Helping Above and Beyond. Mother Assumpta sits Down with Shann Patton.

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Shann Patton, co-founder of Arbor Woman, spent a few minutes with Mother Assumpta discussing the assistance and services they provide to women in the Ann Arbor area. These services include pregnancy tests, counseling, and ultrasounds; however, the center is incredibly excited to be expanding soon to include many more medical services, including prenatal and obstetric care.

Mother Assumpta: 

We met Shann since we’ve been in Ann Arbor, and we have always admired her as a beautiful wife and mother but also the wonderful work she does with something so vital in our culture and that’s the pro-life issue. Tell us about how you got involved.

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Shann Patton: 

I’m truly humbled to be here. My husband, Tim Patton, and I have been married for 35 years. We have six children and three son-in-laws. We are blessed with five grandchildren and two more on the way in the womb. I’ve been a longtime parishioner here in Ann Arbor with St. Francis of Assisi and had the pleasure of meeting Mother and Sister John Dominic, Sister Josefina Andrew, and Sister Mary Samuel throughout the years in our work in the community. You have always been a blessing and an inspiration to Tim and I and our family. My primary vocation is as a wife and mother, and I’ve always been more a servant of the Lord, never called into leadership. Many moons ago, when I was a young mother here in Ann Arbor as a member of St. Francis of Assisi church, a woman made a Pulpit Appeal regarding a tiny fledgling organization called Problem Pregnancy Help. They were asking for volunteers to serve as phone counselors on a 24-hour crisis hotline. I had three or four small children at the time, and it resonated with me. I thought that is absolutely something that I can do. That is where the seed was planted to get involved in helping young women confronting crisis or unplanned pregnancies. I served in that capacity for five or six years and then got involved peripherally. Many of the pro-life concerns developed from grassroots volunteer organizations manned by people passionate about life. There was an effort to try to combine two of these small organizations locally. Unfortunately, that went by the wayside, and simultaneous to that, the founder of this organization who is also a mother of six or seven and had similar qualifications as me, suffered an untimely death. I went to her funeral, and this is where the call came. Her daughter got up at the end of the mass and eulogized her mother and made this appeal that resonated with me. She said, “You know my mother was a mother of six. She didn’t have any leadership qualities. She was unorganized.” She went through this whole litany, and I was thinking, “Is she speaking about me?” She said, “She gave everything to this cause for young women confronting crisis pregnancies and the unborn, and I’m asking please don’t let this organization die.” I went home that night, and I was awakened in the dream. My husband’s very funny about how he says that because I apparently woke him up and said, “I’ve got to do this.” That was the very beginning of me coming forward to say, “I would like to see this continue, and I’ll do whatever my meager abilities can help to foster this.” That began a journey to begin what then we called Problem Pregnancy Help from Pregnancy Help Center to then the founding of Arbor Vitae Women’s Center, which is now Arbor Woman. That’s the journey that the Holy Spirit has guided.

Mother Assumpta: 

How does that work? You got a building, and did the women just come?

Shann Patton: 

Our original design was like many pro-life pregnancy call centers to try to be in close proximity to the abortion provider in the community. That was our original man-made attempt, but that fell through. We purchased a lease on a building very close to Planned Parenthood in Ann Arbor, and everything went wrong with that. I turned to prayer, as many of us did, and it led us to consider here. The incidence of abortion usually occurs in the 18 to 24-year-old four-year-olds. We need to be immersed in the college campus setting, and so that began another journey to find a location. Our current location is right in the heart of the University of Michigan campus business district in the lower ground level of a Starbucks coffee building. That was an attempt to provide proximity and anonymity. A young woman who’s in a difficult situation could essentially go into a building that appeared to be a Starbucks and head right on down to where we would accept her lovingly and so on. 

Mother Assumpta: 

How is it gone over the years? Do you have a lot of young women?

Shann Patton: 

Arbor Woman and Arbor Vitae are entirely guided by the action of the Holy Spirit. My founding is merely a man used as an instrument. Now we are taking a different path. As many pro-life pregnancy medical centers are finding, we have been marginalized by the culture in that we are very effective. The number of women coming to see us for what they vitally need has gone down. I would characterize this time right now as being a new advent, particularly for Arbor Woman. I’m taking a back seat, which is terrific. Dr. Rusty Chavey from Emmaus Health, who has sat on our board, and our current executive director, Iris Proctor, have come to develop a new vision. We’re going to become a full-fledged woman’s medical health center.

Mother Assumpta: 

I was going to ask what all do you provide for the women? 

Shann Patton: 

We currently provide very limited medical services. We administer pregnancy tests, and we provide ultrasound when applicable, and education, lots of counseling, material resources, and a lot of outsourcing. Now we feel that we can be most effective in reaching the women [by following] the central mission to offer women a life-saving alternative and protecting the lives of the precious unborn. The way that we’re going to deliver that is going to be much more all-encompassing. It’s going to be Arbor Woman Women’s Medical Center and will be able to provide prenatal care and everything obstetrical. Education in it is called fertility education medical management, honoring God’s design for human reproductivity and the whole gamut, including mental health. 

Mother Assumpta: 

When you said there are less women coming in and out, is it because there are fewer abortions? I could take the opposite of an optimistic point of view. Is it because they’re not coming, or is it because there are fewer? 

Shann Patton: 

A very legitimate question, and one that we’ve tried to measure outcomes to know what is most effective. National abortion rates have decreased; however, there’s also the unknown, which is the abortion pill. I also pray in front of Planned Parenthood consistently, and it continues to look like a revolving door there. I know that all I want to say you know. God has worked bountifully in the pro-life movement, and the tide is turning; however, we know that it’s still out there. That’s where we need to be most effective. God has blessed us with a lot of material resources. Further, Renee McEwen turned to me and said, “God will enable you.” The executive directors, the staff, and the volunteers are Arbor Woman. I just happened to be one of the minor wheels in the cog. 

Mother Assumpta:

We heard about this when we first came, and it gave me this whole new love and appreciation for the people that are involved in this. It must be the greatest love you could have because you’re reaching out in love to women. It’s wonderful. It’s such a vulnerable time in their life, and to receive that somebody cares and wants to help them. it’s so beautiful. God bless you for all you do. I am taking a coveted back seat, which I love because they know you’ve been such an instrument in this movement, in this great love for these women. I go with the sisters online and see what they’re doing. I see their Christmas cards. All the babies are precious, and I think one life. Keep it up, and you’ll be the backbone. Don’t ever let this stop. We hope someday it could, but human nature being what it is, we’ll keep praying. 


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