By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published June 24, 2019 | En Español
ATLANTA—Nearly 200 people gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Birthright in the United States June 7-9 at the Atlanta Marriott Buckhead Hotel.
The celebration, also the convention of Birthright International, included fellowship, training sessions, Mass and ecumenical services. The theme of the event was “Celebrating 50 Years of Spreading the Love.” Msgr. Richard Lopez of Atlanta, Birthright chaplain, was one of the program speakers.
Birthright International was founded in 1968 in Toronto, Canada by Louise Summerhill to help women with unplanned pregnancies. Now, more than 50 years later, Birthright International has hundreds of locations across four countries.
The Atlanta Birthright chapter was the first organization in the United States. It offers a “judgement-free atmosphere where a pregnant woman can express her concerns and find both practical and emotional support,” as its website states.
Services include free pregnancy testing, and resources and referrals to help clients meet medical, legal, educational, employment, financial and housing needs.
Kathleen Wilkinson, chair of Birthright International’s board of directors, welcomed members of Birthright and introduced Terry Weaver, who gave the opening address on Friday, June 7.
Weaver founded Birthright of Atlanta in 1969. She served as the national director for 23 years and continues to inspire those involved in Birthright’s mission of helping pregnant women.
“She is dedicated to the charter,” said Wilkinson.
“Birthright has been full of miracles since day one,” said Weaver, who talked about the humble beginnings of Atlanta’s Birthright chapter. There were many challenges along the way, which included moving the office multiple times—one of the locations being the St. Vincent de Paul Society building. However, with prayer and support, she was able to continue the journey.
“Miracles, prayer and Birthright are all the same bunch,” she said.
Weaver encouraged members to listen to the pregnant mothers who come to them for help and to have one-on-one conversations with them. Most of the time, the problem is not the baby, but other factors, such as a boyfriend or parents, she explained. She hopes members will listen to the mothers and help them find a way to solve their problems, she said.
“Instead of saying, ‘Don’t have an abortion,’ say, ‘Let me help you have a baby,’” she said.
After the opening address, Birthright members listened to a session on “Communicating with Millennials” by Vladimir G. Mamaradlo, a lay pastoral assistant at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in Thornhill, Canada.
Mamaradlo, who at age 34 is part of the millennial generation, explained the differences between generations and how technology affects the way millennials communicate and see themselves in the world.
Much of Mamaradlo’s presentation was based on the findings of Dr. Leonard Sax, a physician and psychologist. According to his research, millennials value the opinion of peers more than their parents, which potentially makes this generation more fragile. When a millennial is in crisis mode, the cell phone is where they turn, explained Mamaradlo.
With these challenges, Mamaradlo expressed the importance for Birthright to have a presence online and in social media.
“We need to be there and meet them where they are,” he said. “We are fighting for their souls.”
In his presentation, Mamaradlo provided ways Birthright could better connect with the millennial generation. This included creating social media accounts for their chapters, being interactive, having two-way communication with pregnant women and demonstrating the value of wisdom to help make decisions versus having knowledge of facts or information.
While technology and social media may bring darkness, Mamaradlo encouraged Birthright members to be the light of Jesus to expectant mothers in crisis.
“Light shines in the darkness. You run into the darkness with the light of Jesus,” he said.