Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington
Father Frank Pavone, international speaker on respect for life issues, energized crowds diocesan-wide with his message of hope, May 13-15. He serves as the national director of Staten Island, N.Y.-based Priests for Life and has served as an official of the Pontifical Council for the Family at the Vatican. During homilies at all weekend Masses at St. Monica Parish, here, Father Pavone emphasized that the Easter Season celebrates the victory of life over death.
We are the people of life," he said. "To stand with Christ is to stand with life. To stand with life is to stand against anything that destroys life. Nothing destroys life more than abortion."
Father Pavone explained that 4,000 children per day, [one] every 20 seconds are aborted. He emphasized that "to be pro-life is to be pro-woman." " and that Priests for Life assists clergy and people to respond to "the terrible tragedy of abortion and to get the word out that help is available to women contemplating abortion."
"The abortion industry operates under the guise of freedom and choice," Father Pavone said, but "women get abortions because they feel they have no freedom and no choice. Don't be fooled by the pro-choice slogan. What choice? The choice is not whether or not to have a child. When someone is pregnant, the child is already there," he added.
Father Pavone travels the country speaking and conducting seminars on pro-life strategy, has produced numerous audio and video tapes and has an ongoing series on Eternal World Television Network. And yet, he said that there are some people who may only be reached with a pro-life message by you, the person in the pew.
There are dozens of things that you and I can do." He said, holding up a pamphlet published by his organization entitled "You Can Save Someone's Life Today!" which includes suggestions for "legal peaceful, effective activity" for putting an end to abortion.
"Tonight in the name of the Lord of Life…. I plead with you to be active, to be vocal and to keep these telephone numbers close at hand." Father Pavone said. "We all have a role to play in bringing this injustice to an end. The government does not bestow the right to life, nor does it bestow the right to take it away. All of us have the opportunity to spread the good word that there are alternatives (to abortion). Never be afraid, never be silent and never be intimidated…"
Following Mass May 13 Father Pavone told The Vermont Catholic Tribune that given this election year, Priests for Life is amidst a major educational campaign to spread the word about political responsibility.
"The campaign is geared towards helping people to understand (Church) teaching as expressed in two documents: 'Living the Gospel of Life,' which is a document issued in 1998, and `Faithful Citizenship,' a document issued last year. The basic points are these: Being a religious believer does not mean being disconnected from the world of politics. Rather, the Lord himself, gives us our responsibility in this world to shape a nation that has policies that defend fundamental human rights, the most basic of those is the right to life," Father Pavone said.
"The second point is that all of the issues we have to look at in an election - there are many - the most fundamental, the most important one is the basic right to life," he added. "If we allow our government to continue to hold a policy that says that some human beings are not persons - that's what this abortion policy says - then all the basis for all the other rights and all the other values that we hold in our public life, that basis crumbles. What does the right to employment mean, or the right to health care mean if you don't even have a right to live in the first place?"
Father Pavone also told the VCT that his emphasis on the role all people have to educate on pro-life issues and to put a stop to abortion is modeled on the ministry of a parish priest.
"Really since the beginning of my work with Priests for Life we have stressed that message." He said. "It's an application of the ministry of the priest in his parish at all times. Any priest in his parish has the responsibility to stir up the gifts of the laity, to show that everyone in the Church who is baptized…has been commissioned by the Lord to spread the Gospel. Lives has been saved by the elderly, by the sick anybody who is alive and can speak, can save a life from abortion."
Father Pavone had equally inspiring words when he served as keynote speaker for the "Springtime of Hope Dessert Banquet" sponsored by the Central Vermont Pregnancy Services May 13, and when he addressed those gathered for a "Mothers Day Tea for Life" May 14th.
Held at the Rutland Knights of Columbus hall, the afternoon event was sponsored by the Rutland based Council No. 232 and the Pittsford based Father Joseph Connelly Council No 9983. Father Pavone was the featured speaker with additional presentations by Ruth Charlesworth, former director of the Diocesan Office of Respect Life/Family Life, and Barbara Mucha, co-founder of the forthcoming "Our Lady of Guadalupe Divine Mercy Respect for Life Center" in Shrewsbury.
Ken Ward financial secretary for K of C Council No. 9983 and a parishioner of St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish, Pittsford. Served as master of ceremonies for the tea and commented on the success of the event, adding that Father Pavone was "his usual expert self."
Ward said that the K of C have been supportive of the proposed Respect for Life Center mainly because its theme is in line with the Knights pro-life/respect for life endeavors; both are centered on the family.
According to Ward, Father Pavone also talked of political responsibility at the Rutland tea, which served as a fund raising endeavor for the Respect for Life Center. "As Catholics quite often we are guilty of not being involved in politics, (and we must) be aware of Catholic politicians who are politicians more than Catholic."
The Knights of Columbus and Vermont Right to Life Committee Inc. hosted a luncheon in honor of Father Pavone May 15 at the South Burlington based St. John Vianney K of C Council No 7525 hall.
A native of Port Chester, NY Father Pavone has been involved with the pro life movement since 1976 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1988 by Cardinal John O'Connor for the Archdiocese of New York. He served in a parish ministry at St. Charles Church, Staten Island, and Has taught theology at his alma mater, St. Joseph's Seminary. With permission of Cardinal O'Connor, Father Pavone assumed his present position as national director of Priests for Life in September 1993. Since this time he has traveled the world diligently on behalf on the most vulnerable among us, the unborn.