|Will Goodman, left, and Patrick O’Donnell are members of |
the Servants of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a small but growing
pro-life apostolate working with permission in the
Diocese of La Crosse.
PINE CREEK – In 2001, a small group of ardent Catholic pro-life activists was invited by then-Bishop Raymond L. Burke to work with his permission within the Diocese of La Crosse.The Catholic Times
At Bishop Burke’s suggestion, the group named themselves the Servants of Our Lady of Guadalupe – to recognize that Our Lady is their model of protection both as patroness of the Americas and of the unborn. Since that time, the Servants have been established as a public association of the faithful in the diocese. Many of the founding members remain affiliated with the Servants but have moved on to follow their vocations in secular and religious professions.
But one member of that original group has remained in the diocese and is now the Servants’ leader – Will Goodman. Under his leadership, the Servants have found a new home and new members. Originally headquartered in Stevens Point, the Servants have relocated to the west-central part of the diocese at Sacred Heart Parish, Pine Creek. At the invitation of Sacred Heart’s parochial administrator Father Joseph O’Hara, the core members of the Servants have taken up residence in the rectory of this rural parish. In September, the Servants have also been blessed to welcome their newest member Patrick O’Donnell, who moved to the diocese from Boston to become a Servant.
According to Father O’Hara, since the Servants pay for rent and utilities, Sacred Heart takes on no additional financial responsibilities by lodging the group. In return, he said, the Servants provide a constant prolife witness to the parish.
“Keeping the pro-life cause alive in my priesthood is something that I reach out to other people to accomplish,” he said.
“There are certain people we are always reaching out to – and the Servants are one of them. I saw inviting them in here as helping us as a parish accomplish that. I want us to be a pro-life parish, a parish that is aware of the needs of the unborn and of the parents who are considering abortion. We want to be with them. Having the servants here assists us in doing that in many ways.” But don’t confuse the Servants with political activists, Goodman said.
“We are not a pro-life organization,” he said. “We’re a prolife community. We’re not built on a corporate model but on the Catholic community life.”
That community life, Goodman explained, includes an horarium – a daily hour-by-hour schedule of prayer, contemplation, study, administrative work, and pro-life action.
The most visible sign of the Servants’ work, he said, is prayer vigils and demonstrations before abortion clinics and abortifacient dispensaries such as pharmacies and non-surgical abortion clinics.
The Servants also undertake peaceful rescue operations at abortion clinics, Goodman said, because expressing their solidarity with the victims of abortion allows for a greater witness of Christ’s love.
“The closer you can get to the victims – both mothers and children – is ideal,” Goodman said, acknowledging that these rescues have occasionally led to his arrest for trespassing.
“You can pray in church, or speak in high schools about the victims of abortion, or even in the White House or Congress or the courts, and you can go to the sidewalks. Or you can go to the very places where they are being threatened. So you get as close as you can in a peaceful and gentle way.”
But at the heart of their work, prayer and contemplation remain the fuel that allows them to continue their pro-life work. In fact, Goodman said, their new home in rural Pine Creek provides a more conducive setting for prayer.
“One of the benefits of taking up Father O’Hara on his invitation was to be able to live close to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “The rule of the servants can be reduced to two things: to love God with all one’s heart and strength, and to love one’s neighbor, especially those in need. It’s a simple rule but very beautiful.”
According to O’Donnell, he joined the Servants because after about 20 years of doing prolife work – for the past 10 years full time – he recognized that he shared a common vision with the Servants. A Secular Franciscan since 1994, O’Donnell gave up a career as a banker to take on pro-life work as a lifetime commitment.
“With the Servants of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it’s not so much what they do but who they are that first caught my attention,” O’Donnell said, explaining that he first met Goodman at a pro-life conference on the East Coast. “Drawing people to Christ is our primary goal.”
Even some of the Servants’ volunteers around the diocese have committed themselves full-time to the work. St. Peter Parish member Jen Dunnett is a full-time volunteer with the Servants, serving as their technical support. She designed the group’s Web site to raise awareness of those being held in jail around the world for their pro-life principles.
A convert to the faith, Dunnett said that it was through her conversion process that she came to learn about abortion and the Servants.
“A year after being Catholic, I told Will that if there was any way he needed me to help out, to let me know,” she said. “As I started going to his talks and heard what he’d say, I realized that this tragedy was going on and I had no idea. The more I went to the talks, and eventually the abortion centers to pray with the Servants, the more I realized I needed to be involved.”
This was actually from a couple months ago and I'm just getting around to posting it. Will Goodman? More like Will GREATMAN! I did not know Jen was a convert, I'd love to hear her story. Pray for these folks, they do a lot of good that never gets reported.
I've been trying to find online a great story about Fr. O'Hara. It involves someone robbing his church and a double chicken wing(Fr was an excellent wrestler in college). If any of you know what I'm talking about email me where I can find the story.