Leaders gather in Charlotte for first Be Not Afraid national conference
CHARLOTTE — The first Be Not Afraid (BNA) national conference was held at St. Gabriel Church in Charlotte Oct. 20-21.
Sponsored by the Respect Life Office of Catholic Social Services for the Diocese of Charlotte and the Family Life Office of the Diocese of Charleston, the conference's opening prayer was led by Bishop Peter Jugis.
Bishop Jugis was joined by clergy, hospital personnel, lay ministers and other diocesan staff from around the country who came to learn how to develop a comprehensive local service for parents experiencing poor prenatal diagnoses and carrying their babies to term using a peer ministry model of care developed by BNA.
Be Not Afraid is a network of concerned parents and professionals who have experienced or worked closely with issues surrounding poor prenatal diagnoses.
Pictured: Kathy Schmugge, director of the Family Life Office in the Diocese of Charleston, holds baby Pearce Harp, whose family was assisted through the Be Not Afraid Ministry in the Diocese of Charlotte. (Photo provided by Tracy Winsor)
Tracy Winsor, BNA's co-founder and outreach coordinator, was a presenter along with a host of other speakers from the medical field, clergy and lay ministry leaders: Jan Benton, executive director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability; Amy S. Daniels, director of the Office of Formation and Discipleship for the Archdiocese of Atlanta; Father Kevin Peek of the Archdiocese of Atlanta; Dr. John T. Bruchalski of the Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Dr. Marcella Colbert, MB, director of Respect Life for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston; Faith Massey, area coordinator of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep; Monica Rafie, founder and director of www.benotafraid.net; and several BNA peer ministers.
During the conference Colbert and others explained that today's society mistakenly treats children in the womb as what they are instead of who they are. Abortion is then presented as the "best" option when a mother-to-be hears of her child's poor or unknown medical prognosis from her obstetrician. Getting information to mothers about other options for compassionate care, as well as Church teaching on life, is what BNA and Respect Life ministries aim to do.
Amy Daniels reinforced this concept by reminding attendees that "every soul has a role to play in salvation," a truth witnessed by Bruchalski in a story he shared about a former abortionist who stepped in to deliver a child with a lethal, disfiguring prenatal diagnosis only to find himself changed by the love he observed between mother and child in their brief time together.
Father Peek reminded the group that these parents are not choosing life or death, but personhood: "What is discovered between these children and parents is a totally pure love because it's not based on what the child can do for the parents, but what the parents cannot do for their child."
Father Peek is the uncle of a baby for whose family BNA provided support following the prenatal diagnosis of heart and brain defects. Pictures of his precious nephew were shared during his presentation.
— Michelle Buckman and Kathy Schmugge, special to the Catholic News Herald
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