Student’s Heroic Death Continues to Teach the Value of Redemptive Suffering
March 3, 2022. It is the second day of the spring 40 Days for Life marketing campaign in Ventura, California. The calendar is usually empty, not stunning because the marketing campaign gathers momentum, however already, Thursdays are full. Students from close by Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) have signed as much as take virtually each hour of the Lenten vigil. At 7 am, they’re already standing on the sidewalk in entrance of Planned Parenthood—a bit drained however smiling, Rosaries in hand.
It wasn’t at all times this manner. Twenty 5 years in the past, college students on the liberal arts faculty had little involvement with pro-life activism. Understandably so. Immersed in a difficult Great Books curriculum, they spent their days in school and their evenings studying Plato, Aristotle, and St. Augustine. In between, many college students sandwiched work research hours. Finding time to hope in entrance of an abortion clinic was tough. In addition, there was an acknowledgement that to spend 4 years on the tiny Catholic faculty is to take a break from the world to ponder the reality. The campus’s distant location, nestled within the mountains outdoors of Santa Paula, California, reinforces this sense.
That started to vary within the fall of 1997, when a darkish haired, inexperienced eyed sophomore named Angela Baird spoke to a gaggle of pals about praying at Family Planning Associates, an abortion clinic on a tree lined road in midtown Ventura.
Angela was no stranger to pro-life activism. Since ninth grade she had been a sidewalk counselor in her hometown of Spokane, Washington. During her first yr of faculty, that activism had taken a again seat to some very typical freshman considerations: balancing courses and work-study, discovering her place within the campus group. She liked events, nation music, hanging out with pals, and was outspokenly opinionated in school.
At the start of her sophomore yr, nevertheless, pals and school seen a change. Angela turned severe about her prayer life and would ceaselessly sneak away to the small faculty chapel. “It was a really noticeable factor,” says Marie (Sale) Daly, who was in her courses that yr. “She had at all times been loving and type—that was not one thing new to her—however she simply appeared very peaceable.”
“Last yr she was a typical stressed teenager,” faculty chaplain Father Bart de la Torre informed National Catholic Register later, “and this yr she had turn out to be a relaxed, prayerful, peaceable girl.”[i]
Not stunning, then, that Angela’s new seriousness led her to unite a deeper prayer life along with her longtime zeal for the unborn. That fall of 1997, she and some pals started going to the abortion clinic every Thursday—the day when Family Planning Associates scheduled surgical abortions. On the sidewalk, they prayed the Rosary, handed out literature and recommended girls who had been going into the clinic. It was a half hour drive to and from campus, and a thankless job: there have been honks of help but in addition raised center fingers and ugly expressions of rage.
The first Wednesday of November, Thomas Aquinas college students had been having fun with a mid-semester break. The climate was balmy and a gaggle of scholars, together with Angela, deliberate a night hike and in a single day tenting journey within the mountains. They would hike down the subsequent day in time for the weekly journey to Family Planning Associates. Around 6:30 pm, they set off up the path, carrying backpacks, coats and flashlights. The path was acquainted, even at evening: they had been headed to the “Punchbowls,” pure swimming pools that had been a well-liked mountaineering spot.
Jon Daly, a junior on the time, was in the back of the group with Angela. Ironically, Jon was an knowledgeable rock climber and had taken Angela and another college students mountain climbing earlier that day. Jon famous later how rigorously she adopted the climbing security guidelines her dad, a security teacher, had taught her.
But neither was conscious that a part of the path they had been mountaineering had washed away. As they climbed the final hill earlier than the Punch Bowls, Angela turned to say one thing to Jon, took a step again, slipped, and disappeared into the darkness earlier than he might cease her.
The pause earlier than Jon heard the impression informed him Angela had fallen an awesome distance. He shortly discovered a brief reduce and ran all the way down to the bottom of the cliff. “This was a fall of 70 ft, straight down onto rock,” he mentioned in a 2017 interview. “There was nothing alongside the way in which to interrupt her fall.” He discovered Angela laying subsequent to the cliff, aware however struggling to talk.
Two college students ran for assist. Others stayed with Angela, attempting to maintain her heat and awake till paramedics arrived. Daly used a shirt to cowl a big gash on her head.
During that point, mentioned Daly, “She by no means complained. She by no means cried out in ache.”[ii]
“For Aborted Babies”
When the scholars realized that Angela may be dying, Jon requested her what she needed to hope for.
Angela responded “for aborted infants,” Daly wrote later to her mother and father, Michael and Peggy Baird. “I’ll always remember that reply; her love for the unborn and the aborted is likely one of the most stunning issues about Angela’s life.”
Daly positioned his Rosary in Angela’s hand because the group prayed and waited on the darkish mountain: the Rosary, the Hail Holy Queen, the Act of Contrition. “Angela was the strongest one in every of us down there,” Daly wrote. As she grew weaker it was tough for her to reply and she or he requested her pals to hope to her Guardian Angel for her.
Freshman Shannon Gaffney was one of many college students with Angela that evening. “I’ll always remember how stunning she was, at the same time as she struggled to maintain up as we completed every Hail Mary,” she mentioned in a letter to the Baird household. “There will need to have been so many angels surrounding us on the mountain.”
Three lengthy hours later, paramedics arrived and airlifted Angela out of the ravine, an arduous course of due to the tough terrain. It was 11:30 p.m. by the point the helicopter arrived at Ventura County Medical Center.
Emergency room personnel sized up her accidents: a damaged backbone, compound fractures in legs and arms, giant gashes on her leg and on her head, accidents to her pelvis, and large inside bleeding and accidents. Amazingly, she was nonetheless awake and speaking when she was wheeled into surgical procedure.
The paramedics informed Daly afterward that Angela was so calm, they totally anticipated her to drag by way of. But round 1:00 a.m., the woman whom pals known as “a fireball” breathed her final.
It was Thursday, November 6. Angela Baird wouldn’t be praying at Family Planning Associates. Instead, these getting into the abortion clinic noticed an astonishing sight: almost 100 college students gathered on the sidewalk. Tears flowed as they prayed fifteen a long time of the Rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet.
In the times after Angela’s dying, there was an outpouring of grief and prayer that included the docs, nurses and paramedics who had labored to save lots of her life. The following week noticed a procession up the path to the accident website, the place college students raised a hand-made, six foot tall cross.
As her mother and father and 9 siblings struggled to deal with the loss, her mom noticed, “You can’t assist however be blissful to see that she actually did obtain that Christian very best each father or mother hopes for his or her little one. As Catholic mother and father we wish our youngsters to get to heaven, to be saints, to reside holy lives, and at 19 she did that in remarkably much less time than it’ll take most of us.”[iii]
Twenty-five years have handed since that dreadful, but wonderful, evening. Yet Angela Baird’s story continues.
The instant impact of her dying was a flurry of newspaper tales in California and Baird’s house state of Washington.
A extra lasting impact was the custom of sidewalk prayer that TAC college students continued faithfully after Angela’s dying. Thursday afternoons noticed as many as twenty college students praying at Family Planning Associates.
One Thursday, college students arrived on the clinic and seen one thing unusual: the often busy parking zone was virtually empty. Freshman Meghan Patterson went inside to inquire and was informed that the abortion enterprise was closing, and that day was its final in operation.
It was November 6, 2003, precisely six years to the day from Angela’s dying.
The former Family Planning Associates website sat weedy and undeveloped for over 15 years. TAC college students shifted their efforts to the native Planned Parenthood, and handed the torch of pro-life management from one era of scholars to the subsequent.
National Catholic Register printed an article on Baird simply weeks after her dying, written with emotion by TAC alum Karen Walker. A small e-book entitled Princess of the Unborn got here out in 1998.[iv] And a couple of articles within the Catholic press have commemorated the passing years since her dying.
Yet I doubt this explains what I heard repeatedly as I wrote this text: “I’m glad you’re penning this. Angela has been on my thoughts recently.” It turned a well-known chorus, telling me this younger girl, dead for 25 years, may be very a lot alive.
“The Communion of Saints turned actual to me”
Was Angela Baird a saint? Reflecting on this, Jon Daly says merely “I’ve by no means for a second questioned if she’s in heaven.” But, he continues, “She was an actual individual. Real folks have actual struggles, they usually’re not excellent.”
“When she died, the Communion of Saints turned actual to me,” says Daly. “When Angela died, I spotted, these are actual folks. I pray to her repeatedly, as do lots of people. She does reply prayers.”
“It did pierce my coronary heart”
In the Communion of Saints, mysterious connections abound. Case in level: Dr. Deirdre Byrne, a former military physician and medical missionary who arrived at Ventura County Medical Center (VCMC) in 1998, a number of months after Angela Baird’s dying. Doctors and nurses on the busy hospital had been nonetheless speaking concerning the heroic faculty pupil.
“People came upon actual fast that I used to be Catholic,” says Byrne. “That’s when everybody informed me about Angela and the way she moved them along with her devoutness. She was bleeding to dying, and whereas they had been speeding her to the working room, she mentioned, ‘I’m providing all my sufferings for the unborn.’ She made a mark on everybody. Anyone who was there that day wouldn’t overlook.”
Dr. Byrne spent two years at VCMC, coaching missionary docs and finishing her board certification in surgical procedure. In 2000 she joined the Little Workers of the Sacred Heart, uniting twin vocations of doctor and non secular. She had already set her coronary heart on the non secular life when she heard Angela’s story, however “it did pierce my coronary heart so much,” she says. “I assumed, if I may very well be that heroic.”
Twenty years later, Sister “Dede” gave her personal witness to the sanctity of life, delivering a transferring pro-life testimony on the 2020 Republican National Convention.
Angela’s story is “embedded” in her thoughts, says Byrne, as a result of she was fearless. That is what makes her witness so compelling.
A sister’s pilgrimage
The Bairds had not recognized of Sister Dede’s connection to Angela till a good friend introduced it to their consideration after the speech. “My household was very moved,” recollects Madalene (Maddi) Baird, Angela’s youngest sister. “After listening to that story, Angela was on my thoughts and in my coronary heart ceaselessly. I had the sense that Angela was attempting to get our consideration.”
A couple of weeks later, a good friend invited Maddi to go to Los Angeles. She realized the go to was an opportunity to see to the spot the place her sister had fallen. She can be the primary of the Baird clan to make what would certainly be an emotional pilgrimage.
They agreed upon the primary Friday in November. Opening her calendar to pencil within the date, Maddi was shocked: November 6, the anniversary of her sister’s dying. “I felt certain that this was not a coincidence and that Angela needed me to make that journey,” she says.
Standing on the website of the cross, overlooking the ravine the place Angela had tumbled into the darkness that evening, was “a bittersweet factor” for Maddi Baird. “I used to be eight when she died— I had at all times imagined what that cliff appeared like or questioned how she managed to slide on the path. Being there made all these particulars come alive for me.”
Although her household has a robust sense of Angela’s intercession, “I believe what is actually extra highly effective are tales like that of Sr. Dede,” says Maddi. “It is superb to me that 25 years after her dying folks nonetheless keep in mind and are impacted by her.”
The paradox of redemptive struggling
Why did God permit Angela Baird to die? The query turned an ongoing meditation as I wrote this throughout Lent. I attended Triduum companies at her alma mater, and continued to mirror. On Holy Saturday, in a candlelit chapel stuffed with hopeful younger faces, she was nonetheless in my ideas.
Like the scholars round me, she had a lot to look ahead to. She might have lived an extended life, recommended many ladies, performed an excessive amount of good within the pro-life motion. Was her dying a tragedy?
I discovered my reply in Corinthians 1:18: “For the phrase of the cross is folly to those that are perishing, however to us who’re being saved it’s the energy of God.”
Perhaps the satan chortled that evening on the mountain, seeing a vibrant younger life reduce quick. He didn’t —and couldn’t—anticipate the grace that might rework a tragedy right into a triumph. After all these a few years, redemptive struggling nonetheless is senseless to him. He was confounded by this folly on Good Friday, and he’s confounded by it at the moment.
Growing up, my mom used to say to us, “Offer it up.” In 1997, Angela Baird—a younger girl of nice promise— did simply that, providing up unimaginable struggling for the reason for the unborn. Twenty-five years later her story continues to unfold, in prayers answered and lives touched.
[i] In Death, A Teenager Looks Beyond Her Own Suffering, Karen Walker, National Catholic Register, November 30, 1997.
[ii] TAC Student Remembered 20 Years After Death She Offered for ‘Aborted Babies’, Jim Graves, Blog, National Catholic Register, March 22, 2017.
[iii] National Catholic Register, November 30, 1997
[iv] Princess of the Unborn, Theo Stearns, Catholics United for Life, 1998
Image: Thomas Aquinas College, Ventura, CA. By Angel DiBilio on Shutterstock
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