News of the Diocese
January 11, 2023
“We’re all made in his (God’s) image and likeness and we may not tinker with that,” said Molly Smith, president of Cleveland Right to Life.
Smith and Erin Hathaway, executive director of Zelie’s Home, addressed the First Friday Club of Cleveland during a Jan. 5 program that examined post Roe v. Wade (the 1973 Supreme Court of the United States decision that legalized abortion) and the pro-life culture helping women in unplanned and crisis pregnancies. Mary Von Carlowitz, director of the diocesan Office for Human Life, had been scheduled to speak. However, she was sidelined by illness and Smith was recruited to speak with Hathaway.
“We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are made in God’s image and likeness. He created us for his plan,” Smith told those gathered. “But do we believe it?” she asked.
Smith said many people today feel the “I” is more important than God’s plan. “God has always been here and so has evil, but I’ve never seen evil like today,” she said, referring to the pro-abortion sentiment across the country. She said nothing is closer to God than a mother as she urged all to share their Catholic faith and to spread the gospel of life.
More than 63 million lives have been lost through abortion and an unknown number from the chemical abortion pill, Smith said. In addition, she said if we lose respect for life at the beginning (abortion) we will lose it at the end (euthanasia).
Smith said it has been an exciting time since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision last June in which a majority of the court ruled that abortion is not a constitutional right.
“If we know we’ve received this gift of life we will defeat the culture of death,” Smith said.
CRTL will host its 14th annual Bringing America Back to Life convention March 10-11 at the Embassy Suites in Independence, Smith said, noting the speakers will address pro-life issues and promote a pro-life culture.
She also showed a short video featuring Dr. Bill Lile, a pro-life obstetrician who said he found a way to help reverse the effects of the chemical abortion pill, sometimes called the morning after pill. In the video, Lile talked about some of the recent breakthrough procedures than allow doctors to operate on babies before birth to address health issues. “We can do blood transfusions and surgery in the womb,” he said.
Lile talked about a procedure in which a baby at 27 weeks gestation underwent open-heart surgery. The baby was delivered safely 10 weeks later.
He said women may decide after taking the chemical abortion pill that they don’t want to go through with the procedure. He said he developed an antidote that often can reverse the procedure – if taken with 72 hours. Lile said the procedure is about 70% effective and he has been able to reverse about 12 of 16 instances in which a woman took the abortion pill and then changed her mind. Healing through the Gospel is possible, Lile said.
“The Church needs to speak the truth,” Smith said. “We can do amazing things with God’s help, but we have to be still and listen to him,” she added before introducing Hathaway, who spoke about the role Zelie’s Home plays in helping women with unplanned or crisis pregnancies.
Hathaway said Zelie’s Home encounters many pregnant women who are homeless, struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues. “Zelie’s Home gives moms an option for life,” she added.
In the past two years, the home has helped 56 women and 64 children. Since it was founded 18 years ago in Parma as Zechariah House, 218 women have been helped. Hathaway said the home closed its Parma location and relocated to Garfield Heights, reopening in summer 2018. It was affiliated with the Maggie’s Place network until summer 2020, when it began operating independently and changed its name to Zelie’s Home. The new name is in honor of St. Zelie and St. Louis Martin, the first canonized married couple. They were the parents of nine – four of whom survived and one of whom is St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as the Little Flower.
Hathaway said women can apply to Zelie’s Home any time during their pregnancy and can stay a year or more after delivery.
“Each mom is unique,” she said, noting 74% of their residents were homeless, 64% had mental health struggles, 33% were dealing with substance abuse and 78% were abuse survivors. Applicants undergo a screening process before being accepted. All services are free and the women are asked to work a four-phase program tailored to their needs.
“They learn how to set goals, to get a job, go to school, find a home, etc.,” Hathaway explained. She said alumnae continue to offer support to others at the home. Zelie’s Home is funded by individuals, private foundations and organizations.
“We’re in need of a minivan for transportation,” Hathaway said, noting they raised some of the needed money during the recent #weGiveCatholic day of Catholic giving. “We can always use volunteers and monetary donations,” she said, “but our biggest need is prayer.”
Hathaway briefly described two of the home’s success stories. One woman had limited English proficiency, was 8½ months pregnant and had an 18-month-old toddler when she moved in. She’s improved her language skills, delivered her second child and is a loving mother while working her program, Hathaway said.
A second woman lost custody of her older children because of drug use. She worked the program, got sober 12 years ago, married her baby’s father and recently was hired as a staff member at Zelie’s Home, which is one of only two maternity homes in the area.
Hathaway said Walking With Moms in Need, which evolved from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ program, is another way to help pregnant women in need that is gaining traction in the Diocese of Cleveland. “They ‘walk’ with any parent or grandparent who is having difficulties during a pregnancy,” she said. “The Office for Human Life is constantly updating its resources,” Hathaway added.
Click here for information on Cleveland Right to Life. Details about the Bringing America Back to Life convention are available here.
Learn more about Zelie’s Home, volunteer and donation opportunities here.
Click here for resources from the diocesan Office for Human Life
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