The following profile of MCFL Board Member Danielle Cohn originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of the MCFL News magazine, a perk of membership mailed out quarterly to all members. (Pictured are Danielle, her husband Peter, and their daughter Clara.)
How did your growing up affect your pro-life formation?
I grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts, the youngest of five siblings. I was raised Catholic, though my father’s family is Presbyterian. I cannot say that I remember becoming pro-life, or really even learning about most of the life issues. My earliest memories of thinking about abortion are in high school, through our parish Life Teen program. However, the memory of that experience is not a strong one, and the experience wasn’t formative. As I remember it, being pro-life was more of a natural disposition, consistent with all of the values that were instilled in us as children – Christian values: seeing the dignity of every person and living in a way that honors that dignity.
I do remember vividly when I realized the necessity of translating my pro-life disposition into activism. As a freshman in college at The Catholic University of America, I went to a meeting of the pro-life club to decide whether or not to join the Chaplain, Fr. Bob, said, “This is the most important group on campus, because what you do has a tangible effect. It is a matter of life and death.” Throughout my years at CUA I joined the group praying on Saturday mornings outside of Planned Parenthood. I also had the great privilege of attending two retreats with Msgr. Philip Reilly at the convent in Brooklyn and learning how to be an effective sidewalk counselor.
As my involvement in the pro-life movement grew, I came to understand the profundity of Fr. Bob’s words, echoed and embodied with intensity in the words and witness of Msgr. Reilly; I realized that it was during these times of ministry and prayer for the pro-life movement that I felt closest to God, and as though I was living with a purpose. It became clear to me that the pro-life movement, in all of its dimensions, is the most important thing with which I can be involved at this time and place in history. It is the most tangible way to live in solidarity with the most vulnerable among us, which is the deepest desire of my heart.
You worked for the Archdiocese of Boston. How does that influence what you bring to MCFL?
Upon graduating from CUA it was my desire to work either in the pro-life movement or with youth, or to further my education in psychology. The Archdiocese was at the time hiring for a new position in a new office that served youth and young adults. I applied, was hired, and began working there in 2008. I remained in the Archdiocese until just recently, holding three separate positions, all of which allowed me to participate in the ministry of discipleship.
Although my positions at the Archdiocese were not focused on pro-life work, they directly and indirectly involved me in the movement. In a direct way, I was part of the team that brought hundreds of young people each year on a pilgrimage for life in D.C., as part of the March for Life. During these pilgrimages I had the great privilege of teaching young people about pro-life issues, and about their own dignity. Through my work with youth, I have learned that many young people in today’s generation are naturally disposed to being pro-life. They are compassionate, and have a deep desire to help those who are suffering. However, along with their deep compassion, this generation is hallmarked by a desire to be accepting of all, and often this desire has misled many of them into thinking they should be pro-choice.
In another direct way, the Archdiocese has for the past several years participated in the Mass. March for Life in Boston run by MCFL. Through my work in the office, I was able to help promote the March, reaching out to many youth leaders encouraging more involvement.
Less directly, I think the same thing that draws me to the pro-life movement draws me to working with young people. Pope Saint John Paul II coined the term “culture of death” when talking about the consumerist climate of our world in the nineties. Since that time we have in many ways progressed further into darkness (abortion, physician-assisted suicide, the opioid crisis, teen suicide, broken families, to name a few examples that have touched all of us). I believe that helping young people, who have grown up in a culture of moral relativism and despair, is one of the most important ways that we can begin to change things – not only by forming them in the truth, but by helping them to recognize their own dignity and worth. In my mind there is nothing more pro-life than this.
What MCFL activities, projects, events, educational opportunities are most important to you?
I have been most involved in MCFL through my position as a board member and in helping with the Mass. March for Life in Boston. My heartfelt desire for MCFL is that more and more young people will see how crucial the organization is to the social and political condition and future of our state, and therefore of our country. I will keep trying to get more young people involved in MCFL, given current opportunities, and work within MCFL to brainstorm new ways of expanding the possibilities of involvement. The energy and passion of youth are essential to the continued success of the organization and therefore of the movement at large.
You've just gotten married and had your first child.
My husband Peter and I were married in September of 2016 and had our first child, Clara, on July 29th of this year. It has already been the most rewarding experience of my life learning to be wife to my husband and mother to my daughter. We are daily filled with gratitude for the many blessings we have received and that we continue to receive in and through our vocation to family life. Among those great blessings is the opportunity for me to stay home with our daughter. I look forward to growing in this new vocation and building the culture of life through our own little family.
Are you finding any time for leisure activities?
In my leisure time I most enjoy reading a good book and exploring new coffee shops, or popping into an art museum. When possible I love to ride my bike and to run. My husband and I also enjoy taking car rides all over New England to go hiking, or explore beaches, vineyards, and markets – although doing these activities with our additional cargo is a whole new kind of adventure!
I am also eager to get back to painting and drawing – as of late my artistic energies have been more or less concentrated into decorating our new house.
Lastly, I hope to continue to work with young people, whether through Church ministry or speaking engagements. I also hope to continue to find new and more direct ways to serve the pro-life movement.