Tag Archives: right to life

Meet Dr. Lena Frances Edwards—This Pro-Life, African American, Catholic Mother of Six changed the Face of Medicine in America

Dr. Lena Frances Edwards                                              aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

Lena Frances Edwards was born in Washington, D.C., on September 17, 1900. Her father, Thomas Edwards, was a dentist and an oral surgeon. Her mom, Marie Coakley Edwards, was a homemaker. They were not only African American, but they were also devout Catholics.

Lena’s mom devoted her time to instilling the faith into her four children. Teaching them civic responsibility, developing personal self-worth, and a philosophy she called  “Lift as you Climb’, Marie Edwards left no stone unturned in doing her best to raise well-rounded youngsters. In 1917, Lena graduated at the top of her class at Dunbar High School and was the valedictorian. Mom had taught her well.

Lena then attended Howard University and earned her baccalaureate in three years he moved on to Howard University Medical School and graduated from there in 1924. While in medical school she and a fellow student, Keith Madison, became a couple and upon graduation they married. Between 1925 and 1939 they would have six children.  Following her mom’s example, Lena raised them with their Catholic faith always at the forefront of all they did.

After completing their internships at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., Lena and Keith moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, to establish their medical practices. During Lena’s early years of practice, she had to work from home and delivered most of her patient’s babies from the small clinic she had set up there.

It was during this time that she also became a public speaker about women’s health issues and an advocate for natural childbirth. She was also a staunch defender of life from conception and on. She spoke about public health and social issues at local churches and the YWCA. She helped organize the People’s Charitable League which included a day-care center which she provided with ongoing medical visits.

Her career changed when she was granted admitting privileges to Margaret Hague Hospital in Jersey City. Unfortunately, because of her race and her gender, she was prevented from being given a residency in obstetrics and gynecology until 1945. When she finally decided to sit for the National Board Examinations, she had to fight to garner the necessary hospital endorsements. Obstacles to her advancement were always in front of her, and with prayer and grit, she always seemed to knock them down.

In 1954 Dr. Edwrads returned to Washington, D.C. and took a position at Howard University teaching obstetrics. In due time she was offered the job as a department chair, but she rejected the offer because of her strong, religious objections to abortion.

While in Jersey City, she had focused on treating the poor Eastern European immigrants. Now, in the nation’s capital,  she turned her attention to working with the poor black. She became part of the Urban League, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, the Social Work Advisory Committee, and the Catholic International Council. She also served on boards for unwed mothers and local maternal welfare organizations.

In 1960. Lena moved to Hereford, Texas to help in starting Our Lady of Guadalupe Maternity Clinic for poor Mexican migrant women. She served there until 1965 when a heart attack cut her career short. She went back to Washington and resumed work at the Office of Economic Opportunity and Project Head Start. She retired in 1970, her heart too weak to continue working.

During her life, Dr. Lena Edwards was foremost a devout and ardent Catholic woman. In 1947, she became a member of the Third Order of Saint Francis. Her son, Thomas, joined the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and was ordained a priest in 1962. He was the first African American priest to be ordained in the Society of the Atonement.

In 1964 Dr. Lena Frances Edwards was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the governments highest peacetime honor, honoring her lifetime of work and service for those in need.  She continued to lobby against abortion and programs that she felt demeaned and hindered the progress of the poor.

Dr. Edwards, always fortified by her Catholic faith, overcame many obstacles considering the prejudice and discrimination that was so prevalent during the first half of the twentieth century. She was truly a remarkable woman and a shining example to all people, no matter what their ancestry. She passed away in Lakewood, New Jersey, on December 3, 1986.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

 

January 22—The Betrothal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Joseph is tied to the Protection of the Unborn Children, Marriage and Family

Holy Family–they show us how to Respect Life

By Larry Peterson

January 22, is the day the Catholic Church in America sets aside all else and joins in prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.  Traditionally, in the pre-1955 Church calendar, this day was set aside to honor the “Betrothal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Joseph”. Today, this Mass is still celebrated by some religious orders using the Latin rite.

This is such a beautiful thing for the Church to do. By simultaneously, joining together the Day of Prayer for the Unborn with Roe vs. Wade and the Betrothal of Our Lady, it heralds the beauty of Motherhood, and it trumpets the profound, spiritual importance of marriage and family.

From the Gospel of Matthew 1: 18; “When Mary was engaged to Joseph, before their marriage, she was discovered to be pregnant—by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.”

From Matthew 1: 23: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel.”

In the old testament, Jewish marriages happened in stages. First came the betrothal. At this ceremony, the couple gave their consent. They were now considered truly married. However, before they would actually move in together as a husband and wife, there was a period of time where they spent time away from each other. This could be up to a year, and it was during this separation that the “newlyweds.” were to learn from older married couples how to be good, Jewish spouses.

In his1989 Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, Pope St. John Pual II, used the following words to describe the marriage ceremony of the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph: According to Jewish custom, marriage took place in two stages: first, the legal, or true marriage was celebrated, and then, only after a certain period of time, the husband brought the wife into his house. Thus, before he lived with Mary, Joseph was already her husband.”

When God does things, He sure is meticulous. Mary and Joseph were, according to the law, married. There are those who say that Jesus was born out of wedlock. If the betrothal had not taken place, that might be accurate. But under the law, they were married. There are some would have you believe that Mary was no different than an unwed mother. This is false. The Blessed Mother was a married woman at the time of the Annunciation. She even asked the Angel Gabriel, “How can this be since I know not man?” And she is told it will be by the Holy Spirit. The Angel also informs Joseph. Therefore, within the Holy Family,  the sanctity of marriage and family is fully protected.

Since Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs.Bolton on January 22, 1973, more than 60,000,000 lives have been eradicated. The number is incomprehensible. Yet there are so many who justify this by using the rare examples of teenage rape or incest, out of wedlock pregnancies, Downs Syndrome, deformities, lack of finances, etc. We could also say the Blessed Virgin Mary’s pregnancy was abnormal or irregular. Afterall, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ total DNA comes from a woman. Biologically, Jesus is not the son of Joseph, the Nazarene carpenter. But this man define’s fatherhood, and his example screams out to all men;  Love and protect the child and his/her mom, no matter what. Be loyal and true.Give them your name if you must.

Fittingly, on the 45th Anniversary of the two most ignominious Supreme Court decisions ever handed down, as we pray for the protection of the unborn, we can look to the marriage of Joseph and Mary, a marriage established by God and made perfect by His Son.

Lastly, it is hard to even imagine a better husband or father than a simple carpenter named Joseph. He is an example for all mankind.

We ask the Most Holy Family to pray for all the unborn and children everywhere.