History of Priests for Life, Part Two
History of Priests for Life, Part Three
My team and I have often discussed the fact that one day we need to write a history of the marvelous ways that God's Providence has allowed Priests for Life as a ministry to come into existence, grow and diversify, and to be protected in the midst of many battles both with church and state, not to mention the pro-aborts. And, of course, a big part of that history would be the marvelous people whom our team has met and continues to meet on our constant travels, and who have, at various times, worked with us on our staff.
But before such time as a formal history is written, I thought I would devote a few columns to looking at some of the key elements in the development of this ministry. By understanding our history, whether as individual organizations or as the pro-life movement generally, we better understand where we are today and where we are going.
People often ask me if I am in the "founder" of Priests for Life. I do not use that title, because it was a group of priests in San Francisco who originally got it off the ground in 1991. But I found out about that after I had thought of doing the same, and that idea came to me because of something Cardinal John O'Connor did in that same year. He was Archbishop of New York, and ordained me to the priesthood. He was a fervent pro-life advocate and the key leader at that time among the hierarchy as a voice for the unborn and for the priority of the abortion issue. He announced that he was forming the "Sisters of Life," a religious community dedicated to fostering the sanctity of life. I thought it was marvelous, and I immediately thought, "There should be something like this for priests." I saw for myself the fruits in my own parish of preaching clearly, compassionately, and frequently on abortion.
So I joined Priests for Life. That was 1992.
By the next year, I experienced a profound call of conscience. In a letter I wrote to the Director of Priest Personnel for the New York Archdiocese on June 30, 1993, I stated the following:
"Because of the nature and extent of the abortion/ euthanasia problem, I feel at this time that I cannot proceed with my life "business as usual," but rather must address these issues with all the strength and resources at my disposal. In other words, I am being drawn not by a mere preference or interest, but by a strong demand of conscience."
And so it began. Cardinal O'Connor granted me permission to devote all my time and energy to fighting abortion. Moreover, between the time I requested the meeting with him to ask permission, and the time I had the meeting, I was asked by the founders of Priests for Life if I would become its new President! My desire now had an opportunity for fulfillment, and I became the first full-time director of Priests for Life on September 1, 1993.