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BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN
Partners for Life is a “newborn” on the pro-life scene. Only months old, the
apostolate is already saving babies.
Before founder and Executive Director
Mary Kellet of Maple
Grove, Minn., even
thought of it, the seeds were taking shape in the Kellet
family. When she and her husband Donald were expecting son Peter, their 11th
child, he was pre-natally identified as having Trisomy 18, a condition similar to Down syndrome but more
severe. It was confirmed after he was born on Jan. 5, 2005.
The days before and after his
birth were difficult. “We were given a series of incomplete and inaccurate bits
of information,” Mary says. “We were told that, if these babies do live, they
live only two weeks.”
She also discovered that abortion
“definitely is always offered and, in many cases, strongly suggested. There is
obvious pressure.” Kellet’s daughter Elizabeth
researched online and found several stories of Trisomy
18 children living to be much older — some into their 30s. That evidence added
motivation for what the Kellets desired to do all
“We wanted to aggressively treat
him,” Kellet says. “We didn’t see Peter having any
less value because he had this” condition.
“Prenatal Partners for Life came
out of that experience,” she explains. The apostolate took shape last Christmas
when she talked to friends and other mothers who had lost babies in similar
circumstances. They became board members.
“The whole idea is to connect
parents with other parents who have gone through the same thing so they can
offer support, encouragement and honest information,” says Kellet.
“Our focus is to provide this to resist that pressure and have the baby for
however long the baby is going to live because that’s the best thing for mother
Support comes in person or by
phone, e-mail or written correspondence. The new website —
prenatalpartnersforlife.org — also plays a major role in making connections.
Through it come contacts even from
some people abroad. One out-of-country mom pregnant with twins, one with Trisomy 18, was being pressured to abort. She read the
website’s stories and contacted Kellet, who connected
her with three moms who had similar twins. They shared what they had gone
“She ended up continuing her
pregnancy with both of the babies after talking to these moms,” recalls Kellet.
She finds one of the biggest
unexpected blessings is women sharing their stories to help others. In one
case, the story carried a gift: Kellet sent a
mom-to-be pregnant with a child afflicted with a fatal heart disease a blanket
made by a mom who lost a Down syndrome baby.
“Making these blankets, which she calls Luke’s
Blankets of Love (after her son who died), is her own little way of trying to
provide comfort for these other moms,” Kellet says,
pointing out the blanket-maker mom was inspired to adopt a Down syndrome baby.
Moving stories like these on the
website deal with Trisomy 13, Trisomy
18, Down syndrome, liver disorders, congenital heart defects and numerous other
One story was contributed by
Prenatal Partners for Life board member Pam McSweeney,
who shares her story about her son Colm. She also
counsels other mothers, some after they’ve lost their child, like one mother
who said she believed her doctor had deceived her into letting him deliberately
break her water in his office, then told her to lie to
the emergency room about it. (McSweeney can’t
identify the exact location in the country.)
“She was absolute going to carry,”
McSweeney says. “She was pressured to end the
pregnancy and has been living with regret. She was told all kinds of horrible
things by her doctor.” They proved untrue.
Another family she also helped was
willing to do whatever necessary to keep their child alive.
The mother of two other
youngsters, McSweeney explains her own little son Colm who had Trisomy 18 and
taught so many people just how valuable his unborn life was. They still tell
her what he meant to them.
She believes Prenatal Partners for
Life helps others to appreciate these children.
“They are not a burden to
society,” she says. “They become beautiful toddlers and adolescents and live
out God’s plan for them — his plans, not society’s. Our calling is to be there
for other families, to get them through and let them know they’re not alone.”
Kellet looks forward to hearing from
others like Pam who’d like to share the story of their special child and be a
mentor helping support other families.
“The concept is so simple yet so
timely,” says Father James Livingstone, chaplain at North
Center in Robbinsdale, Minn.
He knows the Kellets well and sees God using their
situation to inspire the apostolate.
“They’re helping people see the
quality of life people so talk about is not just limited to what an individual
does on his or her own, but the quality of life depends on that person being
loved,” says Father Livingstone, who’s also a chaplain for Rachel’s Vineyard.
What these children give goes beyond
their physical and mental abilities, he explains. “There’s something spiritual
they contribute, whether it’s drawing love of out others or being a sign of the
cross for this generation,” adds the priest. “The sign of the cross is a sign
“These children today are a sign
of the cross for us to embrace,” he says. “Sometimes their lives only last a
few hours, sometimes their little lives do span years, that’s a sacrificial
love for that long.”
Kellet wants to help parents embrace
these children with this sacrificial love and see them as both gifts and
gift-givers on loan from God, as she has.
People have told her the gifts
Peter gives them. One said Peter has taken away the fear of having a
special-needs child. After Easter Mass a sweet little lady said, “Peter, when
we think of our little aches and pains, we think of you.”
“Peter has put into crystal-clear
perspective that every day is precious and every day is a gift,” says Kellet. “He’s brought living one day at a time into reality
for us. And trusting in God for everything — that’s another lesson. Our faith
has grown so much and so has the faith of our kids. He’s made us all better.”
Joseph Pronechen writes from