BY JOHN BURGER
As he looked out at the crowded chapel at St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie,
Cardinal O'Connor told 550 people gathered for Mass, "Apparently, you didn't get
the word that the prolife movement is dead."
Cardinal O'Connor celebrated Mass at Respect Life '99 April 10, and panelists
later in the day shared their vision for the movement in the dawn of the new
The cardinal urged the group not to become discouraged, even it though seems
"the whole world is in conspiracy against life at this moment." He cited two
examples -- the war in Yugoslavia and the appointment as professor of bioethics
at Princeton University of Peter Singer, an animal rights advocate who believes
in euthanasia for severely disabled infants and some terminally ill adults.
Comparing politicians who try to skirt the abortion issue to Pontius Pilate,
he said some have advisers who help them "finesse the issue so they can say
something meaningless and not get into trouble."
He asked his listeners to remind women tempted to have an abortion to turn to
the Church. "If you meet anyone who does not know which way to turn, who is
tempted, who is pressured to have an abortion, tell her the Church would
consider it a tremendous privilege to take care of her and help her have her
baby," he said.
That theme was developed by Father Frank A., Pavone, a priest of the
archdiocese who is international director of Priests for Life. He has introduced
the Gabriel Project in parishes to help women in crisis pregnancies. He
suggested that each parish put a sign in front of the church and assign a
parishioner to befriend an expectant mother, bringing her needs to the pastor's
attention. He in turn would, without identifying the woman, put out the word if
she needed a doctor, lawyer or family to open its home to her.
Father Pavone said the plan is working in several dioceses.
Msgr. Philip J. Reilly, founder and director of the Helpers of God's Precious
Infants, spoke about the kind of attitude someone who prays in front of an
abortion clinic should have. Msgr. Reilly, a priest of the Brooklyn Diocese,
stands in front of clinics almost daily and counsels women against having
"If you go to save physical life, I would tell you to stay home," he said.
"If you go because you believe you are going to stop the killing, stay home."
Instead, he said one should go for the same reason Jesus went to Calvary: for
the conversion of hearts and salvation of souls.
He advised sidewalk counselors to "be there" for a woman even if she goes
ahead with the abortion. "It's then that she is disposed," he said. "She is so
low in self-esteem, no one will touch her, and suddenly, Christ is there."
Dolores B. Grier, vice chancellor of the archdiocese for community relations,
complained in her talk, "We have 153 Catholics in Congress, and we can't pass a
partial-birth abortion ban."
Other speakers were Sandi Merle, director of Standing Together to Oppose
Partial-Birth Abortion; Stanley Tomkiel, founder of the Catholic Coalition of
Westchester, and Sara Gunn, director of St. Columba's Respect Life Committee in
The annual symposium was organized by the archdiocesan Family Life/Respect
Life Office, which presented its Evangelium Vitae Unsung Hero Award to Maria
Giovine, a freshman at Fordham University in the Bronx, where she heads the
pro-life group. She convinced more than 200 of her classmates to sign the Family
Life Office's Pledge for Life. The pledge calls on signers to agree to five
statements regarding life and to back up their words with actions.
There were 15 Pro-life Essay Contest winners out of 1,000 entries. Brian
O'Shea, a junior at Msgr. Farrell High School on Staten Island, won first place
in the upper high school division. His essay stressed a need to "have more of an
incorporation of spirituality in Catholic education to ensure that today's youth
and tomorrow's Church will keep their commitment to life," he told CNY.
Other winners were Jasmine Hosein of St. Theresa's in the Bronx; Anna Stabile
of St. Paul the Apostle in Yonkers; Angelica Role Delgado of St. Casimir's in
Yonkers; Matthew Antonucci of St. Mary's in Wappingers Falls; David Wang of St.
Joseph's on Monroe Street in Manhattan; Clara Argudo of the Academy of Mount St.
Ursula in the Bronx; Megan McCabe, Gabriel Chapman and Kelly Kroslowitz of John
F. Kennedy Catholic in Somers; John Baldini of Archbishop Stepinac in White
Plains; Marcia P. Trasancos of Maria Regina in Hartsdale; Alexis Romano of.
Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island, and Daniel Devine and Michael Ryan of Msgr.
Farrell on Staten Island.
In the catechetical division, winners were William Cosgrove, Elizabeth Barr
and Annmarie Dene of St. Aedan's in Pearl River; Erica Rahn of St. Elizabeth Ann
Seton in Shrub Oak and Erin Teresa Kelly of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in
Catholic New York, April 1, 1999