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Catholic Vancouver April 11, 2019

Pro-life nurse witnesses outside her own hospital

By Agnieszka Ruck

Nurse Kimberly Gonsalves participated in a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil outside B.C. Women's and Children’s Hospital, where she works. Her pro-life convictions stem from discovering a family member had an abortion and seeing how it devastated her family. (Agnieszka Ruck photo)

Every year, nurse Kimberly Gonsalves would notice the pro-lifers with 40 Days for Life signs and rosaries, praying outside B.C. Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

She would often travel past the display on her way to and from work. Personally pro-life, she would marvel at the courage it took the demonstrators to stand outside, rain or shine, and make public what they believed – but she didn’t join in.

“In my heart, I had the desire to do it, but I was also struck with fear, because this is a place where I work,” said Gonsalves.

Abortions are performed at the hospital, but she is not personally involved in the procedure and doesn’t know if any of her co-workers are – though, it’s not a popular subject in the cafeteria.

Things changed when she heard her pastor, Father Justin Huang, speaking up in favour of 40 Days for Life. Since 2017, Father Huang has seen mobilizing pro-life members of his parish as a priority and annually urges them to participate in the peaceful prayer vigil, which doesn’t involve graphic images or engagement with the public.

In 2018, Gonsalves, sitting in the pew, was convicted and terrified. “I remember thinking and praying about it and telling my husband: ‘we should really do this,’” she said. “The more I prayed about it, the more I came to a conclusion that if I am scared, that is not the right reason to not do it. Actually, that is more of a reason to do it.”

Despite her fear of standing up for her beliefs, facing hostile passersby she wouldn’t know how to talk to, or being judged by co-workers, Gonsalves took a leap of faith. She and her husband signed up for a time slot with 40 Days for Life. They took up positions standing outside the hospital holding rosaries and praying for women in crisis and their unborn children.

“What I love about it is it’s not intrusive, it’s not aggressive, in any way. It’s quite peaceful,” she said.

“Oftentimes the fear holds us back. We’re scared of having that conversation. We’re scared of the judgment. That’s fair. It’s not easy to carry that. But for myself, when I feel that fear, I’m doubting the Holy Spirit. I’m doubting that he can come and deliver. That is the crux of it all. I am not allowing him to take my hand and say: ‘I will protect you. I will hold you through this.’”

Kimberly Gonsalves (second from right) participates in a prayer vigil outside the hospital in 2018. (Photo submitted)

Gonsalves doesn’t remember recognizing any of the hospital staff who walked by that day, and wasn’t confronted with a debate when she returned to work the following Monday, but she believes her actions made a difference.

“You don’t know the power of these prayers, and the strength that comes from coming together and supporting the unborn,” she said.

Gonsalves’ pro-life convictions are personal; a member of her family has experienced an abortion and she’s seen the effect it had on her, and on the whole family. “It’s something she holds so close to her heart. Seeing the pain in her eyes, and seeing the weight of it, is something I’ve always thought about.”

Her love for her family member and for other women in crisis led Gonsalves to volunteer at The Back Porch, a pro-life organization in Edmonton located directly across the street from an abortion clinic. It offers women a friendly person to talk to, resources, and alternatives to abortion.

When she moved to Vancouver four years ago, Gonsalves was on the lookout for another pro-life initiative to get involved in. She hadn’t known then it would mean standing with signs and rosaries outside her own work place.

“If we want to make the world a better place, if we want to support our faith and be vibrant, we have to have that courage,” she said.

Her day of prayer with 40 Days for Life in 2018 ended with a happy twist: after Gonsalves and her husband went home that day, they found out they were pregnant. They now have a bubbly, healthy, five-month-old daughter.