For Dr. Holly Taylor Coolman, engaging with opponents in a respectful, peaceful way is an essential part of what it means to be “pro-life.”
“If we are committed to the absolute dignity of every human person, that also means the human person standing in front of us, disagreeing with us,” she said. “Of course, that is sometimes easier to say than to do. For Catholics, the goal of our lives is to be completely conformed to love — both love of God and love of neighbor. We pursue that goal rooted in the knowledge that we ourselves are deeply loved. We begin there, and then we can build the habits of patience, kindness and self-discipline that we need.”
Dr. Coolman, who serves as assistant professor of theology at Providence College, has been an active voice for the unborn, their mothers and families, and has heartily encouraged the local pro-life community to be present and informed in this debate.
Along with her work as an educator, she also maintains the Ocean State for Life Facebook group as administrator. This group offers an online forum for Rhode Islanders committed to protecting unborn children and their mothers.
The group’s mission states, “We believe in legal protections for unborn children and are also committed to making Rhode Island a place where women facing difficult pregnancies find many supports and resources. We may differ in many other ways, but this page is devoted to that shared commitment. Facebook is not always a place characterized by kindness and respect, but on this page, we are committed to those ideals.”
As the recent Reproductive Health Care Act (RHCA) bills under consideration on Smith Hill have evolved, Dr. Coolman has been there every step of the way. She has encouraged the pro-life community to be prayerful and present and has worked diligently to keep them up to date with the latest information coming from the statehouse.
“We are a movement called to do our work with joy and graciousness,” said Dr. Coolman. “I think we have to share that more with others, and even those who oppose us. We also have to make the invitation. Many people would be willing to entertain a personal invitation from a friend or family member to come along to an event, but they have to be asked.”
The RHCA bills could guarantee abortion would remain legal in Rhode Island if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that declared abortion to be a constitutional right. After a vote of 44-30 in the House, the bill now moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration, and if approved, would pass to the full Senate for a final vote.
Dr. Coolman wants to remind the public that there are a great number of different outreach options throughout the state committed to protecting, serving and defending mothers and their children — at every stage of life.
Many services support parents prior to and after the birth of the child, including the diocesan Office of Life and Family Ministry, Rhode Island Right to Life, Mother of Life Center, Servants of Christ for Life and the Little Flower Home, to name a few.
“I wish the general public had a better sense of the pro-life movement on the ground — and not just politicians who call themselves pro-life,” she explained. “Pro-lifers offer a great deal of care to women and for their babies. This, of course, is exactly what Church’s position demands: concern for mothers, as well as their children, and, indeed, for every single human life.”
Dr. Coolman is set to speak at the 52nd annual Diocese of Providence Faith Formation Convocation on Saturday, March 16, at Bryant University. The theme for this year’s convocation is “Enlisting Witnesses for Jesus Christ.” Drawing upon that theme for the day, there are workshops on evangelization, apologetics, catechesis, moral issues and engaging youth in the Catholic faith.
Dr. Coolman will offer a workshop entitled “Jesus as the Early Christians Knew Him” and explained how understanding early Church history be a foundation for Catholics dealing with present day struggles in the church.
“I am really looking forward to talking with folks about some of the ways the earliest Christians understood Jesus. As a theologian, I know how much there is there to rediscover,” she said. “But this is not just esoteric theology; it is crucial for all of us. The current struggles faced by individual Catholics and by the Church as a whole can seem overwhelming. It is easy to get drawn into pitched battles or to feel like everything rests on our shoulders. The Gospel, though, calls us to something different: to renewed encounter to Christ, to ongoing life in Christ, and to finding our place in the community of all those who are living this new life. It is really very good news.”
Leading Ladies is an exclusive Rhode Island Catholic series featuring local women — wonderfully pro-life — active in advocacy, peaceful and compassionate dialogue, all with a strong feminine voice in a culture that does not always speak for them.