DE PERE — A woman in Buffalo, N.Y., was about to walk into an abortion clinic because she could not afford supplies to care for her unborn baby.
“Here’s the first gift for your child,” said Mickey Van De Ven, a sidewalk counselor for nearly 20 years, as she pulled a baby-sized knit hat out of her pocket and handed it to the woman.
The woman decided against the abortion. Van De Ven, along with other sidewalk counselors, assisted the woman with getting resources for her child and threw the woman a baby shower at a Grand Island, N.Y., church.
Today, Van De Ven leads the Respect Life Ministry at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in De Pere. She oversees all pro-life efforts at the parish, including a diaper drive and 40 Days for Life. During 40 Days, people in hundreds of cities pray and fast while also doing community outreach and holding a vigil to end abortion. On Oct. 22, the De Pere parish will hold its first “Mass for the Loss of a Child.” Persons of any faith whose child has passed away — or those who have had a stillbirth, miscarriage or abortion — are invited to attend.
In the summer of 2017, Norbertine Fr. Benny Jacob, pastor, asked Van De Ven to start a parish pro-life group. She said she is grateful for Fr. Jacob’s support. The ministry, which is made up of 11 people, hopes to get youth in the parish involved by bringing in speakers and implementing pro-life activities in the religious education program.
Van De Ven and her husband, John, lived in Green Bay as a young married couple until he was asked to move to Grand Island, N.Y., in 1978. She said that they were not the “moving people” kind, so she began praying.
“I was praying and I felt like God said, ‘I want you to go there and I have something for you to do,’” she said.
For 10 years, Van De Ven was active in other areas, but wondered why God had moved them to New York. During that time, Operation Rescue, an organization that tried to shut down abortion clinics, came to the Buffalo area. It was 1989 and also the 50th anniversary of the Holocaust.
Van De Van said she was praying about the Holocaust and told God, “I don’t think that will ever happen again.”
“He said, ‘It’s happening, and that’s what I want you to do,’” said Van De Ven. She said it was like a light bulb.
She began her pro-life efforts at a Catholic Charities hotline. When the hotline closed down, she began praying the rosary with a group of Catholics at the Buffalo abortion clinic. Each time she saw a car go down the alley to the clinic, she said she could feel the Holy Spirit crying out in her.
After years of praying outside the clinic, she was asked to be a sidewalk counselor after another counselor was arrested. Van De Ven decided to take her place.
“It just felt like (God) was by my side the whole time,” she said. Even on days when she did not want to be there, she said that God would make “something amazing” happen.
Beginning in 1989, she counseled and provided resources to women until she moved back to Green Bay in 2010. Over the years, she said she witnessed women who received five, six or seven abortions, using it as a form of birth control. During those years, she said she grew in both her faith and her love of God.
The counselors also provided brochures from the diocese that provided referral agencies for any needs a mother may have, such as clothing and education for her child.
The goal of the sidewalk counselors was not to harass women, said Van De Ven, but to offer resources, support literature, as well as provide sonograms.
One day, Van De Ven began picking up one stone for each woman who walked into the clinic. After standing outside for two hours a day for eight days, she collected 221 stones. The clinic was open for longer than two hours each day, which meant more than 221 women entered the building to receive an abortion during those eight days. She displayed the stones at the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish for pro-life month last October.
“I hope that women — and men — who have been involved in abortions understand that there is healing for them,” she said. “That would be a blessing, but I also hope that our Catholic people in this church would understand what’s really going on and that abortion takes the life of an innocent child.”
She said she hopes that there will be an end to abortions in the country. She wants those who have received abortions, Catholic and non-Catholic, to understand there is healing and they can go forward.
“Abortions are wrong,” said Van De Ven, “but God forgives.”
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Mickey Van De Ven
Parish: Our Lady of Lourdes, De Pere
Favorite saint: Teresa of Calcutta
Words to live by: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]