An Open Letter from our Co-Founder, Dr. Anne Nolte
Dear Friends and Supporters of the National Gianna Mission,
Over the July 4th weekend, I was blessed to be chosen to attend The Joy of the Gospel in America, a convocation of Catholic leaders convened and lead by the US Bishops in Orlando, Florida. The convocation renewed my passion for the work that we do at the National Gianna Center.
One purpose of the convocation was to inspire Catholic leaders to share the Gospel as missionary disciples, while taking advantage of best practices, new research, and fresh communications strategies. This has been the vision of the Gianna Center from its inception in 2009. We see health care, the intimate encounter with a suffering person and their physician, as an opportunity for evangelization. By demonstrating the love and compassion of Christ to each person who comes through our doors, while simultaneously bearing witness to pro-life, Catholic medical ethics and offering high quality health care, we believe that we can make the Gospel of Life a reality in the lives of individuals and families. Our goal is for every patient who leaves our office to leave saying to themselves, “There is something different here…” and for that “something different” to point them to the love that Jesus Christ himself has for each of them.
What also struck me about the convocation is its commitment to seeing and serving those “at the peripheries,” that is to say, those people who are forgotten, who we “don’t see” when looking straight ahead in the course of our usual, everyday lives. What struck me as I reflected on the question of “Who is on the peripheries, who is not being served?” was the fact that this is exactly how so many Catholic, Christian and pro-life women and families feel in our culture when it comes to finding health care in line with their deeply held beliefs.
With this in mind, I reflected on the staggering number of women who come to the Gianna Center for their reproductive health care, some driving for hours to get here because in their own community they could not find a single women’s health doctor who could help them with natural family planning, or who would offer them an alternative to the birth control pill for a medical problem, or who would love and support them through a difficult pregnancy if their baby were given an adverse prenatal diagnosis. I thought of all of the women and couples facing the overwhelming pain of infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss whose doctors tell them over and over that “their only hope would be life-destroying IVF,” when this simply is not an option for them.
These women and families — the salt of the earth and the lights of their communities — are truly on the peripheries: alone, hopeless, abandoned by the medical system… and in some cases, even feeling abandoned by their Church when they face these issues.
As fellow members of the Body of Christ, we cannot be like the Pharisees, “tying up heavy burdens but doing nothing to lift them” by proclaiming a set of ethical values and principles related to sexual and reproductive health but not doing anything to practically and concretely support women and families as they strive to live out these values. Pope Francis, through the Joy of the Gospel, and our Bishops, through the convocation called upon lay leaders within the Church to recognize exactly these kinds of things — what we as the Body of Christ should be doing to meet the practical needs of those on ANY periphery, including those women and families whose deeply human and religious needs are not being met.
This is why we created Gianna — to fill that gap and meet that need of women and families, offering health care that is both completely in line with Church teaching and of the highest quality, while delivering it with a profound respect for the dignity of the human person and the central role of the family in the health of society. When it comes to reproductive health, the Gianna Center comes alongside these women and families like Simon, helping to lift the burden when issues related to their reproductive health become challenging and accompanying them as they journey toward God.
Our goal is to have a Gianna Center at the service of every diocese by the year 2023. This is the 50th anniversary of the devastating Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. We believe that this is essential if we are to ensure that there is no 60th anniversary. Medical support for the families who are trying to live according to the beautiful teachings of the Gospel, and the families themselves who evangelize the culture through their very existence, are utterly and absolutely necessary for a true culture of life to flourish. They are not the only things that are necessary, but without them, a culture of life will never come to be.
“Jesus is already at the peripheries,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson reminded the Convocation of Catholic Leaders. “The question for us today is whether he will be there alone or whether his disciples will be there with him.”
Bringing authentically Catholic health care to women and families who otherwise would have no access to natural, ethical health care is our answer to Mr. Anderson’s pressing question. Since we are at the peripheries every day, helping those whose most deep-seated needs are often overlooked or derided by the mainstream culture, the authentically Catholic health care that we provide is vital.
In addition to being based on proven medical science, our Gianna model honors the sanctity of the human person, the dignity of women and the integrity of marriage. These are the aspects of our work most prized by our patients, and we hope you will consider supporting our mission as we continue to pave the way for the culture of life by spreading the joy of the Gospel.
Anne Nolte, MD