International director of Priests for Life visits diocese
Father Frank Pavone gave a parish mission and addressed abortion.
(Lehigh Acres - Mar. 13) Father Frank Pavone, the international director of Priests for Life, spent four days in the Venice Diocese this week leading a parish mission, eating pizza with local youth and speaking to pro-life proponents.
Priests for Life, an organization working for the protection of all human life, was started by Father Lee Kaylor and officially recognized by the San Francisco Archdiocese in 1991. Although all priests are for protection of human life, the organization provides resources and support for the priests as they work for pro-life issues, said Father Pavone. "Brother priests needed to come together to encourage each other in preventing abortion," he said.
In addition, he said, it gave them a unified face to put forward in the community and gives the priests information to use at the pulpit and in the classroom.
"The founding priests realized that when a priest speaks, it still carries a lot of weight in our society," he said.
The organization covers all life issues, including euthanasia and the death penalty, however its focus is abortion. "The Church is giving primary focus on abortion," Pavone said. "Of all life issues, this is most important. It claims the most victims."
There are chapters established through the United States and a Priests for Life organization has started in Canada. In the U.S. alone, there are close to 200,000 people on the organization’s mailing list. The membership is priests, although lay people may join as auxiliary members.
Father Pavone became involved in Priests for Life in 1993. He was ordained a priest of the New York Archdiocese in 1988 and served for five years as a parish priest at St. Charles Parish, Staten Island. But being a parish priest wasn’t where he was called.
Many years earlier, in 1976, Father Pavone attended his first March for Life in Washington, D.C. From then on, he said, it became a personal mission to find an end to abortion.
"I came to the point that I could not go on with my life, business as usual, while abortions were going on," he said.
While serving at the parish, Father Pavone stayed involved in pro-life activities. As a result, he was approached by Priests for Life and asked if wanted to join the organization. He went to Cardinal John O’Connor and asked if he could do so. With the cardinal’s permission, Father Pavone became national director of Priests for Life.
In his work, he travels all over the country and world speaking on the organization and its mission. He also writes a column every two weeks on pro-life issues. He covers a variety of topics including the latest developments in the pro-life movement, strategic decisions, political developments, research and people he meets in his travels.
From March 8-11, Father Pavone was at St. Raphael Parish, Lehigh Acres, where he preached at the daily Masses and presented the parish Lenten mission. He also attended a rally with local youth and a luncheon with pro-life leaders from the diocese.
During the parish mission, Father Pavone said he was to address the "connections between our faith and our need to fight abortion."
"Our path to holiness and our path to salvation are very much tied to our response to abortion," he said.
He wants to lead people beyond looking at abortion as a problem of society. It is something that we all must battle against. "Christianity is about life. It’s about life conquering death," he said. The sacraments are also all about life, especially the Eucharist that celebrates Christ’s death and resurrection.
In the Mass, the priest repeats Christ’s words "This is my body, which I have given up for you. Do this in memory of me." The pro-choice advocates use the same words, "This is my body."
"It’s the same words used in completely opposite ways," he said.
He also addressed how the Virgin Mary was in the situation of having a unexpected pregnancy that went against her plans and could have resulted in great problems for her. She, however, said yes to the will of God.
In addition, he promoted the Priests for Life Web site and preparation for the 2004 election by researching the candidates’ stance on pro-life issues and encouraging our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters to vote.
Father Pavone also announced a new special project that the organization is now launching. They will be lining up Catholic parishes with specific abortion centers. The parishes will have their center’s address and will be asked to pray specifically for the closing of that center. "I think it will do a lot of good," he said. "It will help focus our efforts. I think it will be an exciting project."
During the youth rally, he said he wanted to help the young people to understand that chastity is not something that is restrictive, but freeing. Also, he said, he spoke to them about their all being survivors of abortion. "They were technically, according to the law, non persons when in their mothers’ wombs," he said.
Prior to the retreat, Father Dennis Cooney, pastor of St. Raphael Parish, said he pleased to have Father Pavone give his parish’s Lenten retreat.
"We’re honored," he said. "He certainly will be a strong and encouraging voice for the Gospel of life while here at our parish and in our diocese." Father Cooney said he hoped his parishioners will come away from the experience with a stronger commitment to the Gospel of life and a deeper understanding of all life issues and their place in the Catholic faith.