From Fellow to father: Living the Pro-Life mission in family life

When Texas Right to Life (TRTL) established the Generation Now Scholarship Program (now the Dr. Joseph Graham Fellowship) in 2008, Billy Gibula was a freshman at the University of Dallas (UD) seeking the next step in his Pro-Life vocation.  Billy, a Houston native, had been the president of his Pro-Life club at Strake Jesuit High School, and, after attending the March for Life in Washington D.C., knew God was calling him to take a greater role in defending human Life.  As a college freshman, Billy was a member of Crusaders for Life, UD’s campus Pro-Life group.  He applied for TRTL’s new Generation Now scholarship as a way to strengthen his Pro-Life convictions and leadership abilities.  Although Billy was happy to receive the news he was one of eight students to be part of this ground-breaking program, he had no idea the scholarship would affect him so deeply.

That summer, Billy attended the first of his two weeks of required training in Houston with the other scholarship recipients.  “Never had I been surrounded by like-minded peers while we learned from Pro-Life experts,” Billy said.  “One of the most memorable speakers from that week was [TRTL founder and then-President] Dr. Joseph Graham, whom I remember speaking about end-of-life issues.  His words have stayed with me through the years, especially concerning the need for a concrete definition of when Life ends.”

Billy returned for his second week of training in the summer of 2009 and interned for TRTL during the summer of 2010.  Meanwhile, Billy’s girlfriend Renee, also a student at UD, was influenced by his zeal for the Pro-Life cause.

“I grew up Catholic and Pro-Life, but didn’t realize the importance of advocating for Life until I met Billy,” Renee said.  “He showed me the importance of taking an active role in the Pro-Life movement.”

Billy graduated from UD in 2011, and he and Renee married in April 2012.  Then preparing to start a family of their own, Billy and Renee realized that their Pro-Life activism and evangelization did not end in college.

“Universities are not the only place where people are pro-choice,” Billy said.  “There are plenty of adults who don’t know the truth about abortion or Planned Parenthood and need to be reached.”

The Gibula family has had ample opportunity to exemplify their Pro-Life convictions through Renee’s pregnancies with daughters Amelia, 3, and Lucy, 1.

“With Renee’s pregnancies, we found out the baby’s gender as soon as we could,” Billy said, “because we wanted to name our child and call her by her name to convey her humanity to others.”

Billy also posted pictures of each daughter’s sonogram pictures in his cubicle at work and told co-workers about the baby’s development in the womb as subtle ways of promoting respect for Life in the workplace.  Renee and the girls join other moms and children in their community to pray outside Planned Parenthood and the entire family participates in 40 Days for Life campaigns, but the biggest way Billy and Renee witness to their Pro-Life values is having two children within their four years of marriage.

“We don’t pretend parenting is the easiest job in the world,” Renee said, “but it is definitely the most rewarding.”

Billy compares choosing abortion to waking up on Christmas Day to a beautiful, shiny gift under the tree and choosing to return to bed instead of opening the present.

“Choosing to have an abortion—rejecting that gift—is such a loss,” Billy said.  “Amelia and Lucy are our life’s biggest joys.”

The Gibula family also gives some of their free time to TRTL in various avenues.  As a former teacher, Renee has assisted our Education Department in grading high school essays submitted for the annual Pro-Life essay contest.  Billy serves as a mentor to the Pro-Life clubs at Houston Baptist University and the University of St. Thomas.  Billy and Renee have also spoken to the second-year Fellowship students about how to continue living the Pro-Life mission after college.

The immediate goal of the Dr. Joseph Graham Fellowship (formerly the Generation Now Scholarship) is to train and equip college students to promote a Culture of Life on college campuses.  However, a deeper aim of the program, and something that the Gibula family exemplifies beautifully, is to teach students that their responsibility to build a Pro-Life culture is lifelong and does not end at graduation.  We are proud to have Billy and Renee Gibula as an excellent example for our Fellows to model for years to come.