Pro-life prayers and
dialogue bolster advocates, stir the movement
Father James Heyd, a Chicago
member of Priests for Life, celebrates a Holy Hour for Life Feb. 12 at Sacred
Heart Parish in Lombard.
By ANN PIASECKI
The Catholic Explorer
Diocese of Joliet, IL
February 12, 2006
LOMBARD—A Feb. 12 snowstorm closed airports
and socked in travelers along the East Coast, preventing Father Frank Pavone,
national director of Priests for Life, from reaching a prayer service at Sacred
Heart Parish in Lombard to rally supporters seeking an end to legalized abortion
in the United States.
Persistence is the key word when it comes to
describing a crowd of pro-lifers who scrambled at the last minute for guest
Father James Heyd, a Chicago member of the
Priests for Life organization, and Yvonne Florczak-Seeman, board member for
Woman’s Choice Services, took seriously the opportunity to pinch-hit for Father
Having joined the organization full time last
year, the former vocation director at St. Joseph Seminary at Loyola University
Chicago, Father Heyd nurtured the flock first by leading what he calls the Holy
Hour for Life, which featured praise and worship to the Lord and the Blessed
The message behind his pro-life outreach
remains upbeat. Although Roe vs. Wade continues as the law of the land in regard
to abortion, he pointed out that the recent confirmation of
Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court brings the total number of Catholics
to five. Father Heyd said he hopes their faith will influence opinions written
in relation to abortion-related cases. However, the battle is not being waged at
the federal level alone, he said. Citing the fact that previous to the 1973 Roe
vs. Wade decision, New York and California already had authorized abortion
procedures. He informed the group that even if federal protection were
eventually diminished, the matter would not dissolve entirely. “It will happen
state-by-state. The real battle of democracy and speaking out is on the local
level,” he said. Already, residents of South Dakota have instigated an
initiative to halt the practice of abortions in that state. The spotlight is
currently on Rhode Island, where 60 percent of the population has declared an
allegiance to Catholicism. Father Heyd said he is hoping for an anti-abortion
ballot initiative there as well.
Meanwhile, Father Heyd said he believes that
today’s Catholic Church is better equipped to handle the pernicious reach of
abortion and euthanasia, a topic that the state of Oregon has shed light on.
Vatican encyclicals and documents are available to clarify the church’s position
on the matter. “There’s less confusion,” he added. The faithful have concrete
explanations that express in detail the depth of the church’s position
concerning the dignity of life. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, The Gospel of
Life, detailed the matter from the moment of conception to the grave, he said.
In addition, church-related organizations, including
retreats, support groups, pro-life crisis centers and more are accessible to
men, women and families afflicted with the pain of abortion. The negative
effects of 33 years of legalized abortion in the United States need to be
addressed in a faithful manner, he said. In response, the church has become more
welcoming. The church is not concerned with the law alone; it has spread its
arms to support people with matters of faith and actions. “Above all, we need to
hear their stories. … We need to pray for those caught up in the web of
destruction…. Through love, they will come to know the dignity of every life.”
Father Heyd expressed confidence in “God’s
creative love” as a way to heal the wounded and to soften the hearts of those
hardened by a variety of life’s circumstances. He asked the congregation to bow
their heads while he prayed, “For all the victims of the culture of death that
they be welcomed in eternal peace.” Later, Father Heyd criticized the “violent
culture” as it is depicted on television, video games and the Internet in the
United States and around the world for desensitizing people to the idea of death
due to abortion. However, he voiced confidence in the fact that God would
overcome “diehards” with an ideological outlook that minimizes life.
As an organization, Priests for Life is
preparing to expand its focus on life issues by opposing executions. “One day
we’ll be out front of an abortion clinic,” and the next, the group intends a
show of solidarity on the dignity of life by protesting the
death penalty, he said. “The death penalty is part of the larger
compendium,” he said, but the organization would center on abortion issues.
Priestly leaders are crucial in this effort.
Believers are looking for priests to take a firm stand and to address issues
such as spirituality and sexuality, according to Father Heyd.
In addition, the real depth of the wounds
related to abortion is beginning to come to the fore. After years of exclusion
from the conversation, Father Heyd said, men finally have been drawn into the
topic of abortion. Before, it was a woman’s body and a woman’s issue, he said.
Men were essentially eliminated from the discussion.
The personal testimony from Florczak-Seeman of
Westmont emphasized how confusion and self-deception worked in her case to
minimize the life of the baby in her womb. At the age of 42, she publicly shared
the pain and guilt she suffered for years before she felt “God’s healing” in the
aftermath of five separate abortions. As a young woman, she said, medical
references to a growing baby, such as “a mass of cells,” hid from her the image
of a baby growing inside. Today, the wife and mother of three children said she
is so grateful for God’s forgiveness and healing that she has committed herself
to sharing the truth about abortion. “Fact, women regret abortion,” she said,
affirming her refusal to keep “silent
Afterward, numerous advocates gathered in
small clusters, participating in private conversations about the abortion issue,
a circumstance that served as proof that the prayer service inspired a rally cry
to promote the dignity of life. Lingering in the aisle, Cynthia Crane of Wheaton
was huddled with her daughter, 15-year-old Jillian Crane, and friend Wheaton’s
Judy Kubica. Although they came to hear the words of Father Pavone, they were
not disappointed. Florczak-Seeman’s witness was particularly heart wrenching.
Cynthia related that when she was carrying her daughter, doctors informed her
that chronic immune deficiencies coupled with the pregnancy could hamper her
health. The doctors advised her to get an abortion, but the expectant mother
refused. Smiling at the child who is now a sophomore at St. Francis High School
in Wheaton, Cynthia claims her daughter has added to her life’s fulfillment.