Many times, the unsung heroes of pregnancy care centers are so consumed with their life-giving work they miss the opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded organizations. Mike Hammer, a Catholic philanthropist in New Orleans, noticed this unfortunate phenomenon and set to work finding a solution. He decided to gather these pro-life workers for a delicious meal and a chance to commiserate in the hopes that by networking something beautiful would blossom.
Hammer’s idea caught the eye and imagination of Florida business woman, Janine Marrone. When Marrone read about what Hammer was doing in New Orleans, she immediately understood the impact that unifying pro-life workers and harnessing resources would have on the women of the community at large. Having recently become a pro-life advocate thanks to her friend Kathleen Majerchin, then director of development for Solve Maternity Homes, Marrone felt the tugging of the Holy Spirit to bring this initiative to her home state of Florida. With Majerchin as cofounder, Marrone launched Luncheons 4 Life, where a beautiful meal restores, strengthens and unifies those working in the pro-life movement.
That was in 2013. Ten years and thousands of volunteer hours later (L4L is all volunteer-run and diocesan approved), the fruits of that initiative are abundant. Thanks to the connections made at Luncheons 4 Life through the years, there have been countless blessings, miracles and lives saved, according to Marrone.
“The devil wants to divide us and have the movement scared, but Jesus wants to unite us and give us His power,” Marrone said. “Luncheons 4 Life is a cultural response to abortion. It is successful because we gather these pro-life soldiers, help them see that they are not alone and that together we can multiply our efforts. There’s no cost, no politics, no ask — just sharing resources, helping each other and bringing awareness.”
For the first nearly four years, Majerchin co-managed the monthly Luncheons 4 Life, helping it grow from Venice, the site of the first Luncheon 4 Life, to other cities in Florida until her tragic passing from cancer. Marrone continued the ministry, honoring her friend’s selfless dedication, with the help of Jeannine Byrnes, who co-manages the overall strategic efforts and oversees the Venice and Clearwater Luncheons 4 Life specifically.
The Luncheons feature local, state and national speakers in the pro-life movement that share about their work, from assisting women in choosing life to supporting moms and their children after they are born to helping women who have had an abortion find healing. There is no judgement, only a desire to find solutions, which are often ecumenical in nature.
One such speaker was CMA’s Dr. Karen Liebert, an ob-gyn physician in Bradenton, Florida and member of the Southwest Florida Guild, who initially was hesitant about public speaking, but was passionate about the topic she was asked to address — Abortion Pill Reversal — and so accepted the invitation four years ago.
“I’m so glad I did! What I found there was an amazing ministry,” she said.
Dr. Liebert is the medical director for the Community Pregnancy Clinics, “a statewide medical organization that saves, on average, over one thousand babies from abortion every year,” according to its website. The clinic in Sarasota is located next to the regional Planned Parenthood, were it serves as a field hospital, in an often David vs. Goliath relationship, she explained.
“Luncheons 4 Life facilitated getting to know personally others whom we could use as referrals and mentors,” she said. “Prior to L4L, the individual pro-life groups had amazing potential and purpose, however getting together on an informal basis to learn about the other ministries has been a wonderful source of encouragement and support, through which I have made many cherished friends. More importantly, our clients have benefited from the overall team approach — more comprehensive assistance, facilities, locations, and services.”
Those connections are often made during Marrone’s favorite part of the Luncheon she calls “pass the mic.” After a Q&A with the featured speaker, the mic is passed around to those in attendance which provides an opportunity for local organizations represented to give their praise reports and share their needs.
“It’s then when networking takes place, volunteer opportunities are shared and awareness of what is going on locally — and nationally — happens,” she said. It’s when “the magic of L4L” happens.
Marrone, too, has also been impacted by what she’s learned from Luncheons 4 Life. It was a Luncheon 4 Life speaker in the early years, whose testimony of the emotional pain she endured after having an abortion, opened Marrone’s eyes to another often over-looked and not well-organized aspect of the pro-life movement — the abortion healing ministries.
She realized there were not only millions of women hurting from abortion, but that number was magnified by the fathers, grandparents and others indirectly touched by an abortion. Marrone once again felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit and did what she knew to do best — she took the principles applied to Luncheons 4 Life and gathered leaders in abortion healing to formulate a strategic plan to better server those hurting after abortion. It led to the founding of Support After Abortion, a nonprofit organization that has united the healing programs that are available under one network to provide the best, most individualized care for the healing of a person impacted by abortion.
Referencing the recent Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade, Maronne notes that “laws don’t change hearts, hearts change law,” and she hopes that “tethering the energy found in the pro-life movement through Luncheons 4 Life and Support After Abortion” will do just that.
Today Luncheons 4 Life is held in seven Florida cities as well as Louisville, Kentucky; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Atlanta, Georgia, and St. Louis, Missouri. The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City runs the L4L in Oklahoma City, abiding by Marrone’s strict rules of how all Luncheons 4 Life must run: no cost, no asking for money, no political talk — just grassroots networking over a lovely meal.
Marrone finances the other ten locations because she’s in the business of changing people’s lives even if it doesn’t translate into any financial gain. She understands some in the investment world might find this “ludicrous,” but for her, the spiritual returns far outweigh the cost. She welcomes other philanthropists or investors who share her passion for honoring those who work to make abortion unthinkable to join her.
“You have to have faith to do this,” she said. “It’s about being open to the Holy Spirit, who orchestrates it all. There is no monetary value that can be put on human life.”
To learn more about Luncheons 4 Life, contact Jeannine Byrnes at the [email protected]