Catholics rally to support Michigan pro-life center after vandalism
When Mary Wilkerson walked past offensive signs in the front yard of a home in late June, she was angry.
Not just because her children were in the car, but because the signs seemed obnoxious to her. Bad. Vulgar signs included profanity toward God and objectionable language about women’s bodies as a way to show dissent after the Supreme Court’s June 24 Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade.
Wilkerson remembered the words of Scripture: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
She and her husband, Aaron, discussed what they could do with their anger: pray outside the family home, organize a prayer rally in the neighborhood or something else.
Wilkerson recalled a recent social media post from her friend, Erin Bauer, who works at the Lennon Pregnancy Center in Dearborn Heights.
After the center was vandalized on June 20, Bauer wrote about what happened — shattered windows, graffiti — and the good things the center did to help 97 women and children in June alone. diapers distributed, food provided and emotions and education supported. She vowed to continue helping women despite the setback.
Vandals smashed the windows in the center, as well as the glass of the front door. They spray-painted a message: “If abortion isn’t safe, neither are you,” a hallmark of Jane’s Revenge, an extremist abortion group.
Knights of Columbus and parishioners from nearby parishes helped clean up so the center could reopen after two days. The FBI is assisting the Dearborn Heights police in the investigation.
Bauer, who is a staff member at the center office, felt hated and alone when she first heard about the attack. She also felt condemned.
In her June 20 post, which included photos of the damaged building, she listed the services provided by the center, adding, “EVERYTHING we do at the Lennon Center is free,” she wrote. “We are pro-life, yes. But we are Pro-Woman. We are Pro-Child.
The message went on to say, “We are not giving up. And we won’t let a few cowards come in under the guise of being pro women to stop our work that actually IS pro women. Tomorrow we will hold our classes (virtually) and we will fill boxes and bags to make sure that the children are not hungry and that they have clothes and diapers.
With her friend’s message in mind, Wilkerson – who has more than 2,000 followers on Instagram – picked up her keyboard and shared that she and her husband had decided to donate to the Lennon Center as a way to beat the wrong. She invited others to join her. Overnight, $2,860 had been donated.
And that was just the start. The next morning, a friend offered to contribute $5,000 if Wilkerson reached a total of $5,000 in donations. Again, she took to Instagram. Some gave $5. Some gave $100. One by one, his supporters matched the $5,000 and went further. Another friend donated $2,500. After just four days, over $20,000 has been raised for the Lennon Center.
Many of the more than 150 donors were from southeast Michigan, but some were not.
Francine Shammami knew Wilkerson as a campus minister at Mercy High School. Although she now lives in Seattle, she was inspired to contribute.
“I donated because I believe in putting my resources behind the causes I support,” Shammami told Detroit Catholic, the online media outlet for the Archdiocese of Detroit. “Pregnancy is stressful enough when it’s planned and with all the resources you need. It’s a way for me to support those who don’t have the resources to support their families.
Another donor from Jacksonville, Florida, who attended college with Wilkerson, was vacationing with her family when she saw Wilkerson’s message.
“My husband, Scott, and I are very intentional with our charity,” Barbara Fryman said. “We are committed to helping a pregnancy center locally, and I thought maybe we should just keep it local. Thinking about it, I asked Scott if we could be a little radical, his answer was immediately affirmative.
Mariann Bolton, executive director of the Lennon Center, learned of the $20,000 in unexpected donations while in Spain for her son’s wedding.
“When the others at the center called me to tell me, at first I thought it was a joke. I couldn’t believe it,” Bolton said. “It was so exciting to see the number (of donations) increase each time (Wilkerson) displayed a new total. I think what I learned from all of this is that there are so many good people out there. We can never thank them enough.
Although Wilkerson raised funds for the center, she insists that Bauer was the catalyst for her fundraising and encourages others to listen to promptings from the Holy Spirit to ask where God is calling them in their own circumstances and their gifts.
“Look for the opportunities right in front of you,” she said. “We are all called in different ways. For the mother who is exhausted but loves her babies as she goes grocery shopping, that alone is a profound testimony to life.
As for lessons learned from the fundraising blitz, Wilkerson gleaned a few. It goes back to the words of Saint Paul in Romans 12:21.
“It was amazing to see this verse of scripture presented so clearly – not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good,” she said. “We are a people of action. We don’t need to get stuck in the weeds of the world’s ugliness. We don’t need to go back and forth.
“Instead, we can move forward in our calling as joyful missionary disciples to do good,” she continued. “It doesn’t take away the ugliness, but it certainly gives a profound testimony to something different from the world. It’s a testimony the world desperately needs. If we focus on overcoming evil with good , people will come with us.
Bauer held the scripture verse close to her heart as she continues her work at the center.
“If we’re willing to open up and not be afraid, we have no idea what the Lord will do with it,” Bauer said. “He might say, ‘I’m not giving you a thousand dollars, I’m giving you twenty thousand. “”
Dorweiler writes for Detroit Catholic, the online media outlet for the Archdiocese of Detroit.
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