Peter Baklinski

Masterminds behind chart-smashing nun’s Advent album credit pro-life conversion with success

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski
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FLORIDA, 12 December, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The angelic voices of a new order of young nuns has taken the world by storm, surpassing Rod Stewart, Taylor Swift, and One Direction in sales last week at major retail outlets such as Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

But behind the astonishing success of Advent at Ephesus lies the amazing story of the Catholic masterminds behind the album, couple Kevin and Monica Fitzgibbons. LifeSiteNews managed to reach them in the midst of their busy schedules and convince them to tell their story.

Once upon a time Kevin and Monica were both highly motivated individuals working at the top in the music entertainment business for mega companies like Sony and DreamWorks. And both were Catholics from large families who had gradually abandoned their faith in their journey to the top.

An entertainment project brought them together in 1997 and they began dating. Each discovered that the other was a non-practicing Catholic. They decided during the penitential season of Lent to go on a Mass date. Something happened to them during the service.

“We immediately felt that God had put both of us together because we were numb-skulls and he wanted us both to figure things out,” Kevin confessed.

“Yeah, he was sick of both of us at that point,” joked Monica.

Kevin and Monica related their experiences of the emptiness, shallowness, and selfishness that exist in the entertainment industry, where God is unwelcome. Most artists, they said, think only of themselves and seek their own glory, trampling over others in their pursuit of wealth and fame, without much interest in the beauty and truth inherent in genuine art. In the end, they said, the industry sucks the soul out of those closest to it, leaving in its path a trail of empty, broken individuals.

The young couple was interested in marriage, but they were troubled by how many of their co-workers failed dismally at marriage. They witnessed infidelity, divorce, and couples who were technically married but living completely separate lives. And they were uneasy about how the entertainment industry viewed children as a hindrance to success.

“The entertainment industry is a lifestyle, and one that is not very kid-friendly. We weren’t comfortable with that,” Monica related.

Kevin and Monica wanted more for their relationship, but they didn’t know how to get there. 

“There was a lot of warfare in our dating as we tried to figure out ‘who we are’ and ‘what is love,’” said Monica.

It began to dawn on the couple that God would somehow have to be part of the equation if they wanted to succeed in their relationship.

Double Life

Kevin and Monica married in the Catholic Church in 2000. As they advanced in their careers and grew deeper in their marriage and in their faith, it became evident to them that they were “leading a double life”.

They realized that they couldn’t take their marriage and faith seriously and continue selling their souls to the devil in the secular entertainment industry. Something would have to give. They decided it wasn’t going to be their love for one another and their newly discovered love for Jesus and his blessed mother Mary.

“The closer we got into our faith, the more we got pulled away from the secular side of the music business,” Kevin related.

It was around this time that the couple learned that they were expecting. Pregnancy became a “total game-changer” for them.

Monica says that at around this time she began to notice that there were no role models that she could relate to in her work environment, especially at the VP senior director level. She noticed that all the women at the top were unmarried and that they “didn’t have a very feminine quality to them.” She “began to be afraid” that she would have to compromise her dreams of raising children if she was to stay relevant in her workplace.

Meanwhile, Kevin’s own views of unborn babies and fatherhood had been formed largely by his pro-choice co-workers who considered pregnancy to be a choice between a woman and her doctor.

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Ultrasound Game-changer

But a 3D ultrasound of their pregnancy radically changed their hearts and minds about everything.

“After seeing the image of our baby, we realized that we had been numbskulls for so long. We were immediately converted to being pro-life,” they said.

The baptism of their newborn son helped Kevin and Monica realize even more clearly that the industry they worked for was waging a war for the souls of men, women, and children. The Old Rite baptism includes an exorcism where Satan is bound in the name of Jesus and commanded to depart forever from the life of the newly baptized.

The couple says that they suddenly saw that their work in the entertainment industry largely advanced the kingdom of darkness and selfishness, not the kingdom of beauty and truth. They saw through the glamour of the music and film that they had devoted their lives to. They saw the “hold” that it had on them. And they despised what they saw.

The couple decided to extract themselves from the industry, but the more they tried to cut themselves loose, the more they were offered lucrative business deals and raises in their salaries.

It wasn’t until watching Gibson’s Passion of The Christ that the couple realized that it was possible to go independent and produce art that didn’t follow a “copycat cookie cutter” formula.

“The Passion of The Christ was a real kick in the face for us,” Monica related.

The couple moved to Arizona and started Aim Higher Media with the goal of helping real artists get their art out to the masses without it being hijacked by Hollywood nihilism.

“We wanted to help artists who wanted to put out their Christian or Catholic inspired art but who didn’t want it compromised. We wanted them to get their message out without it being edited or spliced,” the couple said.

“We wanted to shine a light on what is true and beautiful in our faith. We have so many hidden gems in the Catholic faith as far as the arts go, especially in sacred music,” said Kevin.

The couple’s connections to the industry allowed them to accomplish big things with very little.

Singing Nuns

Music from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles was recently brought to Kevin and Monica’s attention by their son while they were riding in the car one day. The parents were amazed at the calming effect it had on their now five children (all under the age of nine). Kevin was so impressed by what he heard that he decided to approach the nuns about helping them with their next album.

The nuns agreed.

The Benedictines of Mary are a new monastic order of nuns, founded in 1995. The monastery, which is named Ephesus, is located in Gower, Missouri.  The nuns are semi-cloistered, living a simple life of union with God in prayer, as guided by the Rule of St. Benedict. They pray and sacrifice especially for the sanctification of priests.

The nuns sing together eight times a day as they chant the Divine Office in Latin. They make priestly vestments and sacred linens as well as take care of a small farm that includes animals, gardens, and orchards.

Kevin and Monica enlisted Grammy and Oscar winning producer Glenn Rosenstein to record the album right in the nuns’ chapel. He set up a mobile recording studio and captured Advent at Ephesus in three days, the only amount of time that the nuns would allot for a public intrusion into their secluded way of life.

Advent at Ephesus has maintained the first position on Billboard’s Classical Music Chart for the third straight week.

“Regardless of your political or religious beliefs, you can’t deny the beauty of this art. Anyone who listens to the sisters singing immediately recognizes its beauty,” said Kevin.

Kevin and Monica say that the album’s success is owed not only to God, but to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

“Mary has been a strong and gentle force leading us always ever closer to Her Son and for anything noteworthy we have to offer, it is by way of Her intercession.”

They are grateful for being given a change to bring good into the world through beautiful art.

“If you have ever had a dark past, then you will understand what motivates a soul to try to repair and make a difference,” they said.


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A Planned Parenthood facility in Denver, Colorado
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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Colorado judge tosses suit alleging Planned Parenthood used state funds to pay for abortions

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

Alliance Defending Freedom "will likely appeal" a Monday court decision dismissing their suit alleging Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains illegally used state funds to pay for abortions, an ADF lawyer told LifeSiteNews.

The ADF lawsuit claims that $1.4 million went from state government agencies to a Planned Parenthood abortion affiliate through Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Denver County District Court Judge Andrew McCallin dismissed the case on the basis that ADF could not prove the funds paid for abortions. But ADF maintains that funding an abortion facility is indirectly paying for abortions, which violates state law.

ADF senior counsel Michael Norton -- whose wife, former Colorado Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton, filed the lawsuit – told LifeSiteNews that "no one is above the law, including Colorado politicians who are violating our state’s constitution by continuing to fund Planned Parenthood’s abortion business with state taxpayer dollars."

"The State of Colorado even acknowledges that about $1.4 million of state taxpayer dollars flowed from Colorado government agencies through Planned Parenthood to its abortion affiliate. The Denver court seems to have agreed with that fact and yet granted motions to dismiss based on a technicality," said Norton.

According to Colorado law, "no public funds shall be used by the State of Colorado, its agencies or political subdivisions to pay or otherwise reimburse, either directly or indirectly, any person, agency or facility for the performance of any induced abortion." There is a stipulation that allows for "the General Assembly, by specific bill, [to] authorize and appropriate funds to be used for those medical services necessary to prevent the death of either a pregnant woman or her unborn child under circumstances where every reasonable effort is made to preserve the life of each."

According to court documents, the Colorado law was affirmed by state voters in 1984, with an appeal attempt rejected two years later. In 2001, an outside legal firm hired by Jane Norton -- who was lieutenant governor at the time -- found that Planned Parenthood was "subsidizing rent" and otherwise providing financial assistance to Planned Parenthood Services Corporation, an abortion affiliate. After the report came out, and Planned Parenthood refused to disassociate itself from the abortion affiliate, the state government stopped funding Planned Parenthood.

Since 2009, however, that has changed, which is why the lawsuit is filed against Planned Parenthood, and multiple government officials, including Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

According to ADF legal counsel Natalie Decker, the fact that Planned Parenthood sent funds to the abortion affiliate should have convinced McCallin of the merits of the case. "The State of Colorado and the Denver court acknowledged that about $1.4 million of state taxpayer dollars, in addition to millions of 'federal' tax dollars, flowed from Colorado government agencies through Planned Parenthood to its abortion affiliate," said Decker.

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"Without even having the facts of the case developed, the Denver court seems to have granted motions to dismiss filed by the State of Colorado and Planned Parenthood on grounds the term 'indirectly' could not mean what Ms. Norton and Governor Owens said it meant in 2002 when they defunded Planned Parenthood."

"That, of course, is the plain meaning of Colo. Const., Art. V, § 50 which was implemented by the citizens of Colorado, and the reason for Ms. Norton’s lawsuit."

Decker told LifeSiteNews that "Colorado law is very clear," and that the state law "prohibits Colorado tax dollars from being used to directly or indirectly pay for induced abortions."

She says her client "has been denied the opportunity to fully develop the facts of the case and demonstrate exactly what the Colorado tax dollars have been used for." Similarly, says Decker, it is not known "exactly what those funds were used for. At this time, there is simply no way to conclude that tax dollars have not been used to directly pay for abortions or abortion inducing drugs and devices."

"What we do know is that millions of Colorado tax dollars have flowed through Planned Parenthood to its abortion affiliate, which leads to the inescapable conclusion that those tax dollars are being used to indirectly pay for abortions."

A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains did not return multiple requests for comment about the lawsuit.

The dismissal comes as Planned Parenthood fights an investigation by the state's Republican attorney general over a video by Live Action, as well as a lawsuit by a mother whose 13-year old daughter had an abortion in 2012 that she alleges was covered up by Planned Parenthood. The girl, who was being abused by her stepfather, was abused for months after the abortion.

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Steve Weatherbe

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Fledgling high-tech pro-life group marks 2,000 babies saved: 2-3 saved per day

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Online for Life, the Dallas-based pro-life marketing agency, saved its two-thousandth unborn baby earlier this year and is well on its way to saving its three thousandth by 2015.

“We are getting better all the time at what we do,” says founder Brian Fisher. “It used to be one baby saved every four to six weeks and now its two or three a day.”

But the most significant save? “It was the very first one,” he says, recalling the phone call from a crisis centre a month after OFL’s 2012 startup.  “And for me personally it was just a massive turning point … because [of] all the work and the money and testing and the volunteers and everything that led up to that moment. All the frustration of that was washed away in an instant because a child had been rescued that was about to be killed.”

Though increasing market savvy has led Online for Life to expand offline, the core of the non-profit, donor-financed operation remains SEO -- search engine optimization -- targeting young women who have just discovered they are pregnant and gone onto the Web to find the nearest abortion clinic.

Instead, they find the nearest crisis pregnancy center at the top of their results page. Since OFL went online it has linked with a network of 41 such centers, including two of its own it started this year, in a positive feedback loop that reinforces effective messaging first at the level of the Web, then at the first telephone call between the clinic and the pregnant woman, and finally at the first face-to-face meeting.

“Testing is crucial,” says Fisher. “We test everything we do.” Early on, Online for Life insisted the clinics it served have an ultrasound machine, because the prevailing wisdom in the prolife movement was that “once they saw their baby on ultrasound, they would drop the idea of having an abortion.” While the organization still insists on the ultrasound, its own testing and feedback from the CPCs indicates that three quarters of the women they see already have children. “They’ve already seen their own children on ultrasound and are still planning to abort.” So ultrasound images have lost their punch.

OFL has had to move offline to reach a significant minority who have neither computers, tablets, or cell phones.  Traditional electronic media spots as well as bus ads and billboards carry the message to them.

As well, says Fisher, “unwanted pregnancy used to be a high-school age problem; now that’s gone down in numbers and the average age of women seeking abortion has gone up to 24.” By that age, he says, they are “thoroughly conditioned by the abortion culture. Even before they got pregnant, they have already decided they would have an abortion if they did get pregnant.”

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What they need—and fast, in the first two minutes of the first phone call—is sympathy, support, and a complete absence of judgement. Online for Life is always gathering information from its network on what responses are most effective—and this can vary city to city. The organization offers training to clinic volunteers and staff that stresses a thorough knowledge of the services on tap. “Any major city has all sorts of services—housing, education, health—available,” says Fisher.

The problem that OFL was designed to address was the crisis pregnancy centers’ market penetration. Three percent of women with unwanted pregnancies were reaching out to the CPCs, and seven per cent of those who did reach out were having their babies. “So about 2.1 children were being saved for every 1,000 unwanted pregnancies,” says Fisher. “That’s not nearly enough.”

So Fisher and two fellow volunteers dreamed of applying online marketing techniques to the problem in 2009. Three years later Fisher was ready to leave his executive position at an online marketing agency to go full-time with the life-saving agency. Now they have 63 employees, most of them devoted to optimizing the penetration in each of the markets served by their participating crisis centers.

The results speak for themselves. Where OFL has applied its techniques, especially with its own clinics, as many as 15-18 percent of the targeted population of women seeking abortions get directed to nearby crisis pregnancy centers. “It depends on the centres’ budgets and on how many volunteers they have to be on the phones through the day and night,” he says. “But we are going to push it higher. We hope to save our 2,500th child by the end of the year.”

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Shock: UK mom abandons disabled daughter, keeps healthy son after twin surrogacy

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By Pete Baklinski

A UK woman who is the biological mother of twins born from a surrogate mom, has allegedly abandoned one of the children because she was born with a severe muscular condition, while taking the girl's healthy sibling home with her.

The surrogate mother, also from the UK — referred to as "Jenny" to protect her identity — revealed to The Sun the phone conversation that took place between herself and the biological mother over the fate of the disabled girl.

“I remember her saying to me, “She’d be a f****** dribbling cabbage! Who would want to adopt her? No one would want to adopt a disabled child,’” she said.

Jenny, who has children of her own, said she decided to become a surrogate to “help a mother who couldn’t have children.” She agreed to have two embryos implanted in her womb and to give birth for £12,000 ($20,000 USD).

With just six weeks to the due date, doctors told Jenny she needed an emergency caesarean to save the babies. It was not until a few weeks after the premature births that the twin girl was diagnosed with congenital myotonic dystrophy.

When Jenny phoned the biological mother to tell her of the girl’s condition, the mother rejected the girl.

Jenny has decided along with her partner to raise the girl. They have called her Amy.

“I was stunned when I heard her reject Amy,” Jenny said. “She had basically told me that she didn’t want a disabled child.”

Jenny said she felt “very angry” towards the girl’s biological parents. "I hate them for what they did.”

The twins are now legally separated. A Children and Family Court has awarded the healthy boy to the biological mother and the disabled girl to her surrogate.

The story comes about two weeks after an Australian couple allegedly abandoned their surrogate son in Thailand after he was born with Down syndrome, while taking the healthy twin girl back with them to Australia.

Rickard Newman, director of Family Life, Pro-Life & Child and Youth Protection in the Diocese of Lake Charles, called the Australian story a “tragedy” that “results from a marketplace that buys and sells children.”

“Third-party reproduction is a prism for violations against humanity. IVF and the sperm trade launched a wicked industry that now includes abortion, eugenics, human trafficking, and deliberate family fragmentation,” he said. 

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