As national director of Priests For Life, Father Frank A. Pavone flew to the St. Petersburg Diocese from Washington, D.C. late last month for a weekend of speaking out for the rights of the unborn.
Father Pavone was in St. Petersburg Jan. 26-28, energized by his recent participation in the Jan. 22 March For Life in Washington.
The internationally-known priest began his weekend visit with a prayer vigil for life on Friday morning before the Women's Health Center abortion clinic on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg.
"Why are we here?" Father Pavone asked the 60 or so people who joined him in praying the rosary. "We are human. We are Christians. We are Americans. In coming here, we break the silence."
Since becoming national director of Priests for Life, headquartered on Staten Island, N.Y., in September 1993, Father Pavone has criss-crossed the country preaching against abortion and working with other priests in the cause.
He appears regularly on the Eternal Word Television Network and other television and radio broadcasts, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta invited him to address the clergy of India on life issues.
Locally, on Saturday morning, the New York-born priest presented a Respect Life workshop at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Church, St. Petersburg. The 55 participants included priests and Respect Life directors. Having taught theology and teacher training programs, Father Pavone used the blackboard to stress that, "We want to make it (abortion) illegal, undesirable, unavailable, unnecessary, and unthinkable."
Furthermore, he said, "Abortion is built on two lies: A baby is not equal to the rest of us in dignity, and abortion helps the woman and her dignity.
"No," he responded. "It hurts women. We must show people that we are destroying mom emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Prolife means to be pro-woman."
Plans for Father Pavone's visit began last June, according to Grand Knight William J. Scanlan of Council No. 2105, St. Petersburg. His council sponsored Father Pavone's visit.
For two hours on Sunday afternoon, about 175 teens from seven parishes across the diocese listened intently in the parish center at St. Raphael Church, Snell Isle, to Father Pavone's message.
"My greatest joy is to speak to kids your age," he said. "Nothing attacks the dignity of life like abortion. Civilized society protects its people. The obvious is being forgotten in America."
After the talk, youth from St. Raphael School and St. Petersburg Catholic High School responded by beginning to plan prayer vigils for life, according to Matthew Klinefelter, youth minister at St. Raphael's, and organizer of the diocesan youth event.
"He's a great speaker!" Jessica Freeman, an eighth grader at St. Raphael's school, said of Father Pavone.
"I wish every Catholic teenager could hear him speak," added her mother, Nancy Freeman.
Also during his busy weekend, Father Pavone spoke at a dinner hosted by the Knights of Columbus at St. Matthew Church, Largo; met with area Respect Life directors; attended a dinner sponsored by Tampa Bay Friends for Life at St. Lawrence Church, Tampa, and celebrated a Mass at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg that was broadcast live over diocesan radio stations.
The activities ended with a Mass, closing ceremonies, and a catered dinner for 140 at St. Raphael's.