A film described as a “remarkable narrative” by the president of the Pontifical Council for Life opened last week in theaters. It tells the story of a teenage abuse victim, pregnant and alone, who is able to re-start her life and give birth to her baby (whom she names Hope) after she finds help and support at a women’s shelter.
Agnes “Apple” Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens) flees her abusive mother (Rosario Dawson) and is turned away by her Wall Street father (Brendan Fraser) but finds help through a hospital chaplain (James Earl Jones), who ultimately leads her to one of the Several Sources shelters started by Kathy DiFiore (Ann Dowd).
The film tells the true story of DiFiore, a devout Catholic who left her Wall Street job when she felt God was asking her for more. What began as DiFiore’s offer to take one pregnant teenager into her home has become a group of shelters and a network of resources for women who need help.
ZENIT asked DiFiore about the film and her ministry.
ZENIT: What is it like to see your life on the big screen? Were you happy with the presentation?
DiFiore: As I watch the struggles of Apple (the pregnant teen so well portrayed by Vanessa Hudgens), I vividly see and understand the desperate need for more shelters in this country for young, often homeless and abused pregnant women. This is a story that hundreds of thousands of teens live in our country every year.
The story was based on director/writer/producer Ronald Krauss’ living experience for one year as he wrote the screen play while staying within our Several Sources Shelters community. His work is more than “based on a true story.” It is the lives we live at the Several Sources Shelters every day. We love our work, and Ron’s presentation perfectly and professionally depicts the reality of the lives of our young mothers, their lives, past, present and future.
ZENIT: The film shows how sometimes the very women you are trying to help are the first ones to resist the assistance you’re trying to give. Is that reflective of what happens in real life?
DiFiore: Yes. Sometimes the young women have problems with community living and our rules, but the vast majority of times, after a few days as they make friends with the other mothers, they make new friends who eventually become friends for the rest of their lives. Ultimately, our goal is to help them become good mothers, gain an education and, most importantly, develop a personal relationship with God. We always tell them that when they leave, they will have a baby in their arms, but they must also have God and His Holy Word in their hearts so that they can teach their babies about Him. Children basically learn from their parents their faith by example. I tell them that I don’t want to be allowed into Heaven to only find out later that they or their children didn’t get in because they forgot God and didn’t teach their children.
ZENIT: Could an ordinary person start a shelter like you did? Should they?
DiFiore: We have a FREE “How to Open a Shelter Kit” on our website (www.lifecall.org). As of this date, 12 people have contacted us for a kit. We desperately need more shelters throughout the U.S. Also, go on www.lifecall.org to find our listing by state of the 550-plus maternity homes in case you hear of a young pregnant woman in need of help.
ZENIT: What is the hardest part of this work for you?
DiFiore: When all the beds are filled, I wonder what we will do if someone comes to the door in need of a safe place to stay. We try to be creative, and we work with other shelters, hoping that they might have an open bed but too often they don’t either. We just pray God will provide for them and their preborn baby. This is the reason why we truly need more shelters for pregnant women.
ZENIT: What is the biggest obstacle to your work today? Culture? Laws? Money? Something else?
DiFiore: The biggest obstacle is the negativity and cavalier attitude to God’s precious preborn children, as these little ones are being knit in their mothers’ wombs. Yes, we need funds to operate. One of our four maternity shelters is closed due to lack of funds. Together let’s pray that God will inspire both a change of heart towards the needy and homeless pregnant mothers and the support needed to keep our shelters and all the shelters open.
ZENIT: Do you take a stance on encouraging adoption or encouraging women to keep and raise their babies?
DiFiore: Since our shelters allow the young mothers to stay as long as necessary for them to get back on their feet and a benefactor even provides for college, most of the mothers who come to the Several Sources Shelters choose to keep their babies. Over the years a few birth mothers have chosen adoption, but the majority have decided to raise their children.
ZENIT: The problems of the foster care system are highlighted through Apple’s experience. Of all the situations that might lead a woman to be in an unplanned or crisis pregnancy, was there a reason to focus on that particular background profile?
DiFiore: Many of our mothers have had difficult pasts, including being a part of an unhealthy foster care home. The script was in large part based on that particular story. The story is also based on poverty, homelessness, abandonment, despair and the ability to find family, respect and love among complete strangers. In many ways it is a movie based on the story of the Good Samaritan and the words of Jesus, “When I was Homeless, you took Me in.” Living those words changed my life, and I strongly advise others, if they have not experienced the joy of bringing to life the meaning of those words, to do so now.
ZENIT: So many people in this country are pro-life but too few of us are doing something practical and concrete to “walk the walk.” What advice would you give to someone who wants to do more than just put a pro-life bumper sticker on his car or post a pro-life message on Facebook?
DiFiore: See above answer and experience the love of God flow through you to others in need. Sometimes just a kind word of “you can do this.” Go on our website, www.lifecall.org, and find a Crisis Pregnancy Center or shelter in your area and get involved. Pray for us and for all involved in saving babies. Seeing the film will inspire you to do even more. The locations of the current theaters are on www.lifecall.org, and visit our other website, www.severalsources.net, to learn about my book, which will be coming out in about a month. It tells the story of nine of our mothers, some of whose babies are now in their 20s, as well as my relationships with Mother Teresa, Ronald Reagan and my 20-plus-year battle with cancer as God continues to give me the will and the strength to do His baby-saving work in His Holy Name. AMEN.