The importance of the pro-life message was accentuated eloquently and purposefully at St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield, recently, as the parish welcomed the Rev. Peter West, a priest associate with the international organization Priests for Life.
"All of us have a role to play in restoring the sanctity of all human life from conception to the end of life." offered Fr. West, guest homilist at all weekend Masses July 3 1 -Aug. 1.
"It's important for all of us to join in teaching the sanctity of human life," said Fr. West, a member of Priests for Life - a pro-life a pro life network of more than 40,000 priests and deacons - since April 1998. Priests for Life is an official nonprofit private association of the faithful under the Canon Law of the Catholic Church. It is not just for priests, for it serves the entire pro-life movement, and is open to all to join in the efforts to protect life from conception to natural death. The visit to St. Joseph the Worker marked Fr. West's first to the Diocese of Allentown to spread the Gospel of Life. A pro-life activist since 1986, he earned his master of arts degree in theology from Holy Apostles Seminary in Connecticut.
The Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Wargo, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker, deemed the visit very important for his parishioners and Catholics throughout the diocese
"The only way we as Catholics can be effective in fighting the culture of death is by highlighting the importance of human life and the sanctity of family," Msgr. Wargo ascertained. "I'm pleased to host this first visit to the diocese by Priests for Life."
"The only way we as Catholics can be effective in fighting the culture of death is by highlighting the importance of human life and the sanctity of the family."
Recently, St. Joseph the Worker launched an active pro-life organization dedicated to fostering greater knowledge of the pro-life/respect life cause through prayer, publicity and education. The committee has already taken part in Eucharistic Adoration and encouraged parishioners to pray the rosary to protect life.
Priests for Life has three main missions, Fr. West told the many parishioners gathered for the 4:30 p.m. Mass July 31. The Mass was celebrated by Msgr. Wargo, with Fr. West concelebrating.
He explained Priests for Life aims to offer support and resources for priests, and encourage clergy to be more vocal in the pro-life movement. "We also reach out to all people of good will, like yourselves, to promote the dignity of all human life," Fr. West said.
The Rev. Frank A. Pavone whose program "Defending Life" is broadcast on EWTN is international director of the organization. He was asked by Mother Teresa to speak in India on life issues and invited to address the pro-life caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1997, Father Pavone, ordained as a priest in the Archdiocese of NY in 1988, was asked to become an official of the Pontifical Council for the Family at the Vatican, which coordinates the pro-life activities of the Catholic Church.
Father West related that Fr. Pavone was instrumental in bring Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade, into the Catholic Church, the "Mother Church of Christianity," Fr. West said of Norma McCorvey, who is now 100% pro-life.
Referring to McCorvey , Fr. West cited her situation as "an example of God's love and mercy, even to the greatest of sinners."
"My message is not one of condemnation but of reconciliation," Fr. West affirmed, noted that one in five Americans have lost a child to abortion. "Many have been deeply hurt by abortion, even if they can't admit it," he said, adding this applies to both men and women.
Father West recounted that the day's Gospel Matthew 14:13-21 related the miracle of Jesus multiplying the five loaves to feed 5000 people. Drawing connection to the Pro-life movement, Fr. West recalled that Pope Paul VI's "Humane Vitae," published in 1968 states, "We should not exclude those whom God has called to the banquet of life."
"God said children are a blessing," Fr. West emphasized, adding that in Matthew's Gospel, "Jesus nourished the life he has given to his people."
Fr. West asserted that many converts are drawn to the Catholic Church because it proclaims the dignity and sanctity of every human life. He noted that Pope John Paul II has often spoken of our current culture, which celebrates life and yet sees the sick and the unborn as "un-useful."
"About one in four pregnancies end in abortion," Fr. West lamented, noting that about 40 percent of abortions in the United States are repeat abortions. Thirty-eight million children have been aborted since Roe vs. Wade in 1973.
He also contended that abortion ensued not long after the age of contraception began. "The contraceptive mentality sees children not as a blessing but as an obstacle of fulfilling materialistic dreams."
However, Fr. West acknowledged that "influenced by our predominant culture, many Catholics see contraception and sterilization as good." Yet he related that a small but increasing number "are seeing what the Church has always taught is right, and are seeking formation on natural family planning."
What is the difference between using natural or artificial means? "One is open to life, the other is not," Fr. West maintained, outlining the difference as using licit as opposed to illicit means. He added that the US Catholic bishops' "Living the Gospel of Life" strongly states the church's opposition to abortion and euthanasia.
Fr. West mused that some people are afraid to join the pro-life movement for fear of hurting someone who has had an abortion. Yet what is needed is "the truth spoken with love, with the intention of drawing that person to true reconciliation," he said.
Father West also stressed that the pro-life movement loves both the babies and their mothers, and called for an end to the exploitation of women by abortion. He showed the congregation a photo of a beautiful baby girl, carrying the inscription, "Saved Baby Mary." The picture, Fr. West advised, "takes the issue of abortion out of abstraction into the real human lives that have been saved."
Fr. West voiced his profound thanks to Msgr. Wargo for welcoming him to the parish and requested parishioners sign the Spiritual Pledge Cards placed in the pews. The cards stated the signer's dedication to the pro-life agenda.
In addition, a pamphlet published by Priests for Life, "You Can Save Someone's Life Today!" was inserted in the parish bulletin. The pamphlet outlined 54 suggestions for legal, peaceful and effective activity to help end abortion.
These suggestions included praying daily, speaking up with courage and charity in defense of pre-born babies, flying the flag at half-mast in respect for the 4,400 babies who die every day from abortion, identifying pro-life political candidates and taking part in local projects and pro-life activities.
The publication also listed various helpful phone numbers, where help is available from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, including Pregnancy Hotline, 1-800-848-LOVE; America's Crisis Pregnancy Helpline, 1-800-67-BABY-6; and Birthright, 1-800-550-4900.
(Also, in the Diocese of Allentown, women in need may call the Catholic Social Agency's Caring Hearts Pregnancy and Adoption Services: (610) 435-1541 in Lehigh/Northampton counties; (610) 370-3378 in Berks County; or (570) 366-1403 in Schuylkill/Carbon counties; 1-800-CARE-002, tollfree.)
For more information on Priests for Life, contact Fr. Frank Pavone, International Director, Priests for Life, P.O. Box 141172, Staten Island, N.Y., 10314; 1-888-PFL-3448, fax, (718) 980-6515, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site, www.priestsforlife.org.