October 13, 1999 The Catholic Sun
Diocese of Syracuse, NY
Heralding an important work
Father Peter West of Priests for Life provides encouragement for
By Kelly Homan
LIVERPOOL - Father Peter West didn't need to convince his audience at Christ
the King Church on Sept. 30 of the evils of abortion. Many of the
approximately 40 people who gathered to hear him speak have been pro-life
advocates for years. Instead, he used the opportunity to encourage those
listening by telling them that their efforts are changing minds and hearts,
and saving the lives of the unborn.
Father West, a staff member of Priests for Life, came at the invitation of
Christ the King's Respect Life Committee. In addition to his presentation on
Sept. 30, he also spoke at Bishop Grimes Junior Senior High School in East
Syracuse, to the parish's religious education teachers, and at all weekend
masses at Christ the King.
Charles Venus, chair of Christ the King's Respect Life Committee, said the
committee was formed two years ago at the request of his pastor, Father Jon
Werner. Their main goal is to raise awareness about the dignity of human life.
They have sponsored pancake breakfasts, brought in speakers, and are in the
midst of constructing a Respect Life Garden on the parish grounds.
Venus said that to his knowledge, the committee's efforts have helped save at
least two children from being aborted.
"There is no question in my mind that our grandchildren, and our children, are
in jeopardy," Venus said. "Unless things are taken to heart, our grandchildren
will inherit a culture much worse."
Father West said he has been a pro-life advocate since 1986. While he has been a
Catholic since birth he said he feels more like a convert to the faith. "I was
away from the Church until my early 20's" he said, "I was never clearly taught
the things I am teaching now… I was basically pro-life but questioned a lot of
Church teaching. Now I am able to see the beauty and wisdom of it."
Attempts to clear up some of the misconceptions he had led him to read a book on
Our Lady of Fatima. That, in turn, led him to pray the rosary. He then went to
confession, which led to attending daily Mass, and that led to more involvement
in the pro-life movement. He then decided to answer God's call to the
priesthood. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., in
Father West served in parish ministry for seven years, but said he felt called
to continue his pro life work on a higher level. On March 25, 1998, the Feast of
the Annunciation, he was released by the Newark Archdiocese to join Priests for
In his new ministry, he travels around the county with a three-fold purpose: to
support other priests and give them the resources necessary to defend life; to
reach out to clergy who are not vocal on the pro-life issue and encourage them
to be; and to reach out to the whole pro-life movement, to people working to put
an end to abortion and euthanasia.
"We believe that life is precious at all stages," he said . "This is a
fundamental issue. Without the right to life, we have no rights at all". Father
West said that encouragement is one of the most important keys to the pro-life
"Discouragement is the greatest enemy" ,he said. He pointed out signs of
encouragement. Thirty-seven states are currently embroiled in some kind of
debate about partial birth abortion and another was upheld in Virginia.
One of the greatest signs of encouragement, Father West said, was the conversion
of Norma McCorvey, "Jane Roe" in the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision that
legalized abortion on demand in the United States.
Father West spoke of how McCorvey, who was working as a counselor in an abortion
clinic, was befriended by a 7-year-old girl named Emily. Through Emily's
friendship, and invitations to attend her church, McCorvey accepted Jesus
Christ. Since her conversion, she has been received into the Catholic Church by
Priests for Life director Fr. Frank Pavone. McCorvey now speaks out on abortion.
The statistics are on the encouraging side as well, Father West said. A recent
study showed that a record number of college freshmen oppose abortion, and there
is a marked decrease in people who call themselves "pro-choice." Education and
awareness about the reality of partial-birth abortion have helped people on the
fence about the issue of abortion come down on the pro-life side.
Father West said that there are fewer abortion clinics today than in recent
years, and that the abortion industry is having trouble retaining doctors who
will perform abortions. Vigils outside abortion clinics are making a difference,
because if there are fewer clients, the clinic may have to close its doors.
"Abortion tends to be a marginal decision. Most women are looking for an excuse
not to have one," Father West said. If a woman has to drive a long distance to
obtain an abortion, chances are she will not, he said.
Father West also spoke on several pro-life projects currently underway. Due to a
generous benefactor, Priests for Life has been able to generate placards and
billboards with a toll free number that will direct women to the nearest crisis
With the Gabriel Project, developed in the Archdiocese of Houston, Texas, a sign
is placed outside a participating church rectory, letting a woman in crisis know
it is a place she can receive help. The pastor directs her to a "Gabriel Angel,"
who acts as her confidant and help is facilitated at the parish level. It is a
way for people to be personally involved, Father West said.
"It is one thing to send money off," he said. "It is another to know that a
woman came to your church looking for help. ... It helps people take personal
Cindy Falise, director of the diocesan Respect Life Office, said she has
received information on the Gabriel Project and is currently reviewing it. In
the pro-life movement, post abortion healing programs, such as Project Rachel,
are also important.
"Forty percent of abortions are repeats," he said. "If we can help women find
healing and peace we will save babies.
He urged the advocates to spread the word that forgiveness and healing can be
found and counseling is available.
In conclusion, Father West talked about Pope John Paul II. The Holy Father
talked about the dignity of human life during his first trip to the United
States in 1979, and on his most recent trip, to St, Louis in January.
"He said the nation also needs a soul," Father West said. "By your work, you are
restoring the nation's soul."
Priests for Life in