APPLETON — M.J. Clements believes she is doing God’s work here on earth as she goes about her duties as executive director of Mother and Unborn Baby Care and WomanKind Medical Clinic. Clements is a 2017 Faith That Works recipient.
“If we see a need, we pray for it,” she said, adding that the staff starts every day with prayer. “I’ve never felt the Holy Spirit like I feel it here. We are just helping these women. We don’t save every baby (from abortion), but we try. We give women the information and education they need to make their decisions.”
Clements has been executive director of Mother and Unborn Baby Care since 2008; the clinic was added to her duties in 2010. Located on Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton, the organization helps with unplanned pregnancies, provides items for babies’ needs, offers classes and education, and the clinic, which is staffed by a local doctor and nurse practitioner, offers medical testing including ultrasounds.
Clements’ duties include directing all the operations, fundraising, public speaking and supervising the staff and volunteers — about 30 women.
Mother and Unborn Baby Care opened in 1983 as an alternative to the abortion clinic that had opened in Grand Chute. One month’s donated rent for a tiny space on Oneida Street, faith, prayer and a vision resulted in the founding of Fox Valley Mother and Unborn Baby Care. This crisis pregnancy center would help women and their families make a choice for life at no financial cost to them, according to the center’s website. The WomanKind Clinic was added in 2007 with services donated by Dr. Francis Van Lieshout, medical director. Today, there is a nurse practitioner (Ellen Beltz), who sees patients one day a week. Dr. Mark Faustich is the medical director.
The clinic also has a nurse, Jody Aschenbrenner, who works with women who visit the clinic and gives presentations to area high school students.
Though the founders are Catholic and the local Catholic community provides much financial support, the clinic is open to any woman who needs medical, physical, emotional or spiritual support.
One of the programs that Clements is proud of is Earn While You Learn. New mothers meet with a volunteer mentor, who is also a mom, monthly until her child is 3 years old. Participants earn credits, called “Mommy Money,” which can be used to buy materials like maternity and baby clothes, blankets, diapers, formula and other supplies. All items come from community donations.
Through regular lessons that include videos and worksheets, the mothers learn important and interesting information about pregnancy and infants.
Clements said the Earn While You Learn program has an average of 170 participants a month; the clinic sees about 90 patients a month. Each visit is 45 to 60 minutes long and includes education with the medical attention.
According to nominator Peg Saindon, Clements “promotes the life values in her parish when invited to do so. She has worked with Bishop (David) Ricken on a number of projects including the Unite for Life Banquet in Appleton and the Life Mass at St. Pius X, which included a march to the local abortion clinic.” (That clinic is now closed.)
Saindon went on to say, “M.J. is a faithful and determined builder of the culture of life in Appleton. She is a hopeful and inspiring leader. No matter how bleak things may look in the fight against abortion, M.J. always encourages her staff to resort to prayer. She holds up the model of the Virgin Mary’s pregnancy and the birth of Jesus as an example of heroism for our staff and clients. She goes above and beyond her job description and never seems stressed or tired despite the inherent difficulties of running a free clinic for women while meeting the practical needs of needy mothers.”
“She holds fast to the recommendation of St. Francis, who said, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words,’” Saindon continued. “Many clients ask why they are being helped and treated with dignity and respect. They are caused to wonder because M.J. is so caring and nonjudgmental. She stresses that it is not so important how or why needy mothers come to her office as much as greeting them with openness and welcome. M.J. is an example of Christ’s unfailing love and demonstrates that to her staff, her clients, her donors and her fellow board members.”
Clements came to Appleton from Kentucky to take a job at Lawrence University in student accounts. After about 17 years there, she was the victim of downsizing. One of the board members of Mothers and Unborn Baby Care was someone she knew from working at Lawrence and he said the nonprofit needed an executive director. “It was another ‘God moment,’” she said.
Since 2001, she has been a member of St. Pius X Parish, Appleton, where she serves on the Respect Life and Social Concerns committees. She also is a daily Mass attendee, she said. “I love my parish. That is my family.”
On her office wall is a picture of St. Teresa of Calcutta with her quotes about what life is. Clements admires the saint and said she agrees with her that “as long as we’re faithful, we’ll make it.”