Joanna Bogle is Visiting Research Fellow at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London. She is the author of some twenty books, including several historical biographies and A Book of Seasons and Celebrations with information on traditions and customs marking the Church year. Her most recent book is John Paul II - Man of Prayer with colleague Clare Anderson, exploring the spiritual life of St. John Paul the Great. She broadcasts regularly with EWTN and has recently initiated popular Catholic History Walks around London. She blogs at “Auntie Joanna Writes” and EWTN’s “Catholic Journalist in London”.
When Katie Ascough was a young teenager, her mother suffered a miscarriage and the family grieved over the loss of the tiny baby – Katie’s little brother. Years later, Katie would recall holding the perfectly-formed baby in her arms and sharing her mother’s sorrow.
The poignant moment was recalled recently in a committee meeting in Britain’s House of Lords, at the presentation of the Westminster Award, presented annually to someone who defends “human life, human rights and human dignity.” Katie received the 2018 Award. The story is an interesting one.
Katie was elected President of the University College, Dublin, Students Union in March of last year. She was known to have strong pro-life views, and had campaigned against the Students Union’s policy of opposing Ireland’s constitutional defence of unborn children. As President, she refused to publish, in the students’ magazine, illegal information giving advice on obtaining abortions in different countries. For this she was impeached and ousted from office.
At the Award ceremony at Westminster, Katie recalled her youthful memory of her baby brother — “just 16 weeks old, and with tiny finger nails and little dimpled fingers, every detail perfect” — and vowed to continue speaking up in defence not only of the unborn but of those who wanted an open and honest debate about abortion in which the pro-life voice was allowed a fair place. Trustee of the Westminster Award Lord (David) Alton spoke of her courage in upholding freedom of speech — the pro-life voice Is now often crushed at universities, with pro-life groups banned and debate prevented. The Award was presented to Katie by Fiona Bruce, MP, chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group. Others present included Baroness O’Loan who is active with the all-party group, and Peter D. Williams and Christopher Whitehouse of the Right to Life movement.
Last year’s recipient of the Westminster Award was Magnus McFarlane-Barrow, founder of the international charity Mary’s Meals, which now feeds over a million children worldwide. The award ceremony brought together people from a range of community and religious groups. After the ceremony, guests gathered for photographs in Westminster’s Great Hall, at the plaque marking the spot where St. Thomas More stood during his trial in 1535.