Remembering Olivia Becker
A priest at Olivia Becker’s Funeral Mass earlier this week called her a saint.
Later, her daughter, Rosalyn Becker of Fort Myers, smiled a warm smile and said, “Oh, she would have been so happy to hear that. But she was just a very human person — a dedicated, devoted, determined human being — who loved her church, who was devoted to
Olivia Schulte Becker, who died Nov. 12 at 94, was one of the souls who built the heart of the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Port Charlotte.
In 1985, an abortion clinic opened two blocks from the church. Becker immediately founded the Pregnancy Crisis Careline at St. Joseph Hospital and helped staff it 12 hours a day to counsel young women and their parents who might be contemplating abortion. She was the careline’s executive director until she retired in 2007.
The Rev. Nicholas McLoughlin, then the pastor of St. Charles, said after the funeral that the careline saved some 1,000 babies in its first year, and has maintained that level ever since, totaling now up to 30,000. “There are hundreds of students in college right now whose lives she saved,” he told attendees at the funeral service, “and they have no idea.”
About the same time, the new Diocese of Venice wanted to begin a Respect for Life ministry. The choice to head it was easy: Olivia Becker, at age 67. She worked in Venice, not only with the respect-for-life initiative, but also with diocesan initiatives for the disabled, the elderly, social justice and legislative matters.
But it was respect for life that was her passion. She led pro-life demonstrators at abortion clinics and did countless media interviews. According to her daughter, she was unfazed by pro-abortion forces belittling her with bullhorns in the background.
Then there was St. Charles’ effort to build housing for lower-income retirees in the parish. The result was Villa San Carlos, next door to the church, where Becker was secretary-treasurer of the effort, and according to Father McLoughlin one of the prime, driving forces that made the project successful.
“She was not only concerned with babies,” he recalled. “She was concerned with everyone, from the womb to the tomb.” She also was president of the St. Charles Council of Catholic Women, and served on several other church and diocesan initiatives.
The highlight of her life, according to her daughter, was when she met with Pope John Paul ll in Rome, where she was “so excited” when the Pope talked to her personally about her work in the Venice diocese. In 1998, she became one of the few lay persons in the world to be awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontiface (Latin for “the church and the Pope”) by Pope Paul ll, for her work for the church.
She accomplished all this, Rosalyn Becker said, with just an eighth-grade education in Illinois, but with a determination to succeed in both her life and her faith. She operated her own beauty salon for 27 years, first in Illinois, then in Miami, and was a principal dealer in Mary Kay cosmetics.
“She really considered herself a businessperson,” Rosalyn recalled. “She was intelligent, determined, hard-working and persevering in the nitty-gritty of her business,” as she was in devotion to her faith.
“She was,” summed up McLoughlin, “an amazing lady, a super women who lived her faith as normally as breathing.”