By Don Parker
A life well lived is a life you could recount in a sermon.
Lorenza Arqueza lived that life.
First, let me tell you who Lorenza Arqueza was, because her brand of service to the unborn was so quiet and humble that few of you would know she was one of those who kept the wheels of NRLC running for so many years.
Lorenza was the first person we hired when I came to National Right to Life 17 years ago to work in our Development Department. She was already in her upper 60s, retired, and didn’t need the work.
But the work needed her. It needed a Saint.
When I came to Washington, some of the staff suggested I might like a church near my new home, a church Lorenza had attended before moving to suburban Maryland.
At that church, I heard the most impactful sermon (for me at least, because sermons can speak to us so personally) I have ever heard.
It challenged us not to just aspire to be Saints in heaven, God’s ultimate wish for us, but to strive to live as Saints—to be Saints—here on earth, as well. And even while saying this, the pastor knew, and everyone in the sanctuary knew, that living such a life perfectly would be impossible for mere humans, but in the striving we would approach what God wanted for us, now and in our eternal futures.
I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone who so closely approached that ideal as Lorenza Arqueza. Her life was that ideal.
She was a Saint on earth.
Lorenza handled most of the high volume of correspondence that an office like ours generates. If you called the office with a need or complaint, she faithfully took care of you. Whether a caller was friendly or not, her demeanor was the same. She saw the face of Jesus in every person, even if it was an abortion proponent calling to harass.
When others in the office were ill or couldn’t complete a task, Lorenza did it without drawing attention to herself. And as she herself began to grow ill, she didn’t want to retire from her pro-life service, but merely cut back first to four, then three days a week, then helping occasionally as she could. But she worked—efficiently and with devotion—even when tiring or when it became hard for her to see.
The doctors had found a spot on her lung, which later went to her liver. That’s when one doctor suggested it might be “too hard on her” to continue treatments. “Nonsense” thought those of us in the office who’d seen Lorenza out-work people one-third her age. A co-worker helped her find another doctor, who said additional treatments could give her another two years of good life, which is exactly what they did.
(A plug here that Lorenza herself—pro-life to the core as she was—would want me to make. With more and more people in the medical field willing to give up on their patients, it’s important to have a pro-life living will, called a “Will to Live,” which you can obtain free of charge from National Right to Life at www.nrlc.org. It could literally save your or a loved one’s life.)
In a little more than a month, Lorenza would have turned 85, gaining the gift of more than those two extra years of life the extra treatments brought. But she began to lose her battle with cancer and last Saturday friends gathered with her to reminisce, to laugh, to share, to pray. Lorenza showed some of the joy that she exhibited when she first volunteered for National Right to Life, way back at the huge Rally for Life, 1990. She loved that event, the hundreds of thousands of pro-life people who came to Washington, DC, and especially all the young folks, the ones who would win the future for the cause she treasured.
Lorenza left to be with her Lord on Sunday, but that joyful gathering Saturday reflected so well how she led a life of love for people, a life of the deepest faith, a life of total sacrifice and service to others.
A life right out of a sermon.