HUDSON - Fr. Richard Hogan, a prominent member of the group Priests for Life, didn't just preach to the choir during his five-day stay in Hudson, although he did that, too.
Hogan argued that abortion is wrong legally and scientifically, and that his group's fight can be carried on without having to invoke religion or impose its values. He spoke to hundreds, if not thousands, of Catholic parishioners and other church-goers during his stay that was based at St. Patrick Church. Organizers said people came from as far as Buffalo and St. Louis Park in Minnesota, and people from all churches in the Superior and La Crosse dioceses were asked to join during the event's Sept. 19-23 run. Hogan said he was pleased with the attendance.
All known abortion providers in Wisconsin and the Twin Cities were invited to portions of the event. Hogan and the organizers hoped to facilitate confidential one-on-one meetings with Hogan or with Fr. Peter Szleszinski, pastor at St. Patrick Parish, or Fr. Ryan Erickson, associate pastor. However, Hogan said there were no takers.
Also invited were politicians, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura. The one politician who did attend was State Rep. Kitty Rhoades (R-Hudson).
Hogan made visits to Catholic school children in Hudson, New Richmond, Somerset, River Falls and Prescott during Thursday and Friday of his visit. He said young people are the main ones he is trying to reach.
In an interview, Hogan said that the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and Pentagon ironically underscored the theme of his visit - that all life is precious.
Hogan noted to the students that principles in the Declaration of Independence are consistent with those in the Gospel, where the guaranteed rights are "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness."
Hogan said the right to life had a preferred position, then asked the students why. One of them noted that without the first right, you can't have the second and third.
"The legal system, if properly applied, supports (a pro-life position)," Hogan said. He said that a genetic code is present even in the first cell after conception, and that 3 billion such cells will eventually carry the code, and be replaced by the body every seven years.
"This shows you are who you are - from the very first cell and conception until natural death," Hogan said. The pro-life position, he argues, doesn't invoke religion, "but is a fundamental American issue," and is backed by history and science.
Hogan said the role of the priest in the pro-life movement is basically to teach, involving the Gospel and the Catholic faith, then hope people act on the message by doing things such as voting accordingly. Furthermore, Catholics should then spread that message within their own families and communities, he said.
Pope John Paul II's encyclical, "The Gospel of Life," urged priests to teach about this, "and put it on the front burner," Hogan said, "doing what you need to make it work and be convincing."
Hogan said clergy join Priests for Life to keep informed, to support the effort and to teach as they can. This depends on their assignment. When priests are retired, there are fewer opportunities, and these chances depend on each individual situation.
Hogan said he was pleased with the effort of the Respect Life Committee at St. Patrick Parish, which helped sponsor his visit. Hogan, from St. Paul, was ordained in 1981 and served in parishes for 4 years until 1995, when he began his work with Priests for Life.