Eli Judice (Submitted photo)

Eli Judice (Submitted photo)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

Chad Judice doesn’t have to say he’s pro-life or a believer in miracles. When he tells the story of his son, Eli, everyone in the audience knows where he stands.

A Catholic high school teacher, speaker and author from Louisiana, Judice has penned two books about his second son, who was born with spina bifida: “Waiting for Eli: A Father’s Journey From Fear to Faith” and “Eli’s Reach: On the Value of Human Life and the Power of Prayer.”

Judice and his wife, Ashley, learned of their son’s condition during a routine ultrasound. Unlike 80 percent of parents who receive the diagnosis, they chose not to terminate the pregnancy.

Judice will tell Eli’s story – the struggles, joys and miracles – during the Saturday, Oct. 8, Respect Life event at Holy Rosary, Medford.

It’s a talk he’s given to thousands of listeners at schools, conferences and parishes around the country.

In a Sept. 14 phone interview, Judice said his family’s story exemplifies the church’s pro-life principles without being morally heavy handed.
“I’m just a dad telling a story about an experience,” he said. “You can take what the world says is a tragedy and turn it into a triumph.”

The triumph is in Eli’s abilities, which far exceed expectations of a child with spina bifida, and in the way his story has evangelized readers and audiences in Judice’s eight years of pro-life ministry.

Asked whether he believes the pro-life movement is advancing in its mission to change hearts and minds, Judice said yes and no. A recent article he read said the pro-choice movement is losing ground legislatively, but that isn’t the only point to consider.

“I think we’re winning it, but you can win an argument and lose a soul,” he said.

That’s why he loves to talk about his son; Eli truly opens the minds and hearts of listeners. His life teaches the value of life.

If you ask Judice how Catholics can be supportive of friends and loved ones with elderly or disabled family members, he responds, “I think if you are living your faith authentically, you will be called to do that anyway.”

He has two suggestions.

“Don’t assume anything about their situation, because I can tell you from experience that sitting on the outside of something like this is a lot different than sitting on the inside,” he said.

Also, be willing to reach out and be accommodating. One of his frustrations is being asked to support many good causes through the bishop’s annual appeal, but – despite having given his life to serve the church – not having access to a Catholic education for his son.

Although Eli can walk and is as intellectually capable as any child, their local Catholic school does not have staff to accommodate special needs students, and his diocese has not dedicated any funding for that purpose.

“He shouldn’t be told because of who he is, he can’t be given a Catholic education,” Judice added. “I want my son to be in that kind of environment.”
Compassion should be an experience, not just a word, he said.

“If you’re truly living the Catholic faith, we’re in communion with one another,” he added. “Social justice starts with the right to life.”

The Oct. 8 Respect Life event begins at 10 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m. A second keynote speaker, Barbara Sella, associate director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, will address “Faithful Citizenship.”

Cost to attend is $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Bus rides from Rice Lake and Superior are available for $10. Seating is limited; Sept. 30 is the deadline to reserve a seat.

The bus loads at the Cathedral parking lot, Superior, at 6:30 a.m., and in the parking lot at St. Joseph, Rice Lake, at 8:15 a.m.

For information, contact chancellor Debra Lieberg, 715-394-0240 or .