As he looked out at the crowded chapel at St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, Cardinal O'Connor told 550 people gathered for Mass, "Apparently, you didn't get the word that the prolife movement is dead."
Cardinal O'Connor celebrated Mass at Respect Life '99 April 10, and panelists later in the day shared their vision for the movement in the dawn of the new millennium.
The cardinal urged the group not to become discouraged, even it though seems "the whole world is in conspiracy against life at this moment." He cited two examples -- the war in Yugoslavia and the appointment as professor of bioethics at Princeton University of Peter Singer, an animal rights advocate who believes in euthanasia for severely disabled infants and some terminally ill adults.
Comparing politicians who try to skirt the abortion issue to Pontius Pilate, he said some have advisers who help them "finesse the issue so they can say something meaningless and not get into trouble."
He asked his listeners to remind women tempted to have an abortion to turn to the Church. "If you meet anyone who does not know which way to turn, who is tempted, who is pressured to have an abortion, tell her the Church would consider it a tremendous privilege to take care of her and help her have her baby," he said.
That theme was developed by Father Frank A., Pavone, a priest of the archdiocese who is international director of Priests for Life. He has introduced the Gabriel Project in parishes to help women in crisis pregnancies. He suggested that each parish put a sign in front of the church and assign a parishioner to befriend an expectant mother, bringing her needs to the pastor's attention. He in turn would, without identifying the woman, put out the word if she needed a doctor, lawyer or family to open its home to her.
Father Pavone said the plan is working in several dioceses.
Msgr. Philip J. Reilly, founder and director of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants, spoke about the kind of attitude someone who prays in front of an abortion clinic should have. Msgr. Reilly, a priest of the Brooklyn Diocese, stands in front of clinics almost daily and counsels women against having abortions.
"If you go to save physical life, I would tell you to stay home," he said. "If you go because you believe you are going to stop the killing, stay home."
Instead, he said one should go for the same reason Jesus went to Calvary: for the conversion of hearts and salvation of souls.
He advised sidewalk counselors to "be there" for a woman even if she goes ahead with the abortion. "It's then that she is disposed," he said. "She is so low in self-esteem, no one will touch her, and suddenly, Christ is there."
Dolores B. Grier, vice chancellor of the archdiocese for community relations, complained in her talk, "We have 153 Catholics in Congress, and we can't pass a partial-birth abortion ban."
Other speakers were Sandi Merle, director of Standing Together to Oppose Partial-Birth Abortion; Stanley Tomkiel, founder of the Catholic Coalition of Westchester, and Sara Gunn, director of St. Columba's Respect Life Committee in Hopewell Junction.
The annual symposium was organized by the archdiocesan Family Life/Respect Life Office, which presented its Evangelium Vitae Unsung Hero Award to Maria Giovine, a freshman at Fordham University in the Bronx, where she heads the pro-life group. She convinced more than 200 of her classmates to sign the Family Life Office's Pledge for Life. The pledge calls on signers to agree to five statements regarding life and to back up their words with actions.
There were 15 Pro-life Essay Contest winners out of 1,000 entries. Brian O'Shea, a junior at Msgr. Farrell High School on Staten Island, won first place in the upper high school division. His essay stressed a need to "have more of an incorporation of spirituality in Catholic education to ensure that today's youth and tomorrow's Church will keep their commitment to life," he told CNY.
Other winners were Jasmine Hosein of St. Theresa's in the Bronx; Anna Stabile of St. Paul the Apostle in Yonkers; Angelica Role Delgado of St. Casimir's in Yonkers; Matthew Antonucci of St. Mary's in Wappingers Falls; David Wang of St. Joseph's on Monroe Street in Manhattan; Clara Argudo of the Academy of Mount St. Ursula in the Bronx; Megan McCabe, Gabriel Chapman and Kelly Kroslowitz of John F. Kennedy Catholic in Somers; John Baldini of Archbishop Stepinac in White Plains; Marcia P. Trasancos of Maria Regina in Hartsdale; Alexis Romano of. Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island, and Daniel Devine and Michael Ryan of Msgr. Farrell on Staten Island.
In the catechetical division, winners were William Cosgrove, Elizabeth Barr and Annmarie Dene of St. Aedan's in Pearl River; Erica Rahn of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Shrub Oak and Erin Teresa Kelly of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ardsley.
Catholic New York, April 1, 1999
Pro-life Leaders to Discuss Vision at Respect Life
A Jewish activist lobbying for a ban on partial-birth abortions and a priest who stands outside abortion clinics trying to talk women out of having abortions will join Cardinal O'Connor at Respect Life '99, the annual archdiocesan symposium on pro-life issues.
The cardinal will celebrate Mass at 9 a.m. to open the event at St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie on Saturday, April 10. He will present the Evangelium Vitae Pro-Life Hero Award and 15 Student Essay Awards.
A panel of pro-life leaders will outline visions and strategy for the future and answer questions from the audience. They include: Msgr. Philip J. Reilly, founder and director of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants; Father Frank A. Pavone, director of Priests for Life; Dolores B. Grier, vice chancellor of the archdiocese for community relations and director of the Americans Against Abortion Society; Sandi Merle, director of Standing Together to Oppose Partial-Birth Abortion; Stanley Tomkiel, founder of the Catholic Coalition of Westchester, and staff of the archdiocesan Family Life/Respect Life Office, which organizes the event.