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Life message is Augustinian’s mission

Kathrynne Skonicki

Catholic Explorer- Joliet, IL
September 01, 2005

GLEN ELLYN—Augustinian Father Denis Wilde, full-time priest associate of Priests for Life, stood alongside 40 other pro-lifers Sept. 10 at Aanchor Health Center in Glen Ellyn. Father Wilde was proud to announce the holy hour doesn’t go unnoticed at the abortion facility located on the busy thoroughfare of Roosevelt Road.

On this particular day, three of the nine patients who walked into the clinic turned around and decided against the procedure, explained Father Wilde. He said, “Three babies were saved that day.”

The recitation of the rosary led by Father Wilde served as a spiritual boost to Carol Wright, a parishioner of St. James the Apostle Parish and a regular sidewalk counselor of Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. She is usually among the dozen people who pray outside the clinic on Wednesdays and Saturdays as abortion procedures are performed. She said, “If we had one girl leave a week we’d be delighted.”

Wright said the presence of a representative from the Priests for Life organization worked to bolster the crowd of pro-life supporters from the usual group of 10 to 40. As a prominent figure in the pro-life movement, Father Wilde’s presence was seen as reinforcement, she said. Meanwhile, the regular priestly support from the diocesan clergy is greatly appreciated, added Wilde. “I’m encouraged there are priests out there fighting this battle.”

That’s exactly the message Father Wilde conveyed as the Philadelphia-based priest prayed on the frontlines with his fellow pro-life crusaders. His Sept. 9-12 trip to the Diocese of Joliet included many speaking engagements at St. Petronille Parish in Glen Ellyn, Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison and Montini Catholic High School in Lombard.

“The high school students are in need of having a better understanding of these issues,” added Kate Coffey, co-chair of St. Petronille Parish pro-life committee. She said they included the high school on the itinerary when they invited Father Wilde to the parish because the teens are “very vital in ending abortion.” She continued, “They are very close to the abortion issue. Statistically, they could know someone considering one (an abortion) or find themselves in that position.”

During a Sept. 11 conversation with the Catholic Explorer, Father Wilde said he left his position as a professor at Villanova University to travel the country with the intention of increasing awareness about abortion. He said, “The most important thing is life. Without that we can’t talk about any of the other issues.”

Father Wilde is among the seven priests who have dedicated themselves to sharing the ministry of Priests for Life. He expressed excitement over five men who are discerning vows to a newly approved society of apostolic life, the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life. They are expected to enter their community Oct. 15. Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, established the community in Amarillo, Texas.

While Father Wilde praised the growing number of clergymen dedicating themselves to the pro-life movement, he also emphasized the importance of the laity. He listed upwards of 50 lay people in Staten Island who dedicate themselves to the ministry of Priests for Life. The movement is working in partnership with many pro-life organizations such as Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats and the Silent No More Campaign.   [Note: Rachel’s Vineyard and the Silent No More Awareness Campaign are both ministries of Priests for Life.]

Gathering foot soldiers in the battle for life is important, added Father Wilde. He rattled off statistics that indicate the uphill fight against this “moral disease affecting our country.” He said an “abortion occurs every 23 seconds, 4,000 babies die every day” and 43 million abortions have been performed in the last 33 years in the United States.

During his homily at the 6 p.m. Mass for youth and families at St. Petronille Parish, Father Wilde urged the congregation to offer compassion and support to those who have made the difficult decision to have an abortion. The priest who is active in post-abortive counseling programs also preached about forgiveness, noting that the aborted baby still loves its mother despite her decision. He pointed out that mothers are the victims of abortion as well; many suffer from grief, increased stress, anxiety and guilt.

Father Wilde also encouraged the congregation to take action. He said, “Let us do what we can in our community to look at life and how we define it.” One of the first steps is to change word usage from “pro-choice” to “pro-abortion.” A different word choice can indicate a different perspective, he noted.

The priest also advised the faithful on how to discuss the abortion issue with opponents. He said the argument is dependent on proving two things: whether or not the fetus is a human being and whether or not it is morally and ethically right to kill one of God’s creations. Father Wilde defended the humanity of the fetus and said, “I don’t have to wear these vestments to talk about that. It’s a scientific fact.”

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