IOCC does not function as a “missions” organization as such, but is focused primarily on providing humanitarian aid. Pascalis passionately believes that we as Orthodox must answer the call when disaster strikes, and be there immediately, but also for the long haul. The work that IOCC does, in
its local and relational focus, is about the rebuilding of persons and communities as well as the rebuilding of homes and neighborhoods. It is a tangible and visible witness to the Lord Who is a friend of the poor, not a stranger to sorrows, and near to the broken-hearted.
Martha and Mary House Seminarian John Malcom
n Tuesday, November 3, Sarah Oftedal spoke to the students and faculty of St. Tikhon’s Seminary, as well as many guests from local communities, concerning Martha and Mary House: a Pan-Orthodox maternity home dedicated to “at risk” pregnant young women. Martha and Mary House provides residence, vocational training, support, and even coordinates the process for adoption if the woman so chooses. These women (and sometimes older girls) have very few options for keeping their children but desire to protect their unborn babies’ lives and bring them to term rather than choose to have an abortion. Part of what makes these women’s pregnancies “at risk” is the fact that they, like a growing number of women in our country, are in relationships (and sometimes families) where they cannot reveal their pregnancy without fear of reprisals and/or extreme pressure to abort.
Sarah passionately presents Martha and Mary House through the prism of her own painful experience. Immigrating to the United States from Norway, she had already had two abortions by the time she arrived at just 21 years old. A short time later she found herself pregnant again. However, unlike in Norway, when she approached a doctor here about an having an abortion, she was informed they were illegal. It was at this point that she
House, at once addresses the needs of women in “crisis pregnancies,” while also providing essential space for the healing process for women who have had abortions in the past.
found a “maternity house” where women could go to give birth to their children – this particular one being run by the Roman Catholic Church. The women lived in anonymity, not even using their real names. She gave birth to her child and placed him up for adoption. Slowly, she began to realize her profound grief from the abortions she had received and developed a twelve step program for women dealing with the same emotional trauma. Sarah also became committed to preventing the tragedy of abortion and eventually she set up a home like the maternity house where she had given birth. Officially incorporated in 2001, her vision became reality and was given the name “Martha and Mary House” to reflect the Christ-centered, Orthodox women-serving-women mission and approach of the home. It opened its doors in 2002. The twelve step program, along with the personal care that is offered at Mary and Martha
Sarah’s advice for those of us who would one day be priests was centered on building the trust of parishioners, half of whom will be women. Very likely some of them are women who have experienced one of the 45 million abortions performed in this country since 1973. In order to apply the therapy of the Church they must be able to talk to us about their experience and the kinds of issues they are facing. She also encouraged us to pastorally help them through their post-abortion trauma by commemorating the aborted children at the Divine Liturgy. Sarah’s hope is that her example will provide people with a desire to establish more homes like Martha and Mary House and to reach out to women who are dealing with the issues surrounding having a child. Education for younger women is particularly important ensuring they are aware of the alternatives to abortion if they become pregnant. And of course, our greatest hope and prayer is that through the efforts of servants like Sarah Oftedal, women unexpectedly facing motherhood, and the men equally responsible for their unplanned pregnancies, will make the “choice” to give their babies life.
The Tikhonaire from 2010