In 1984, a mother was advised to end the lives of her preborn twins through abortion. 36 years later, her courageous decision to choose Life continues to change the world through her sons, Fr. Paulo and Fr. Felipe Lizama, who both became priests.
Their mother, Rosa Silva, who lived in the town of Lagunillas de Casablanca, Chile, underwent an ultrasound after confirming she was pregnant. According to Catholic News Agency, in her job as a paramedic, Silva was exposed to x-rays before learning she was carrying a preborn child. Doctors wanted to confirm that the baby had not been affected by the x-rays. When they looked at the ultrasound, doctors told Silva there was “something strange.”
The doctor told her, “The baby has three arms and its feet are sort of entangled. It also has two heads.” The description indicates that there were, in fact, two babies, and, as other sources have noted, doctors likely feared that the twins were conjoined and unlikely to survive. The family does not know if doctors misinterpreted the ultrasound, but they seem to have believed that there was one child who was seriously deformed. At the time, abortion was illegal in Chile except for so-called “therapeutic” abortion when the preborn child is killed because the pregnancy might post a risk to the mother’s health. Despite this exception to many Pro-Life laws, abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother. Abortion is never “therapy,” because abortion does not treat a condition but instead ends the life of a preborn baby or, as in Silva’s case, two babies.
In an interview in 2013 Fr. Paulo explained, “They told my mother to have an abortion … but she didn’t want to. She chose life even though at that time she could have [had an abortion], because she was supposedly at risk.” Recognizing the courageous decision his mother made, Fr. Paulo said, “I always think with special affection and tenderness in the heart of my mother who gave her life for me, for us.”
The brothers did not learn about how they could have been aborted until their mother shared the story after their sixth year of seminary when they were on their way to becoming Catholic priests. They see this as part of God’s plan for their call to the priesthood; once they knew the story, they could see how God was preparing them from before their birth. “How can I not defend the God of life?” Fr. Paulo asked. “This event strengthened my vocation and gave it a specific vitality, and therefore, I was able to give myself existentially to what I believe.”
Even though the brothers were always close and became serious about their faith in their teens following their parents divorce, they did not discuss their vocation and came to their decisions to enter the priesthood separately. Fr. Felipe said in an interview, “God was calling me. I realized that it was in God and in the things of God that I was happy, there was no doubt: I wanted to be a priest.” Fr. Paulo added, “I don’t know who felt the call first. I think God did things the right way in order to safeguard the freedom of our response.”
Today, more than eight years after becoming priests, the twins remain close to each other and their family as they serve at two churches in Chile. They have made sharing their story through social media a part of their ministry. Through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, the twins share their love of God and gratitude for their lives. They also share their passion for soccer and good humor. Even as priests, the twins pull pranks on people and have fun with their identical appearance. Paulo said, “People confuse us and I often pretend to be my brother. The funniest thing is the way people react. It’s the naughtiness of twins, a ‘plus’ that we can’t not take advantage of.”
Their mother’s courage in choosing Life amidst uncertainty is a remarkable example of the ripple effects of choosing Life. Countless lives have been touched by her decision. For mothers in similar situations, there is always hope. Even when twins are conjoined, technology has advanced allowing for life-saving surgeries. In instances in which the baby is not likely to survive birth or live for a long time, there is still hope. That child’s life is no less valuable and carries the same dignity as any other person. Even then, there is hope.
When Christians separate their religious views from their civic voting duties, those they elect assault such religion. The upcoming election will determine the saving or the loss of a great many lives depending on the policy position of the winners.
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