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Conversion happens: One voice can make a difference Print
Guest column
Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009 -- 1:00 AM

Editor's note: This commentary was written for the bulletin of the Cathedral Parish in Madison for the weekend of January 24 and 25.

Guest Column

What a great feast it is that we celebrate today! Saul, the most ardent persecutor of the Faith, becomes St. Paul, its greatest proponent. That is really something to celebrate . . . for a number of reasons.

For one thing, this feast is a tremendous sign of hope for the Church as she travels through history. In this world, the Church has enemies. But we should look at each of them with the awareness that here may be the next Saul: the greatest enemy can become the greatest ally.

Powerful experiences of conversion

The current struggle over life issues is (it seems to me) the place where we most powerfully experience this kind of  conversion in our time. Many will be aware that Norma McCorvey -- "Jane Roe," the plaintiff in the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe vs. Wade -- has since become an advocate for life.

Even more spectacularly, Dr. Bernard Nathanson -- abortionist and one of the founders of NARAL (originally, the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) -- became (by the early 1980s) a zealous advocate for life and was baptized by the late Cardinal John O'Connor in 1996. Dr. Nathanson attributes his conversion to the prayers of protesters outside his clinic. Not without reason did the Lord tell us to pray for our enemies!

So this should shape our perspective as we contact legislators or healthcare providers, even as we encounter our most ardent opponents. This is our attitude as we sign those postcards regarding FOCA today. And, in the same vein, there is one more related issue -- a local one -- which I would like to bring to your attention today.

Make your voice heard

As you may know, the man who has performed second-trimester abortions here in Madison for many years has recently retired. This has prompted the University of Wisconsin Hospitals to look at again becoming an abortion provider. Their intention is to do abortions at an ambulatory surgery center which UW Hospitals owns jointly with Meriter Hospital.

Meriter could prevent this plan from being realized. I have it on very good authority that James Woodward, the CEO of Meriter, is cataloguing all comments he receives from the public for the purpose of sharing them with Meriter's Board of Directors at a meeting this Thursday, Jan. 29.

In this matter, on the local scene, the voice of one person (yours) will carry much more weight than it can in the national debate over FOCA.

I am also told that Mr. Woodward is not at all a bad man. This plan to provide abortions is not coming from him, and we have no reason to think that he has any enthusiasm for it. But he needs some help to resist it. If you would like to make your voice heard, you can call Meriter Hospital at 608-417-6210 and ask for Mr. Woodward's voice mail or e-mail him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Msgr. Kevin D. Holmes is rector and pastor of the Cathedral Parish in downtown Madison.