The following column was written by The Christophers’ Jerry Costello:
She’s been there, done that. She left her rural home in the Midwest, went to New York, moved in with a boyfriend, had a couple of abortions, survived a suicide attempt.
This all happened years ago, in the early 1970s, when Jeanette Meyer was just a young woman. Now she’s 63–old enough to remember it all, young enough to turn her life around. And that’s just what she did.
I read Jeanette Meyer’s amazing story in a report by Dave Hrbacek in The Catholic Spirit, the newspaper of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese, and quite a story it is. It’s come to fulfillment in Pregnancy Choices, the shelter for young expectant mothers she serves in Apple Valley, Minn. She’s been the executive director since 2010, and there she greets newcomers to the shelter with her presence, her counsel and her truth. And with her love.
“By loving and accepting them,” she says, “we enter the wounds of Christ, as holy mothers, to greet the potential in each person, mother and child. For many of the clients, it’s an awakening to view their past lives and abortions with hope rather than despair.”
That’s quite a far cry from the life Meyer was leading in New York 40 years ago, when a controlling boyfriend forced her into one abortion–and then another. The only way she knew to forget was with too-generous doses of alcohol, and one night she ran from a bar and was ready to dart into fast-moving freeway traffic when the boyfriend pulled her back.
The healing came in time, and proceeded slowly. It began with her confession to an understanding priest and continued when she returned home, to her native Iowa. Then, at a prayer meeting, she met Marty Meyer, the man she would marry in 1975, and with whom she would have five children. Eventually the Meyers moved to the Twin Cities.
All this while, of course, Jeanette Meyer remembered the two infants she’d been forced to abort. Even gave them names, in fact: Daniel Anthony and Esther Maurine. Their memory figured prominently in the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat she made in 2005, which included a healing service for the post-abortive women taking part. And that, in turn, led finally to Pregnancy Choices, in Apple Valley, where she applied for the soon-to-be-vacant position of executive director and found–to her pleasant surprise–that she had won the appointment.
Women come there from all walks of life, and counseling them can take a variety of turns. To some (who ask) Meyer will tell her own story; to others she simply listens. “I want them to have a voice,” she says. “I want them to know about options.” She explains that it’s all part of her mission to be “a woman of mercy,” where listening and the passage of time are major parts of her calling. Her clients come to know they are not alone, she says, and time enables them to consider all the options at their disposal.
Meyer relies heavily on her faith and the example of Jesus in living out her mission. A favorite Bible story is the one in which Jesus forgives the woman taken in adultery, a reflection of his mercy and love.
The women who come to her are never far from her mind. “The first thing they need,” she says, “is love.” And in Jeanette Meyer, they can find it without end.