Ellen Chesal: secretary for
Pro-life activists from around Nova Scotia are familiar with the friendly smile of Ellen Chesal. Having spent the past 10 years as Campaign Life Coalition Nova Scotia’s secretary, Chesal regularly corresponds with pro-lifers from across the province.
“It’s a volunteer position that seems like a full-time job,” Chesal told The Interim. “CLC Nova Scotia is a very frugal operation. When I became secretary, we moved the office to our home, which allows us to keep operational costs down. This also allowed me to spend time at home with my family, to be available to them and work my schedule around family obligations, while carrying out my CLC duties.”
Prior to taking her position with CLC Nova Scotia, Chesal was a medical secretary. “I worked for a medical practice and volunteered with the local pro-life community in my spare time. My pro-life activism actually goes back 20 years,” she said.
Chesal faced a difficult decision 10 years ago, when some new doctors joined the medical practice for which she worked. “These new doctors came in and began doing abortion referrals,” she said. “I made an issue of it and was told that legally, managers could not stop doctors from making these referrals. So I quit – but not before passing along a lot of information. These doctors knew exactly what abortion was.
“It was a hard decision to quit. I enjoyed doing the work I was doing, working with patients and staff – I’m a people person and like this type of hands-on work.”
Yet, right around that time, something else happened. LifeSiteNews writer and occasional Interim contributor Hilary White resigned as executive director of CLC Nova Scotia. “I was helping out Hilary at the time, volunteering where needed, and so I just assumed many of the responsibilities of the executive director.”
Chesal had always dreamed of devoting full-time hours to the pro-life and pro-family cause. “Previously, I didn’t have time because of my full-time job. But by resigning, I now had more time to devote to justice for the pre-born and for women who are now suffering from post-abortion syndrome.”
She also credits her husband for making her dream possible. “He was very supportive of my decision. This was important to me and to our family, because he was now assuming the financial burden. We would need to adjust to a one-salary family income and, besides my husband and me, we were providing for four children at home.”
With a few personal sacrifices and a little bit of faith, the couple discovered they could live off one family income. “I feel this was divine intervention,” Chesal said. “We’re Roman Catholic and we hold to the church’s teaching on the culture of life. This was God providing like He promised. Our children never went hungry, as He provided 100 per cent of what we needed to sustain our family when I became a full-time volunteer with CLC Nova Scotia.”
Chesal has witnessed many of the right-to-life movement’s ups and downs during her tenure as CLC secretary. “One of the great victories was our organized weekly picket of the Morgentaler abortuary in Halifax,” she stated. “He was only there one day a week – so that’s the day we picketed. He eventually shut down because, I believe, his operation didn’t prove financially profitable. After his abortuary shut down, we moved our picket to the VG Hospital site, where over 1,700 babies are butchered annually.”
Nevertheless, the work ahead is still difficult for right-to-life and pro-family activists. “Our greatest challenge with CLC Nova Scotia is to try and change the hearts and minds of society; to get people to recognize the horrors of abortion – to see abortion for what it truly is,” she stated. “Another frustration is motivating pro-life Christians to take an active stand against abortion. Oftentimes, we seem to be fighting alone, when we know there are a lot more people out there who hold pro-life views.”
On a more positive note, Chesal sees outside attitudes slowly changing toward Nova Scotia’s pro-life community. “Posters are going up in the regional areas with positive, life-affirming messages. For example, one billboard states: ‘If you’re pregnant, it’s a baby.’ In the past, these signs would be vandalized. But now they’re going up and being accepted by people.”
Chesal offers the following advice to anyone seeking to become more active in the right-to-life movement: “The best way to get active is to just do it. It’s very rewarding to know that you’re fighting for something that is sacred. We are fighting for God’s victory and that it is through his grace that we make gains for the culture of life.”
Chesal credits her Roman Catholic faith with giving her the strength to continue fighting the culture war day after day. “It would be much more difficult and frustrating to carry out pro-life work without my faith,” she said. “Even with faith, it is often difficult and frustrating. But my faith allows me to see that, while I may not always achieve victory here on earth, God rewards our efforts and not always our successes.”Which brings this veteran of the pro-life struggle to her last piece of advice for pro-life and pro-family activists: “Pray! Prayer is essential to the pro-life cause. Everything we do is in prayer, whether picketing at the hospital or meeting to plan local pro-life activities. Me, personally, I try to go to Mass daily. Prayer sets my mood to be patient, to accept the frustrations and to pursue our pro-life goals.”
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