New archdiocesan pro-life director brings a wealth of experience to office

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Allison Donohue will never forget the woman who screamed in her face outside the abortion clinic.

Donohue, that day, was the kind of person abortion clinic staffers love to hate: a pro-life sidewalk counselor.

Sometimes, people would drive by and shout derisive and insulting things at her. Sometimes, clinic personnel would call the police on her and her companions at the slightest pretext.

But sometimes, Donohue would literally save souls and lives.

One day, while standing on the public sidewalk near the Comprehensive Health Center in Overland Park, she had an encounter with a very angry woman. She let the woman rage at her and, when she was spent, they had a conversation.

“Why do you do what you do?” said the angry woman. “I don’t understand how you can hate women like me.”

“I said, ‘We’re not standing out here to judge you. We’re not standing out here because we hate you. It’s really quite the opposite.  It’s because we care about you, and love you and your baby,’” said Donohue.

Then the woman went into the abortion clinic.

“I got down on my knees and grabbed my rosary and started praying,” said Donohue. “Twenty minutes later, she came back out. I can still see her face. She said, ‘You just stopped me from having my sixth abortion.’ That was a pivotal moment when I saw that God can do anything.”

The experience Donohue gained as a pro-life sidewalk counselor, teacher, crisis pregnancy mentor and parish youth ministry director will all be useful to her in her new role as archdiocesan pro-life consultant. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann appointed her to the position, which she assumed on April 27, succeeding Ron Kelsey upon his retirement.

Donohue was chosen from among a great field of qualified candidates, said Father Gary Pennings, vicar general and director of the department of parish ministries. Her experience, creativity and zeal earned her the nod.

“Allison had experience in sidewalk counseling and has a good understanding of the centrality of life issues in the overall morality and justice arena,” said Father Pennings.

“Additionally,” he continued, “her work with youth gives her advantages in taking the pro-life message to a new generation of Catholics who are open to the truth about the dignity of life and the moral bankruptcy of the abortion and euthanasia mentality.”

Donohue was born in Wichita but raised in Blue Springs, Missouri. She has a bachelor of arts in elementary education from Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa. Currently, she is a member of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Kansas City, Missouri.

Donohue became involved in pro-life activism during her college years.

“I was pro-life, but it wasn’t something I was involved with,” she said.

That changed when her spiritual director suggested that she pray in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park. While there, she met Carrie Pirotte and Jennifer Widhelm, who she joined to form a 501(c)(3) pro-life organization called Life Front.

What she saw and experienced had a big impact on Donohue.

“When you see the face of a girl who is going into an abortion clinic, and then see her coming out — knowing that two persons went in but one came out — shook me to the core,” she said. “When they leave, they are very sad. You can see a physical difference.”

Sometimes, she would take a woman to Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic in Kansas City, Kansas, or Advice & Aid Pregnancy Clinic in Shawnee.

“I called Donna Kelsey (director of Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic) on a Saturday morning when a girl stopped to talk with me, and told her, ‘I have this girl, but I don’t know what to do. I need your help.’ So we met at the clinic and counseled the girl,” said Donohue. “She ended up choosing life for her baby. This was one of those times when I was able to walk alongside someone who stopped, all through the whole process.”

Donohue temporarily left pro-life activism when she began her career as a public school teacher, but started helping out at Nativity House in Kansas City, Kansas, a ministry to help unwed mothers and their babies.

Although she loved teaching and her students, Donohue eventually felt a “tug at the heart” that drew her back to ministry. She quit public school teaching and became director of youth ministry at Curé of Ars Parish, Leawood, from June 2015 to April 2016.

“I’d been involved in youth ministry for quite a while,” she said. “I had a lot of friends who were youth ministers, so I helped out at different youth groups.”

She absolutely loved being in youth ministry, but a friend urged her to apply when there was an opening for the archdiocesan pro-life consultant position. After being interviewed by Archbishop Naumann and Father Gary Pennings, she was offered the position.

Although she doesn’t plan big changes for the office, Donohue would like to utilize social media and other technology to reach younger Catholics.

“I see a younger generation that is pro-life, because improvements in technology and science show us this is a baby,” she said.

“We’re in a very interesting time,” she continued. “More young people are engaged. Seeing all the young people at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., was very inspiring. These are our future [pro-life] generations.”

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