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Vocations: All About Life

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life

January 01, 2013

Fr. Frank Pavone is perhaps the best known priest associated with the abortion issue. In fact, his call to the priesthood and his call to the pro-life movement happened at the same time, when he was a high school senior in 1976.

"I was in public schools, and started going to Mass daily before school," Fr. Frank recalls. "That same year, our town had a bus going to the third annual March for Life in Washington, and I went along with my mother and grandmother. The March awakened me to the importance of the abortion issue and the greatness of the pro-life movement."

As if to symbolize the connection between his priesthood and his pro-life calling, Providence had it that Fr. Frank was ordained by one of the strongest pro-life bishops the Church in America has seen, namely, Cardinal John O'Connor of New York.

After serving happily in a parish for five years after his ordination in 1988, Fr. Frank concluded that he had to devote all his time and energy to ending the tragedy of abortion. He decided to approach Cardinal O'Connor and ask permission to do full-time pro-life ministry. "It wasn't that the Cardinal approached me to ask me to accept an assignment," Fr. Frank explains. "It was that I was approaching him to ask permission to say yes to a call of conscience."

At the same time, the Priests for Life Association, which had started in California in 1991, and which Fr. Frank had joined the following year, approached Fr. Frank to ask if he would be interested in serving in leadership in that group.

So he asked the Cardinal if he could accept that offer, which provided the specific locus in which the call to full-time pro-life work could be lived out. The Cardinal agreed, and in 1993, Fr. Frank  became the first full-time National Director of Priests for Life. Priests for Life is an association of priests and deacons who make a special commitment to give emphasis to the Church's teachings on the dignity of human life as they carry out their ministry. They make a commitment to see that the right to life, especially of the unborn, is recognized as the number one justice issue of our day.

Fr. Frank insists that the work itself is nowhere near as difficult a task as is the task of helping others in the Church to understand this calling. "As a priest involved in full-time pro-life ministry, I have been told a number of times by well meaning friends that they are glad I am happy doing 'my thing,' which is fighting abortion. Some of them go on to add that it is not 'their thing.' My response to all this is to kindly point out that whether an activity is or is not 'one's thing' has nothing to do with duty or with the demands of justice. I fight abortion not because I am particularly attracted to the battle, but because human life is at stake. It is a duty of conscience to defend it."

In serving his brother priests in the pro-life dimensions of their ministry, Fr. Frank has shaped both the message and mission of Priests for Life strongly around the ministry of healing those wounded by abortion. "As Scripture tells us, the ministry of reconciliation has been entrusted to us. This is integral to the priesthood, and is in fact, for many priests, the first point of entry in dealing with the tragedy of abortion. To understand the dynamics of the trauma of abortion, and the road to healing, is essential for any priest in our day, and to see the transformation in a woman or man from being burdened with shame to being set free in Jesus Christ and reconciled both with God and with the children who were killed is one of the greatest joys," Fr. Frank explains.

As Priests for Life continues to grow as an Association, Fr. Frank and his team seek to build a canonical structure within the Church that will give priests the opportunity to commit themselves on a permanent, life-long basis, to the full-time defense of the unborn. "The Church has ways for priests to commit their entire ministry to the sick, or to the poor, or to the imprisoned. It's time to do the same for the unborn."

Excerpt taken from Fr. Frank Pavone's e-booklet, Vocations: All About Life. You can purchase the complete e-booklet at


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