POLAND – Monica Troy has learned that, in the midst of the suffering she endured from a bad decision – in her case, an abortion – God was there, giving her the gift of wisdom.
Troy said she came to “Blessed 1,” a pro-life evening held at Poland Holy Family Parish, to share good news on Divine Mercy Sunday (April 15) about how Jesus transformed her darkness of pain, guilt and anguish into new light, which she shares with women experiencing unplanned pregnancies.
Troy was a featured speaker at the event, which was sponsored by Men and Women United for Life, a pro-life group within the diocese, and Holy Family Parish Youth Ministry.
More than 100 persons listened to Troy’s story and a talk by Deacon Ralph Poyo of the Diocese of Steubenville, a nationally recognized speaker on chastity and founder of New Evangelization Ministries.
Troy currently lives in Mason, Ohio, with her husband and five children. She is lead consultant at Elizabeth New Life Ministry in Sharonville, Ohio, which offers counseling to women who struggle with pregnancy.
Troy struggled herself at age 18, when she followed her boyfriend’s advice and had an abortion. “Fear of telling my parents consumed my mind,” she said of her pregnancy. The abortion left her with a lonely, dark place in her heart that she could not discuss with others. “My secret became a death wish, and I became suicidal,” she said. “My choice destroyed my relationship with God.”
Three years later, having graduated from college and landed her first job in advertising, but while dating the same boyfriend, she became pregnant again. He recommended abortion again; she left him, eventually finding support in a female co-worker who became her roommate. She later met with a Catholic Charities counselor to discuss adoption, something she wasn’t sure she could do. On the day of her daughter’s birth, Troy recalled praying the rosary and hearing God’s voice within her ask if she trusted Him. Yes, she said, remembering a feeling of peace afterward. She called for a nurse, and the baby was taken away.
Troy had more to let go. Eventually married, she had told her husband about her daughter’s adoption, but it took her five years to tell him about the abortion. Then she learned about Project Rachel and Rachel’s Vineyard, Catholic Church-supported counseling and retreats for women who have experienced abortions. It took time and participation in Project Rachel, but Troy was able to forgive herself, she said.
Still, she wondered if she had made the right choice about the adoption of her daughter. Her husband located her daughter in 2007, and mother and daughter exchanged letters and photos for 18 months. “I thought I would finally be at peace with my past, but Elaine has her father’s eyes. Looking at her made me uneasy. I had never forgiven him,” she said. She decided to go on another retreat before arranging to meet her daughter. At one point during the retreat, she cried out to her aborted child, whom she had named Michael, to help her rid herself of hatred for her former boyfriend. “Now when I look in Elaine’s eyes, I only feel love,” she said.
Troy and Elaine met in 2008. Troy was pleased to find that Elaine had loving parents, who welcomed Troy and her husband with open arms. Elaine was an All-American swimmer who had earned a scholarship to the University of Texas and made it to the Olympic trials. Elaine has met her extended family, and she joined the Troys on a cruise last Christmas. Now living in California, Elaine exchanges emails and texts with her younger siblings, Troy said.
On average, women begin to deal with the emotional aftermath of abortions 10 to 20 years afterward, Troy said. “I am forgiven, but a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of Michael,” she said. These days, she prays that she will be able to help others, she added. She offered two pieces of advice to the generations present in the audience: Don’t let someone talk you into a sexual relationship, and do help someone who is pregnant and alone because a life may be saved.
In his address, Deacon Poyo focused on the need for “profound conversion” in the world and how it begins within ourselves. “We need to know with absolute certainty that God lives in us,” he said. “How do we get that? How do we encourage others to see the light and the truth? You cannot give what you don’t have.”
Deacon Poyo recalled the New Testament story about the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well. She was ostracized by her neighbors because of her adulterous behavior and could only visit the well at midday. Jesus broke social norms when he spoke to her, but he was “prepared to break through the rules because he knew He needed to get close,” the speaker said. By the end of their conversation, she hurried back to tell the same people who hated her about Jesus “because she encountered love.”
Jesus came into the world to undo Satan’s work, and such spiritual battles continue today, Deacon Poyo said. “Satan has trained us on how to lie,” he said. “We bury our brokenness and live lies.” People try to suppress these wounds, but the pain continues, he said, speaking from his own childhood experience of sexual abuse by a relative. He had vowed never to tell anyone about the shame and pain he felt. Then, when he was 9, he discovered his older brother’s stash of Playboy magazines and “learned how to live a rational lie. I wasn’t hurting anybody, I was just looking at pictures.”
He was fully addicted to pornography by the age of 12, he said. He graduated from college, married his high school sweetheart and was working as a youth minister before he began a long journey of recovery. “My God is real, and he changes lives, and he wants to use every person in this room” to change more lives, he said.
On the topic of modern sexuality, Deacon Poyo said, “We no longer understand the purpose for our bodies, so the world is defining it for us. We no longer understand who we were created to be.”
Nicole Ginnis, a junior at Youngstown Cardinal Mooney High School, read her winning entry in Mahoning County Right to Life’s annual Junior-Senior Pro-Life Essay Contest. She was introduced by Sally Perunko, president of the local Right to Life chapter, and received a $200 prize. Ginnis also has qualified to participate in an oratory contest at Ohio State University. She attends Struthers Christ Our Savior Parish.
The praise band Morning Star performed uplifting songs between speakers. Morning Star is comprised of guitarist-vocalist Gina Fire of Youngstown SS. Peter & Paul Parish; vocalists Priscilla Beck of St. Angela Merici Parish (the former Youngstown Immaculate Conception/Sacred Heart Parish), Libby Tabaka of New Middletown St. Paul the Apostle Parish and Paige Lape of Youngstown St. Patrick Parish; and percussionist Tony Lape of Youngstown St. Patrick Parish.
The event concluded with refreshments in Holy Family Parish Center. Participants were encouraged to browse additional pro-life group displays and “celebrate a culture of life,” said Natalie Wardle, coordinator of youth ministry at Boardman St. Charles Parish and collaborator with Judy Welsh, director of Men and Women United for Life. Welsh is a member of Holy Family Parish.
Debora Shaulis Flora is a veteran journalist living in Youngstown