For pro-life advocate Lucy Papaik, the words of the prophet Jeremiah have defined her upbringing, her faith convictions and her life’s work: “For I know well the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.”
Papaik is one of 10 children, seventh in birth order, in a steadfast and devout Catholic family. Nearly all her siblings remain active in their Catholic faith, and all are close with one another. When she was a young girl growing up on a 63-acre farm in Arcola, her parents modeled the importance of daily, family prayer.
“We bowed our head in reverence every time we spoke or heard the name of Jesus,” she said. “We prayed a rosary every night, regardless of where we were on the farm. The Blessed Mother was always prominent in our devotions and prayers.” Papaik believes these simple, but powerful, examples set by her parents set the tone for her to remain concrete in her faith well into adulthood.
After she married her husband, Steve, Lucy’s mission shifted from thinking of her life exclusively to praying fervently for her husband and three children. She and Steve have been married for 40 years and have a total of seven grandchildren, a mixture of biological and adopted grandchildren and a diversity of races.
Lucy feels that being pro-life means to love and have compassion towards every human being, “because God made us to be someone,” she explained, as a reflection of His own image and likeness. “Because He created us, I believe we are called to help each other and walk together in this life, accompanying each other in our suffering. Being pro-life involves the reflection of the universality of the Catholic faith.”
Papaik sees the division and strife among different classes as being the antithesis to living the pro-life message. “How can we determine God’s plan for every person when He is the Creator of all life?” she rhetorically asked. Her profound respect for all human life, from natural conception to natural death, is firmly rooted in the example of her parents, her lived experience as a wife and mother, and in her work.
These convictions of faith extend to issues related to euthanasia, or physician-assisted suicide. “My parents were able to die a natural death, to visit with their families, to allow the natural course of life to transition to death, despite suffering. I learned so much about life by observing my parents die,” she shared.
When Lucy and Steve got pregnant with their first child, she was 21 years old. At that young age, they decided together that she would not work outside the home. Lucy wanted to duplicate the environment that her parents provided for her and her siblings when they were growing up.
Shortly thereafter, a neighbor approached her to ask if she would babysit her kids and offered to pay her. She slowly grew the babysitting into a day care business and did it for 40 years.
“This was an ideal opportunity to be at home to raise our children but also supplement our income,” she explained.
Around the time Lucy was considering retiring from the day care business, she heard Abigail Lorenzen, operations supervisor at Right to Life Northeast Indiana, speak at her parish, Immaculate Conception in Kendallville. Lorenzen presented a powerful and poignant message to the congregation about the vulnerability of unborn children that really moved Lucy, especially the question, “Who are we to decide who this baby should be?” She was appalled to learn that almost 74 million children have died by abortion since Roe V. Wade, she said.
Being pro-life extends beyond partisanship to Papaik.
“Because God created human life, protecting and defending the most vulnerable among us remains a dire concern across all political spectrums. God has a plan for every person,” she shared. She is struck by the knowledge that God knows before the birth of all people exactly what His plan would be for their lives.
About a year after the presentation Lucy attended, her pastor, Father J. Steele, instilled in parishioners a sense of the urgency to spearhead a pro-life movement in Noble County. In response, Lucy organized a public viewing of the abortion documentary “Unplanned,” and 150 people showed up. Out of that number, 110 signed up to become members of Noble County Right to Life.
Two weeks after the viewing of “Unplanned,” Northern Indiana abortionist Ulrich Klopfer was discovered dead. Noble County Right to Life had already planned a peaceful march for life around the county courthouse, and after the march, in October, Father Steele planned to sponsor a memorial for the babies aborted by Klopfer.
One of the babies found in Klopfer’s trunk belonged to a woman named Serena Dyksen. Lucy asked Dyksen to be the keynote speaker at the memorial event. After hearing the story of the nationwide speaker and author, Lucy was, once again, touched by the testimony.
Dyksen asked Lucy the next day, “Lucy, what is right to life?” That question made her realize the need to educate and spread the message of right to life beyond their county.
“From that point onward, I was on a mission to do this [in my professional life],” she said. Then, in January 2021, a position for an events and administrative coordinator at Right to Life of Northeast Indiana came available. Lucy knew she wasn’t qualified for it but applied anyway.
About the middle of July, all her day care children transitioned to kindergarten. She knew this was a natural transition for her as well, leaving her free to move from day care into working for Right to Life in some capacity. In August, she was hired for the events and administrative coordinator, the very position she had believed she was not qualified to do.
Today, Lucy speaks with different religious denominations in her new position. She is also learning about the value of ecumenism in being a pro-life witness.
“I believe God is planting small seeds through the conversations I have with various pastors, who then influence their families and communities in different ways,” she said. “In turn, the message of protecting and valuing all human life is extended beyond me and my parish.”
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