Rockville Centre - Father Frank Pavone, who has spent much of the last 20 years spreading the Church's pro-life message, is calling on all Catholics to "cross the line" and actively join in the national battle against abortion and euthanasia.
A trip to the "March for Life" -- held in Washington, D.C. each January to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion -- as a high school student in 1976 was the turning point for him. He says that trip "stirred a deeper concern about abortion." That concern has grown and continues to grow.
A Port Chester native, Father Pavone was ordained for the Archdiocese of New York in 1988. He had served as an associate pastor of St. Charles Church, Staten Island, for five years before being named the first full-time director of Priests for Life three years ago.
As director of Priests for Life, he finds himself speaking publicly "almost daily" about abortion and euthanasia. Now based in Staten Island, he often makes as many as three trips a week to various parts of the country. These pro-life trips range from rallies to clergy seminars and training seminars for lay persons, with the seminars often crossing denominational lines.
He says one of the biggest goals of his ministry is to foster better communication between the various prolife groups and to share their efforts and strategies.
His ministry also includes "lots of media work." The many trips usually include interviews with the local newspapers, radio and television stations. Father Pavone also has a regular program on EWTN, which involves abortion and euthanasia issues.
Air of optimism
He is optimistic about the impact his ministry is having. "People are concerned, and there is still a lot we can do." One of the biggest things, he said, is that we as Catholics "need to cross the line. We need to stop lamenting the abortions and begin doing something about it."
It simply isn't enough to have the attitude, "Oh, I would never have an abortion myself," he added, during an interview with The Long Island Catholic. "We must begin looking at how we can prevent others from having abortion."
As he visits various cities around the country - last weekend he was in Floral Park where spoke at the Masses at Our Lady of Victory and led a Walk for Life to St. Hedwig's Church - he makes the case for the peaceful and effective things people can do to help prevent abortions.
"You can save someone's life today," he explains, distributing a leaflet that includes 55 practical suggestions on how you can help stop abortions. One of the suggestions he calls the most important of all is telephone numbers people can help publicize that would help women find alternatives to an abortion.
"This is everyone's problem," Father Pavone continues. "These children who are being aborted are our brothers and sisters."
Father Pavone's message isn't totally one of gloom. The movement is having an impact, he adds, noting that "when people are exposed to the truth, they respond."
This is evidenced, he said, by the unprecedented response to the partial-birth abortion ban and veto. "If you make them (the people) aware, they respond, and the effort continues to grow. We have in our hands the ability to make a difference, and I sense a movement toward making a difference with people everywhere becoming more aware and more involved with trying to stop abortions."
With this continued pressure, he said, the abortion industry and the government will have "to pay more attention to what people really are saying."
Father Pavone is also seeing a shift in the attitude of the clergy. "There is a growing willingness on the part of clergy to preach on these issues." This shift, he feels, is rooted in the strong pro-life background of many younger priests.
Though he is optimistic, he finds himself reflecting on "the things we've seen and what a toll it (abortion) has taken on our society. So many children destroyed ... that destruction spreads to the mothers and fathers as well."
Need for education
Shifting his focus to euthanasia, Father Pavone again emphasizes that much education is needed. "There is much less understanding about euthanasia" he offered, "than there is about abortion." He said there is a need for massive education, the first priority is "to let them know what this means."
But again, he is optimistic, explaining he doesn't get the sense that the decision-makers have totally formulated a position on euthanasia. "With abortion they've had time to work out their opinion. but on euthanasia that isn't the case. This is the perfect time to approach the legislators with the facts against it. As it develops we'll see some interesting alliances formed."
Though one expects the rigorous and demanding, speaking and travel schedule would take its toll on Father Pavone, both mentally and physically, he said the opposite has been true. "I find it invigorating. The people I meet in the (pro-life) movement are fabulous. The schedule is nonstop ... but, I find it more invigorating as I go along."