MILWAUKEE- Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests For Life, is a man on the go. On Friday he spoke at St. Robert Parish, 4019 N. Farwell Ave., Shorewood, and later that weekend picketed and prayed at the Women's Health Care Center at N. 86th St. and W. Brown Deer Rd.
Formerly a parochial vicar (associate pastor) and part-time theology teacher in the Archdiocese of New York, he became director of Priests for Life in 1993.
The organization has been growing rapidly since its inception in 1991. It now reaches over 30,000 priests with its monthly newsletter and has about 5,000 priests and permanent deacons as "committed" members.
Pavone said the organization functions as a network of support and communication for priests, deacons, and lay people interested in taking a greater, more active role in the pro-life movement.
Among the services it offers are training seminars where clergy are taught how to preach about pro-life issues, including abortion and euthanasia. Priests are also made aware of programs that offer post-abortion healing.
"In our seminars we show how to link the message with the scripture and provide lay pro-life groups an effective link with the clergy." he said.
Pavone recently traveled to India at the request of Mother Teresa.
"She is someone who is deeply concerned with the basic human needs of the person right in front of her," he said.
During one meeting she asked if he might be too warm in his black clerical shirt and suggested a white one would be cooler. She also would remind him to drink lots of water, and inquired about his travel plans.
"There were all these practical concerns...that was a striking thing," said Pavone.
India's extreme poverty, and the preference some parents have for male children, has led to the presence of numerous abortion clinics.
Mother Teresa told him about the women she has tried to stop from having abortions by volunteering to give their children a home. She than showed him pictures of the many children she has welcomed.
Pavone related to her the limitations imposed in the United States by legislation which prohibits any physical interference with women entering an abortion clinic. She replied that "she would be in jail many times" if that was Indian law.
In his trips around the nation, Pavone has discovered confusion and misunderstanding about the pro-life movement.
One problem is that some priests are hesitant about taking a strong pro-life stance because parishioners may interpret it as being against women's rights, he said.
"We stress very heavily that to be pro-life is to be pro-woman," said Pavone, "We do not present the message as loving the baby and forgetting about the mother...Why can't we love them both, the child and the mother."
There also are times, he said, when a priest will avoid speaking about pro-life issues for fear of offending a parish's more liberal element.
But to Pavone, liberals should be opposed to any movement which preys upon the weak. In the case of abortion, he said, advantage is taken of a whole category of people who cannot speak for themselves--the children being aborted.
When he visits a city Pavone usually manages to stop at an abortion clinic so he can pray, "bear public witness," and let women know that alternatives are available.