Our ministry reaches back to early 1993. Bert is an intellectual property (IP – patents, trademarks, copyrights) lawyer and in 1993 was outgoing president of the Connecticut IP Law Association. He was also pro-life representative to the Diocese of Norwich, CT from his parish of St. Matthias in East Lyme.
Recognizing the general malaise in our society on the topic of abortion, Bert approached Msgr. Robert L. Brown, Chancellor of the Diocese and then Pro-Life Director for the Diocese, and recommended an educational “dog and pony” show which would travel from parish to parish to inform the congregations about the legal aspects, the medical aspects, and the harm-to-women aspects of abortion. Bert engaged the support of Gerald L. Shaw, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist, who has delivered over 2300 babies in his career. He is a retired Naval Officer and was then involved in research with a major pharmaceutical company in the local area. Jerry is the husband of Pat Shaw who was Bert’s co-pro-life representative from St. Matthias Parish. Together, Jerry and Bert assembled a 35-mm slide presentation which together they presented at the Ninth Annual Pro-Life Study Day held October 30, 1993 At St. Bernard High School in Uncasville, CT. The program was attended by 110 parish pro-life representatives and was well received and it was clear the presentation would have a future
As Bert and Jerry scheduled and gave their presentations throughout the Diocese, it became clear that they had to add a woman to the team since abortion is such a woman-centered undertaking.
They had met Linda Hayes, R.N., one of the pro-life representatives who attended their initial event who, herself was involved with the program on that day. Linda who is married to Deacon Phil Hayes, happily agreed to join the tem when requested to do so by Jerry and Bert. As the team continued, Linda became Client Services Director of a local crisis pregnancy center, but continued her involvement until she became Director in February 1999 of Caring Families Pregnancy Services in Danielson, CT and was thereby no longer able to continue because of the press of duties in her new role.
In time it also became clear that a faster moving program would be necessary than that offered by the 35-mm slide format. To this end, an LCD projector was purchased and an updated PowerPoint® slide presentation was produced. Not only does the PowerPoint® format provide a speedier presentation, it also allows for rapid and up-to-the-minute changes to accommodate new information as it becomes available. This took place in 1999 and the first presentations using this new format occurred in the last quarter of that year.
It had also become clear early on that the Truth Squad needed another team member in the person of a spiritually healed woman who had had an abortion. Although they had communicated with many woman who had had abortions and who indicated an interest in joining the Truth Squad, none had reached the point of spiritual healing necessary to face an audience and relate what they had done. To do so takes exceptional courage and requires that she has passed all five steps of the healing process, namely:
(1) a woman must counter her denial by bringing the abortion back into her consciousness, admitting she was a party to killing her baby;
(2) she must grieve over her lost child with tears, mourning as for another loved one,
(3) she must seek Divine forgiveness;
(4) she must forgive others, a difficult task, but needed to complete the healing and get rid of her long repressed anger, and
(5) finally, she must forgive herself and, as we found out, not many women to date have actually gotten this far, although we are told that those who do have come to find real inner peace.
Obviously, this is a painful and difficult process that requires compassion, empathy, support, and understanding to be extended to the woman from one or more persons.
On January 19, 2000, Bert was alone presenting to the an audience composed primarily of Confirmation candidates of St. Pius X Church in Middletown, CT. As customary, a question and answer session concluded the program and it was clear that some of the youngsters in attendance still didn’t appreciate the seriousness of “the procedure” which terminates a life at its very beginning. At this point, a young woman came forward from the audience, introduced herself as Nicole Taylor, said she had had an abortion and asked if she could say a few words to the youngsters. It was obvious to her that the teens had to be told by one who had “been there” in order for the program to have the greatest impact. However, because of the lateness of the evening, with parents arriving to take their children home, it was not possible. When asked if she would consider joining the Truth Squad, she said she would have to think about it.
Time passed. Nicole attended a pro-life weekend retreat over Memorial Day weekend of 2000 at My Father’s House at which both Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life and the Truth Squad were scheduled participants. Nicole walked up to Bert, re-introduced herself, and informed him that she wanted to join the Truth Squad team. Her first presentation with the team took place on June 15, 2000 at St. Matthias Church in East Lyme sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Council of that parish. For that event, Dr. Roy Kerlin filled in for Jerry Shaw who was out of town on business, Roy is a veterinarian, has his Ph.D. in immunology, experimental pathology and vaccine development and, as with Jerry, is involved in pharmaceutical research and development with
a major pharmaceutical company in the local area.
The program with Nicole as a member of the team was an immediate success.
In time, Jerry retired from his position with the pharmaceutical company and applied for, and was accepted to, the program of study leading to the permanent deaconate in the Diocese of Norwich. The intensive program of study left him no time for the Truth Squad. In replacement of Jerry, Bert had come to meet Tom Messé, M.D., a naval officer, a family practice physician, experienced in obstetrics and gynecology, having actually delivered babies. Tom is on active duty at the U.S. Submarine Base in Groton.
The team members also recognized the desirability of adding at least one other woman to the team. In actual fact, we realize it should be mostly women, for any of a number of reasons. Adding another woman was done in the person of Corinn Dahm, Ph.D. who first saw the Truth Squad present at her parish of Our Lady of Lourdes in Gales Ferry, CT. Corinn is a mother of two and a part-time research scientist at the same local pharmaceutical company which employed Jerry and now employs Roy.