to other pro-life organizations so that we can strengthen our overall effort against the culture of death. Already we have started working with Life Decisions International promoting their boycott list, and Life Dynamics on a petition campaign to get George Bush to engage the nation in a public debate about abortion. And most of our branches around the world are working with Msgr. Reilly of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants to organize prayer vigils in front of the killing centers. There will be more of that kind of collaboration in the new HLI.

Holy Opposition

TA: Would you say there’s been sufficient cooperation between prolife forces in the past?

Fr. Tom: Yes and no. There has been some marvelous collaboration between different groups to form coalitions and work together against the culture of death. The American Family Association’s boycott of Kmart for their promotion of pornography, for example, was a massive national effort by pro-life, pro-family groups which had a fantastic impact. But I don’t think enough is being done. I certainly am not going to be fighting with any other pro-life groups in public, and if we have differences we’ll work them out. But I very much see where HLI is going to have strong connections with the efforts of other pro-life groups from here on out, there’s no question about it. We have a lot to offer other pro-life groups precisely because we take the total approach and also because we have an international dimension.

TA: What do you think of President Bush’s prolife policy so far?

Fr. Tom: Well, we’ve been pleasantly surprised I would say, but the jury is still out. It was wonderful to see him appointing John Ashcroft, a super pro-life attorney general, and wonderful to see him take the initiative right away to restore the Mexico City policy. If he did nothing other than these two things he would be remembered in history as a pro-life president. And I think that if he did nothing else, he at least would not likely place any obstacles in front of the pro-life movement. Pro-abortion forces would not be able to advance as easily as they did under the Clinton Administration. So these are things that have been very positive. However, it is still undetermined what kind of initiatives he is going to take in the future. We’re all kind of watching to see what he does on embryonic stem cell research, for example, and if he’s going to hold true on his commitment to stimulate an honest dialogue about abortion in the United States. But as I say, up to this point, his record is good.

TA: Are there some specific steps you’d like to see the administration take vis a vis pro-life policy.

Fr. Tom: Yeah, Mark Crutcher from Life Dynamics is urging President Bush to establish a blue ribbon commission to study the issue of abortion and to open up a national dialogue about the effects of abortion on women and society. We've joined with them to help get people to sign the petition and present it to President Bush. I think it’s a great thing because it can help facilitate what the president promised he would try to accomplish. Mark thinks that we should find out from professionals appointed to this blue ribbon commission what exactly abortion is all about. It’s a way of raising people’s consciousness about the reality of abortion. That reality is hidden from our eyes by a popular media that's highly protective of abortion, so we don’t really see what abortion is all about. But a blue ribbon commission would open up a lot of eyes to the truth of this scourge.

TA: Do you think there's any chance that the FDA will reverse the approval of the RU-486 regimen?

Fr. Tom: I think there’s a chance of it — I think there’s going to be a fight — but we all know that the regimen was pushed through the FDA in the last couple of months of the Clinton administration. It was done on a provision for emergency drugs, which are for extenuating circumstances. I really think that if they study it and see the manner in which it was approved, they should recognize that it was done illegitimately and overturn it. I hope they do. I think it’s possible with the current climate in Washington which is much more positive toward the pro-life perspective.

TA: You touched on HLI's international dimension earlier and the unique role that allows it to play in the pro-life movement. What specific contributions can HLI make in confronting the culture of death given in its international reach?

Fr. Tom: I’ve always thought of HLI as the holy opposition to another international organization called Planned Parenthood. I see our mission as parallel to that of Planned Parenthood, except HLI is the challenger. Planned Parenthood wants to promote the killing of children on the international scene and HLI wants to promote the salvation of children on the international scene. Planned Parenthood uses contraception and sex education to promote it’s agenda for killing babies, and HLI stands against those agendas and teaches people the truth about these things. Planned Parenthood has affiliates all throughout the world; HLI has affiliates all throughout the world. We’re in thirty-eight different countries and we work with other pro-life groups in coordinating projects in many more countries throughout the world. So I can see HLI as doing it’s best to counter the agenda of Planned Parenthood worldwide. That is one of the benefits of having an international organization. You can look at things globally, you can look at things comprehensively, and you can get international input and information that you wouldn’t normally get just operating here in the United States.

For example, at our international meeting in February we had a man from Tanzania complaining about the Marie Stopes abortion clinics in his country, and he was able to talk to a man from England who was also complaining about Marie Stopes. Since he was from England, where Marie Stopes began her evil campaign, he was able to fill our Tanzanian affiliate in on some of the dynamics that the Marie Stopes international organization uses to promote it’s agenda. Those two made a connection which was very valuable at that meeting, because they were both concerned about the same thing on an international level, and one had information that the other one wanted. So HLI has that to offer. We’re small, relatively speaking, and we don’t have the power that International Planned Parenthood has — we certainly don’t have the financial resources that IPPF has — but we have the heart and soul and sense of mission to counter their agenda, and I think our people do it fairly well.

Masterpiece of Evil

TA: Could you comment on what goes on between HLI and Planned Parenthood on a spiritual level? Is there a kind of spiritual warfare that plays out with these two organizations as major combatants?

Fr. Tom: The essence of abortion and the pro-abortion movement is a spiritual reality; that is, the devil wants nothing more than to kill innocent children, to have blood sacrifice, and to have the innocent ones offered up on the altar of some ideology like feminism or some slogan like “pro-choice.” He gets people into these organizations that promote his agenda, and he gets the killing industry institutionalized throughout the world. But at it’s very core it’s a spiritual reality. It’s the hatred of the devil for innocent human life, it’s the hatred of the devil for something holy which is human life. When we talk about the sanctity of human life we are speaking of a sacred reality. The devil hates that, because the unborn child is made in the image and likeness of God. The devil simply wants to destroy everything that God has made, and everything that God has made is beautiful and good. So whatever the devil can do to destroy the work of God, he will do.

Now abortion is a masterpiece of evil because not only does it destroy an innocent human life before that life has any chance of beginning, but it inflicts far more damage in doing so. First, the child is defenseless, the child is voiceless, and the child is sold away by his mother and by his father. He is denied and abandoned by the medical institution, by the legal institution, and by the government. This a masterpiece of evil. Not only that, but when the abortion is committed, a man commits a sin by renouncing his responsibility for the child that he has formed through sexual activity, and a women commits a sin because she gives herself over to an ideology and a murderous institution that kills her unborn child. And as a consequence of those evils, children die, women are injured, families are broken up, relationships are destroyed, and good people all around are tainted because they sit back and do nothing about it. Many people are sinning by omission simply by not doing anything about it and refusing to recognize the reality of what abortion is doing to their loved ones.

Not only that, but in order to have abortion the devil has had to convince people through institutions like Planned Parenthood that another sin — contraception — is good, that sex ed is good, thus creating a whole climate which makes abortion acceptable and legal. So abortion is really a demonic masterpiece, and unless people are countering it explicitly and putting their lives at the service of the sanctity of human life, the devil wins. He doesn’t, of course, win the ultimate victory, which belongs to Christ alone, but he certainly kills and maims a lot of people in the meantime. So it is essentially a spiritual battle, and I am convinced that it cannot be won by human means. This is why prayer initiatives will always be part and parcel of my vision for pro-life work.

TA: Should the pro-life side be intimidated by the vast financial power and international reach of Planned Parenthood and its partner organizations?

Fr. Tom: Yes and no. Certainly money brings a lot of power in a worldly sense. These people are so well funded it’s not even funny, and so just by the sheer numbers of dollars they get and the sheer coercive power that they have politically, yes, we should be very intimidated by that and also very realistic about it. One of our affiliates in Africa drives around to rural bush areas in a beat up van and shows chastity movies to the youth while the UN forces drive all over the country unobstructed in brand new Humvees to deliver condoms to kids. It is hard to compete with that.

But in the same respect, because worldly power is not more powerful than God’s power, we should always be very hopeful that we can do something to fight this great evil. We might not be able to fight it on all fronts — no one person is responsible for ending abortion in the U.S. or ending abortion throughout the world, and no one person is responsible for undoing the damage of the Planned Parenthood organization. However, God wants everybody to do something, so we should not be intimidated by the works of death. Rather, we should do something that is within our ability according to where we are and the environment we’re placed in to try and counter those works of death in whatever way we can. We have that responsibility as Catholics, every one of us.

TA: Father, I have heard that you are especially devoted to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Tell us what part this devotion plays in your pro-life work.

Fr. Tom: I was hoping you would ask! Not ironically, I learned of Our Lady of Guadalupe when I was a sophomore at Notre Dame. I attended a talk by a Vietnam vet who was saved by Our Lady miraculously on the battlefield, and he promised her that he would spend the rest of his life spreading devotion to Her. He came to talk about Her on December 12, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Since that time I knew that I could not be a Catholic without being Marian. The words and the witness of that man struck so deeply. He planted a seed of love that grew and blossomed into a mighty tree of devotion to Her which has produced much fruit in my life as an individual and as a priest.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, you may know, is the only apparition of Mary where She left an image of Herself which we can venerate. You can go to Mexico City today and see the image in Her shrine, an image which is now 470 years old and as pristine as the day it was given. She is also the only major apparition of Mary where She appears as a pregnant woman. This has for obvious reasons earned her the title of the Patroness of the Pro-life movement. On my fourth personal pilgrimage to Her house in Mexico City I understood that I could no longer keep Her to myself — I had to begin to share Her with others! It was then that I began to take pro-life pilgrimages to Her Shrine. In seven pilgrimages that I have sponsored, I have brought Her almost four hundred faithful with all their sorrows and fears and difficulties, just like She wants. We have seen miracles brought about by our pilgrimages, and I am convinced that Our Lady stands with us in this effort to save babies and bring people out of their cultural and spiritual darkness.

TA: Give me an example of a miracle that you have seen?

Fr. Tom: The week after we came back from one of our pro-life pilgrimages to Mexico, a “For Sale” sign went up in front of a doctor’s office right in front of the major abortion clinic in our area. Previous to that, the same doctor would not even let us park in his parking lot. Well, lo and behold, we bought the building and opened up a crisis pregnancy center in front of the abortion clinic! The sale of the building, the coalition of people who worked to pull this project off, and the miraculous fund-raising effort that made it possible to buy the building all made for a fairly awesome experience of Our Lady’s intercession.

Another time, I went to Guadalupe’s shrine interceding for a young couple who had been married for nine years but had not been able to have a child. In a not very subtle way, Our Lady caused them to get pregnant on that very weekend that we were down there asking for the gift of fertility! I baptized that baby — and the next one they had a year later! When you ask something of Our Lady, you have to step back because She generally answers it in a big way.

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