On a cold, still night under a full moon, on the steps of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Victoria, Texas, Laura Reyes shared her story of abortion and God’s redeeming power.
Born in Bogota, Colombia, she was raised in a “Catholic” family. Her parents were married in the church and her mother made sure they attended Mass regularly. Laura received the sacraments of Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation. She attended Catholic school where she did very well. Her parents saw her as an independent, responsible child.
Family life was happy. Her parents worked a lot, but then would take weekend trips to small towns outside of the city. In one of these towns Laura, at age 16, met a man eight years older than her.
Her parents did not realize that Laura’s friendship with this man was leading her into a “dumpster” lifestyle. “I consciously rejected all the goodness God and my parents had to offer and chose a life of lies deceit and temporary pleasure. Little by little the devil convinced me that somehow the dumpster of sin was a much better place than His Kingdom.” stated Laura. At the same time, this man was pressuring her to be more than friends. Although Laura had wanted to remain a virgin until her wedding night, she was deeply “in love” with him and rationalized that it was okay because he told her that he had never loved someone as much as her and that they would eventually marry. “At 17, I gave him the precious gift of my virginity, and I just remember the look in his eyes as if he had just earned a trophy.”
Laura’s father eventually guessed that she was pregnant and confronted her. A pregnancy test at a local clinic confirmed that she was pregnant. Her parents were upset and told Laura they were not prepared to raise another baby at this time in their lives; her future would be ruined if she had this child, and her boyfriend was irresponsible and would not be able to support her and the baby. She felt her best option was to have an abortion.
At that time abortions were illegal in Colombia and the local clinic was not up to code. As she lay on the operating table, cold, trembling and in fear of the procedure, she told the nurse that she did not want to do this and wanted to keep the baby.
She was told it was too late and to relax. The procedure was done with no anesthesia and she felt immense pain as they “scraped” the baby from her. “But what hurt the most of all was hearing when the nurse took the remains of my baby and flushed them down the toilet. That is an image and sound that stuck with me for life,” Laura recounted. She felt numb and empty afterwards as if her “heart and feelings were suddenly taken away.”
After that horrible experience, Laura continued to see her boyfriend. To discourage their relationship, her parents sent her to Florida to live with her father’s uncle. She finished high school and went on to college. She got a good job, met a nice guy, and bought a house. Laura hoped chasing the American Dream would give her stability and help her recover from the disappointments of her younger years.
Her living situation changed dramatically when her boyfriend had to return to Colombia because of immigration issues, which led to her selling her house during the housing market crash. The stress of her situation brought up memories of her abortion, and she cried wondering how she had destroyed the life of her baby. She realized “being in a relationship without God at the center and a sacramental union is like jumping (out of) an airplane without a parachute. “
It was during this time that her mother came to visit. She had been in contact with her mother and knew that there had been a transformation in her life but was surprised at how different her mother was when she picked her up from the airport. Her demeanor had changed; she spoke dressed and acted differently now that she was a follower of Christ. It was the week before Pentecost and her mother wanted to attend church.
Laura searched the internet and found that a nearby parish was hosting a guest speaker from Puerto Rico. Laura planned on dropping her off and picking her up later, but her mother wanted her to attend. Praise and worship music was playing when they entered the church.
When Laura knelt to pray, she felt the heat of the Holy Spirit inundating her body, and she began to cry tears of joy and repentance. Laura explains the experience saying “I (felt) healing, forgiveness, and a strong desire to reconcile with God and confess my sins. I cannot describe how intense this experience was, but I can tell you it was REAL and it changed my life forever. I felt as if I was unveiled and suddenly understood that I had a place in the Kingdom and that I no longer had to live in the dumpster of sin.” After this experience, celebrating the sacraments took on a new meaning as she fully participated in Reconciliation, Holy Communion, and Mass.
Laura describes how she “fell deeply in love with Jesus”, saying “He became my lover, my friend, my companion, and the only man worth of my love and time.”
Her transformation shocked her father as he saw her give up her high-paying job to be a housemother at a center for pregnant teens in crisis, earning only a small stipend. She gave away most of her belongings and ended friendships that did not bring her closer to God. She considered joining the Sisters of St. Joseph, but God had other plans.
After her job at the teen center, Laura moved to Orlando to lead the young adult ministry at Holy Family Catholic Church. She had prayed for “someone who would love Jesus more than he could ever love her”. She met Justin a few months later. After a period of courtship, he proposed to her on the Feast of the Holy Family and asked her if she wanted to start a holy family with him!
Today they have four sons, Justin, Peter and Giorgio, and newborn, Joseph Sheen. What a difference her life of love and joy is today from the “dumpster” life she had before her conversion.
Laura concluded her talk by challenging us in three areas:
Pray hard and be compassionate for the people who are still living in the dumpster of mortal sin. These include women who have had abortions, those living with addiction (e.g., pornography, drugs, sex), those living in unhealthy relations, and those confusing sexual identity.
Continue the fight against abortion by praying, participating in the sacraments, and supporting or getting involved in ministries to aid women in crisis pregnancies.
While the number of abortions has decreased by 35% from 1996 to 2019, there were still 883,000 abortions performed in 2019.
Support to women in crisis pregnancies can mean the difference between life and death for an unborn baby. Ministries in our area providing such support include: The Bethlehem Maternity Home, The Gabriel Project of the Crossroads and St. Gianna Molla.
In America, 3.8 million babies are born each year. We need to encourage expectant mothers and tell them how beautiful and blessed they are to bring life into this world.
Smile when you see young kids at church and make them feel welcome.
We need to express our love for each child we see!
By Stacey Ontai - 03/15/2021
Laura & Justin Reyes