Unplanned Shown in Monte Vista Theater Thanks to Local Group Effort

“Little” local actions can ignite, inspire and influence with a ripple effect beyond calculation. The story of how Abby Johnson--once a Planned Parenthood clinic director--became a national prolife advocate and a convert to Catholicism is full of ordinary people whose witness is part of Abby’s journey.

The story of how Unplanned came to Monte Vista is an example of little, impactful actions taken right here in our Diocese last summer.

When Bernadette Torres heard that Abby Johnson’s book Unplanned had been made into a film for theater release, she took a simple step. Bernadette, who serves in the San Juan Catholic Community with her husband Deacon Ray Torres, had heard Abby's story five years ago when she spoke in the San Luis Valley to raise funds for the local pregnancy center. Knowing first-hand how powerful Abby’s message is, Bernadette asked the manager of Monte Vista's Vali 3 what it would take to bring Unplanned to her hometown.

That small action brought local Catholics and Protestants together in a work that made Unplanned available for two consecutive nights of free viewing last July.

It turned out that a member of one of Monte Vista's evangelical congregations had the same idea. When she inquired about Unplanned and learned that Bernadette was also interested, a coalition of Catholics and Protestants quickly formed.

Together the group discovered that the SLV Life Center (formerly the SLV Women’s Resource Center) had hoped to bring Unplanned to the Valley as a fundraiser, but the small nonprofit organization found the cost prohibitive.

Representatives of the SLV Life Center joined the group which included members of the San Juan Catholic Community and the Valley Church of the Nazarene. Together they raised the necessary funds and met with the local theater board to dispel concerns about the controversial film.

The dream became reality in late July, when Unplanned was shown for two consecutive summer evenings. Offering free seating and the opportunity to donate to the SLV Life Center as well as the Vali 3, the theater was nearly filled to capacity both nights. A total of 419 people viewed Unplanned and the SLV Life Center raised $1,143 for its prolife work.

The film closely follows Abby Johnson’s story as told in her memoir Unplanned, but the visual experience allows audiences to consider the biological facts about human development in a profound way, revealing life the earliest stages of pregnancy.

Unplanned is a compassionate film, not shying away from the devastating difficulties women in crisis pregnancy encounter and it includes the challenges and misinformation that had led Abby Johnson herself to choose abortion twice.

Abby’s direct experience of abortion gives the film a high level of authenticity. Unplanned reveals abortion’s psychological and medical after-effects as well as the beautiful possibility of repentance and healing.

SLV Life Center Director Deborah Black expressed gratitude for the group effort, for Father Don Malin’s visit to the Center and for the $3,000 Humanitarian Concern Grant the The Catholic Foundation awarded the Center to help them provide layette supplies, car seats and curriculum updates for clients who complete Earn While You Learn parenting classes.

The film’s impact and the impact of friendships formed as Catholics and Protestants worked in common cause is incalculable and hidden like so many works undertaken in the spirit of the Little Way. Changing hearts and saving lives is the work of God, who sees all things, no matter how small.

He is always opening doors for those who take small steps of faith.

Contributor: Peggy Haslar is a counselor at Marsh School and attends Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Monte Vista, Colorado. She blogs on faith and culture at Sparrowfare: Seed-Searches among the Stones.