An internationally known pro-life advocate told more than 540 people in Sioux City he is more convinced than ever abortion will come to an end.
Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, gave the keynote address at Trinity Heights 20th Annual Prayer and Celebration Banquet held Sept. 29 at the Sioux City Convention.
He referred to abortion as the most important and fundamental human rights struggle of the day - the struggle to restore protection to the youngest members of the human family.
“Having worked full-time against abortion for the last 20 years and in some way or another since I was in high school, brothers and sisters I am more convinced than ever of one simple truth – that the days of legal abortion in this country are numbered. This evil will end,” Father Pavone said, to which applause broke out.
The priest pointed out he recently met twice with Pope Francis. The message he brings from the Holy Father is that one of the key next steps to advance the culture of life is bound to the healing mission of the church and the pro-life movement.
Father Pavone said to say yes to Christ is to “say yes to life and therefore to say no to whatever destroys life.” He reminded them there is nothing in the world now – no disease or war – that has taken more human life than abortion.
“We as a nation are stuck in ambivalence over abortion,” said the pro-life advocate, who added the pain of the ambivalence is becoming worse and worse. “I am not talking about the pain of those who have had an abortion, I’m talking about the pain of the rest of us who look at the situation and say if I look at the situation for what it is, it will be very painful to face.”
Father Pavone acknowledged if people do nothing, it can be hard for them to live with themselves.
“But if I do something, I may lose friends, positions, popularity and who knows what else I will lose,” he said.
Many people do not want to take a stand out of fear of judging or causing pain and that leads to inaction.
“That is why healing is such a crucial strategy for the pro-life movement at this time,” the pro-life priest said. “We have so many people stuck in this painful ambivalence precisely because they think that to take an active stand against abortion means to condemn – their friend, their sister, their mother, their daughter, their somebody in their life who has had an abortion or may in the future get an abortion and they don’t want to set themselves up as the one who rejects or hurts them.”
If they see the pro-life movement as a movement that judges and condemns, as a movement that rejects and punishes, Father Pavone said they don’t want to be a part of it.
“It doesn’t mean that they are in agreement with abortion, it just means that they love their sister, their aunt, their mother, their daughter, their friend,” he said. “How do we get out of that dilemma? We become convinced ourselves and then we convince others that this movement is not one of pitting mother against child.”
The pro-life movement, Father Pavone explained, says that mother and child cannot be separated but the pro-choice movement says they can.
The priest noted he had spent a great deal of time with Terri Schiavo and her family before the woman died of starvation and dehydration.
”We would have not gotten to that moment of absurdity in the death of Terri if we had not as a society already allowed the deaths of tens of millions of children in the womb,” Father Pavone said. “Unless they are protected, unless we are all protected then the protection of none of us is secure.”
He asked the crowd to reflect on the future and discern how to embrace the mother and the child, the disabled, the poor, immigrants and those on death row – every human being.
“The church gives us this vision of human life that no matter what we have done and no matter the circumstances we bear, we never lose the image of God or the right to life,” the speaker said. “How can we move forward into a culture like that? The healing must begin.”
Father Pavone said when those who are most impacted by abortion are healed, they typically become the most eloquent defenders of life. He mentioned one of the discussions he had earlier in the day was about starting the Rachel Vineyard’s Ministry, a post-abortion healing ministry that is supported by the new pope.
“They think God has rejected them. They think we have rejected them. They think the pro-life movement just points fingers of condemnation,” the speaker said. “It’s time for us to rise up and to use every possible means of communication to say we are not pointing fingers, we are extending hands of mercy.”
Jim Wharton of Sioux City served as the master of ceremonies for the banquet that also included the recognition of former and present board of directors Jim Duffy, Frank Audino, Dr. Paul Wolpert, Father Harold Cooper and Beanie Cooper. A special spiritual song written by Cynthia Ahrens was sung by Maria Ahrens, 17, of Guthrie Center who plans to become a Dominican Sister of Mary.
According to Don Stevens, celebration committee chair, while in Sioux City, Father Pavone attended a meet and greet on Saturday evening attended by 80 people that was used as a fundraiser to help pay for the visit.
“Father Pavone spoke to the group and answered questions on the Gosnell trial and his open letter to Nancy Pelosi,” said Stevens.
Given this was the 20th anniversary of the celebration days, artists Dale Lamphere, Jerry Traufler and Sondra Jonson reflected on their work as well as the trials and tribulations that came with the pieces now featured at Trinity Heights.
“Bishop Walker Nickless closed the evening with his blessing,” said Stevens.
The morning of September 29, Father Pavone was guest of an open house that drew over 200 to Mary’s Choice pregnancy resource center.
“Then, they marched over to Planned Parenthood where father prayed, sang and blessed the grounds,” Stevens said. “From there he got to spend an hour in prayer and discussion with the Carmelite Sisters.”
In the afternoon before the banquet, Father Pavone celebrated a private Mass in the Divine Mercy Chapel at Trinity Heights for the Catholic Women of the Diocese group who are working to bring the Rachel’s Vineyard Ministry to the diocese.
Along with Stevens, the committee for the event was made up of Lori Twohig, Liz Determan, Denny Rehan, John O’Meara and Terry Hegarty.
Fr. Frank homily at St Michael’s Sioux City, IA
Talk for anniversary of Trinity Heights, Sioux City, IA