Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Feb
  • 2

Holy Cross students at March for Life

Posted By February 2, 2012 | 1:00 pm | Featured Article #4

Check Photo Galleries for March for Life

Holy Cross College Students go to Pro-Life Rally

By Nikolas C. Churik and Patrick J. Horan

Just before the start of the spring semester, a group of 20 students from the College of the Holy Cross and Merrimack College traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the 39th annual March for Life.  Two students from Holy Cross, Julia McCarthy and Philippe Ortiz, are members of the Worcester Diocese.  The students were accompanied by Father John Gavin of Holy Cross and Father Bill Waters of Merrimack College.      The rally is held every year on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion and single-handedly rewrote the abortion restrictions put in place by almost every state legislature.
On January 22, the day before the March, the students attended the 13th Annual Cardinal O’Connor Conference at Georgetown University where they listened to several talks concerning pro-life issues.  The keynote speaker was Archbishop Charles J. Chaput OFM Cap of Philadelphia.  Chaput addressed the need for people, particularly the nation’s youth, to take the initiative in the pro-life cause.  He emphasized the role that voters have in influencing their politicians on the abortion issue.  A panel of pro-life congressional representatives, including Chris Smith of New Jersey, also spoke.
Following the conference, the students attended Mass at the National Basilica where Catholics from all across the nation came to prepare spiritually for the March for Life.  Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston, Texas delivered a stirring homily and compared the March to Jonah’s trek across Nineveh.      Seeing the hundreds of priests and thousands of worshippers was a reassuring sign of the Catholic Church’s presence in the United States.  “It was amazing to see such an enthusiastic crowd at the foremost Catholic church in our nation’s capital,” said Tom Keeley, the co-chair of the Holy Cross Chapter of Students for Life.

Two students from Holy Cross, Julia McCarthy and Philippe Ortiz, are members of the Worcester Diocese.

The next day, Jan. 23, the students then joined hundreds of thousands on the National Mall, despite the cold, rainy weather.  Each year, those marching walk around the Mall from the Capitol to the Supreme Court.  A number of prominent political leaders, including U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio, spoke to the crowd. Within the assembly of marchers, there were groups from many colleges, high schools, and religious orders, alongside many other individuals.  People of all ages were represented at the March as both strollers and walkers were pushed.  In addition to the strong Catholic presence, people of other faiths including Judaism and other Christian denominations were also in attendance.
The March for Life is an important event that is generally ignored by many in the mainstream media, despite many polls suggesting that Americans are becoming increasingly pro-life.  These statistics are particularly true among younger Americans, offering a sign of hope in what Pope John Paul II called a “culture of death.”  The enthusiasm of those who stand for the dignity of human life is critical if we are to ever end the horrific practice of abortion.




Crowds exclaim: ‘We are pro-life!’

By Laura Lambert
CFP Correspondent

   WASHINGTON, D.C. – The rhythmic pounding of bass drums kept time as hundreds of thousands of people marched past the capitol building on Monday afternoon, but even the reverberating drums were nearly drowned out by cries of “We are pro-life!”
A crew of parishioners from St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury joined the crowds at the 39th annual March for Life to add their voices to the movement fighting to overturn the 1973 Supreme Court ruling which, with Doe v. Bolton, legalized abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy in all states.
The National Abortion Federation claims that in Roe V. Wade the “Court found that the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of personal liberty and previous decisions protecting privacy in family matters included a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.” However, pro-life supporters argue that rather than promoting personal freedom, Roe v. Wade prevents unborn children from encountering their own constitutional rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Prior to heading off to the March for Life the Shrewsbury group attended a Mass for Life in St. Paul Cathedral with hundreds of others, many of whom also got on buses to Washington.
Bishop McManus told them that history will not look kindly on this time in our nation’s history where in 39 years some 54 million unborn babies have been slaughtered. Historians will ask how the country’s “moral amnesia allowed this horror to descend on this country.”
He said the teaching of the Catholic Church on abortion is extraordinarily clear and direct. Since the 1st century the Church affirmed abortion as a moral evil, and that has not changed. Political powers are trying to drag us into compromise, he said, “we cannot compromise.”
“Christ himself is the Gospel of Life. Every Catholic must be totally committed to the Gospel of Life,” Bishop McManus said.
He said that watching EWTN coverage of pre-March for Life events he noticed that the vast majority of participants are young people. Also, looking out into the cathedral he saw  many young people preparing to go to the march.
“The pro-life movement of the United States is a youth movement,” he said. “You young people in the cathedral tonight are our great hope. … As you march in the streets remember you are courageous witnesses to the sanctity of life. … You are fulfilling Jesus’ command to be salt of the earth; light to the world.”
   Dr. John Harding, a pro-life physician from St. Mary’s says members of the pro-life movement match the dictionary definition of the word “altruistic” or “unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others.” St. Mary’s  hosted a bus overflowing with students from Holy Name Central Catholic High School in Worcester and St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, as well as St. Bernadette’s in Northborough.  The pilgrims, led by Dr. Harding, parishioner Kurt Brenner and Associate Pastor Father Marcin Nowicki, passed time by praying the rosary, in English, French, Spanish, Hungarian and Polish.  Students and parishioners helped Father Nowicki lead the multi-lingual prayer which was dedicated to mothers and their unborn children.
The travelers also enjoyed viewing Sherwood Pictures films “Fireproof” and “Courageous,” two of four inspirational films produced through the “moviemaking ministry” of Sherwood Baptist Church located in Albany, Georgia.  The films encourage family values and the inclusion of faith in marriage.
The group arrived at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the early morning hours and waited in the crypt church in the basement of the basilica where even earlier arrivals were visiting side chapels, praying before the Blessed Sacrament or napping on benches in the hall.
“This is the hardest part,” Libby Probst from St. Joseph Parish in Berlin, said.  “It’s hard to feel anything but tired when waiting.”  The fatigue on Probst’s face did not last long, however.  She seemed to have new energy when staff members opened the doors to the basilica’s sanctuary.
Sweatpants-wearing youth, mantilla-veiled women, religious and lay men and women filled the pews of the basilica to hear Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, offer the Mass for Life.
In his homily, Cardinal-designate Dolan stated, “…like David, the pro-life movement has been scoffed at by Goliath, but Goliath didn’t win. … Trusting, shrewd, little David did win.”
Cardinal-designate Dolan also offered a message of forgiveness for those connected to abortion.  He said, “The only unforgivable sin is to believe that there is such a thing as an unforgivable sin.”
During the General Intercessions, the congregation raised prayerful petitions for the protection of life, for the president, government officials and law enforcement to act with wisdom and good judgment and for the wellbeing and strength of expectant mothers.
The Shrewsbury group was also in attendance at the Massachusetts Citizens for Life meeting held in the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Building.  The organization’s president, Anne Fox, described MCFL as the “oldest and largest in the state.”  Mass. Citizens for Life was instituted in 1974 as a reaction to Roe v. Wade.      Mrs. Fox said that “2012 is the most important year for the pro-life movement,” largely due to upcoming ballot initiatives regarding death with dignity, also known as doctor prescribed or physician assisted suicide.
Jennifer Popik,  from the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, talked to the assembly about the dangers of approaching the upcoming ballot initiative, labeled “compassionate choices,” unprepared.  She explained that according to the initiative, which has already become law in Oregon and Washington state, an adult with six months left to live would be within his or her rights to request assisted suicide from his or her physician.
Ms. Popik expressed concern over what she considered questionable safeguards.  While the patient must be of sound mind, no psychiatric evaluation is required by law to prove as such.  Another cause for concern, raised by Ms. Popik is the legal expectation for doctors to falsify the death certificate by providing the underlying condition as the cause of death and no witness is to be present at the time of death.
She expressed her worry that “anything could happen” because lack of safeguards.  “Doctors are held to a standard of their peers,” Ms. Popik said “but they are encouraged to falsify information.”  She continued, “Doctors are held to a good faith standard.  You must prove malicious intent.  That makes it tough to sue (in the event that the lethal prescription was used carelessly).”
The Mass. Citizens for Life meeting agenda also included a brief presentation by Mrs. Fox who bestowed the first annual award for best legal writing to Notre Dame law student, Michael Fragoso for his article, “Taking Conscience Seriously or Seriously Taking Conscience?: Obstetricians, Specialty Boards, and the Takings Clause.”      “The obstetrics board could take away the obstetrician’s practice if the obstetrician doesn’t perform or refer abortions,” Mrs. Fox explained. She said that the overarching concern is that pro-life obstetricians are being prevented from practicing obstetrics.  “No one in law is discussing this, only the students.”
After brief visits to the offices of Senators Scott Brown and John Kerry and Rep. James McGovern, the Shrewsbury group joined the march past the capitol.  The small number of Shrewsbury representatives became part of an estimated 300-400 thousand participants many of whom carried signs such as “Defend Life,” “Defund Planned Parenthood,“ “Babies are such a nice way to start people,” and “As a former fetus, I oppose abortion.”
Pro-life marchers from across the country and around the world braved the misty chill in the air to promote their hopeful message.  As Anne Fox stated, “This (abortion) is something we can do something about.”

– Margaret M. Russell contributed to this report.

Returning from March invigorated

By Tanya Connor

The director of the diocesan Respect Life Office returned from her first March for Life this week eager to get a large group from the diocese to attend next year, for the 40th anniversary.
The annual march in Washington, D.C., is held on or near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Jan. 22, 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that, with Doe v. Bolton, legalized abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy in all states. The march calls for a return to respect for life.
“It’s just so spiritual; it really is a kind of pilgrimage,” Allison LeDoux, director of the diocesan Respect Life and Marriage and Family Offices, said of the march and events planned in conjunction with it. “I’d love to make a few days of it. I think the high point for me was the Mass.”
She said it was beautiful to see Worcester diocesan priests and deacons concelebrating or assisting at the Mass Jan. 23 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The basilica was full and people were reverent and united, she said.
While many young people go to the march, more do not. But Mrs. LeDoux can bring its message to them one way or another.
The mother of eight children ages 12-26 said she would be happy to give presentations to any age group.
She can talk to parents at PTO meetings, give faculty in-service days or speak to parish clusters. She can help adults who work with youth find other speakers or resources or create service programs tailor-made to their young people.
She can share with young children how life is a gift, without mentioning abortion.
She can talk to middle schoolers, and junior high, high school and college students in schools or religious education or youth ministry programs about life issues and Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. (The Marriage and Family Office teaches Theology of the Body to couples preparing for marriage, to help them use the gift of sexuality in accordance with Church teaching.)
“The message that Pope John Paul brings out in Theology of the Body is the dignity of the human person, who God created us to be, the importance of growing in a relationship with a God who loves us more than we can ever fathom,” Mrs. LeDoux said. “To see that Christ is the answer to the problems and challenges that we face and how important it is to make the right choices. We see around us how one temptation given in to destroys so many lives and it leaves deep wounds.
“How does this connect with the March for Life? We see, after 40 years, the destruction and pain, not only to the unborn child, but to the mothers and fathers of those children and all those they’re connected to.
“And when we lose sight of the value of life in the womb we don’t have regard for life anywhere. We see that in physician assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research…
“I think much of the woundedness in our culture stems from issues of sexual morality – abortion, contraception, pre-marital sex, and that disassociation of sex from love.
“Our culture thinks this is OK, but it’s destroying lives. When we go against God’s plan, things deteriorate, because the human heart is not satisfied.”
Theology of the Body gives a theological and practical foundation, showing what right relationships should look like, Mrs. LeDoux said. She said if people saw that the proper place for sex is within marriage, there would not be the unwed mothers and broken hearts so prevalent today.
She said she sees the need to teach respect for life and Theology of the Body to younger and younger audiences, because of the culture’s negative influence.
“We are in spiritual warfare and I think we’ve got to wake up to that as a Church,” she said. “When people hear the beautiful message the Church has, it gives people hope: Life can be good because Christ is life.”

Doctor: Youth need to hear life message

By Tanya Connor

“I know from practicing pediatrics – young children are very open. If you ask an 8- or 9-year-old, ‘What do you think about killing a baby in its mother’s womb?’ they will say, ‘Oh, that’s sick!’”
John Harding, a retired pediatrician who is chairman of the Respect Life Ministry at St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury, told The Catholic Free Press this last week.
“If you ask a high-schooler, there’s a hesitation,” Dr. Harding continued. “They’ve heard enough times that abortion is the best solution to an unwanted pregnancy. They can get on with their life and no one even needs to know they were pregnant. They’ve heard about rape and incest, and yet that is such a small percentage of the over a million a year elective abortions – in this country alone.”
Dr. Harding wasn’t including all high-schoolers in that observation. As he spoke, he was preparing to take 22 of them from two Catholic schools in the diocese on a bus to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., along with their chaperons and some of his fellow parishioners and members of St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough.
Pro-lifers, including more and more young people, march at the nation’s capital for an end to abortion on or near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Jan. 22, 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that, with Doe v. Bolton, legalized abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy in all states.
Roe v. Wade put man’s law at the top, Dr. Harding said.
“It used to be God’s law was on top, natural law was second and man’s law was third, in terms of especially important things like the inalienable right to life,” he said. “The founding fathers thought the inalienable right to life was sacred – they put it in writing and they all signed it. Man is not capable or trustworthy when it comes to controlling whether someone should live or die, because we’re not God-like enough.”
Free tickets for St. Mary’s bus to the March for Life (along with U.S. savings bonds) were the prizes offered winners of last fall’s Respect Life Ministry essay and poster contest. The contest invited students in seventh and eighth grade in St. Mary Elementary School and the parish religious education program to address topics of abortion, euthanasia or the disabled and show how life is sacred.
“My idea at St. Mary’s was to get the truth into their heads before that adolescent closure took place,” Dr. Harding said. “If you can get the truth into a pre-adolescent – a sixth-, seventh- or eighth-grader – I think it’s there. It lays dormant for awhile, and I think at some point they say, ‘This makes sense.’”
But most teenagers either pretend to listen to adults, then dismiss what the adults say, or react opposite of how adults want them to, Dr. Harding said, recalling experiences with his own children.
The retiree said he had a private practice for 40 years, was on the first faculty at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in pediatrics and was chief of pediatrics at Hahnemann Hospital from 1982-1988.
Thirty-five students from the school participated in the contest, but none of the parish’s religious education students did, Dr. Harding said. To his disappointment, none of the winners, nor any other St. Mary’s students, took advantage of the free bus tickets. So he sought to bring the march to them by suggesting they watch it on television.
Joan Barry, principal, said she gave teachers the option of showing coverage of the march during religion classes.
This year’s essays were so good it was hard to narrow them down to three winners as planned, five were chosen, Dr. Harding said.
“When you read the essays you know clearly that they’ve thought about it and that they understand, which is so like a child, as opposed to an adult,” Dr. Harding said. “When our Supreme Court thought about it, they thought it should be legal to kill the unborn.”
He said one contestant’s mother told him at first she was unsure whether the contest was a good idea. But it generated a dialogue about abortion between her and her husband and their daughter, and now she knows her parents’ position clearly. Dr. Harding said youth with such a background will not as easily fall for the lies of abortion providers, even if they face difficult choices someday.
“How can you ‘up’ the number of kids that do well?” Dr. Harding asked, replying that they need education and faith. They need to be taught how to defend their faith, he said. Then, for example, if a boy tells a girl, “If you loved me, you’d have sex with me,” she will have answers such as, “If you loved me, you wouldn’t ask; I’m worth waiting for.”
Youth today see more bad examples in life and in the media than he did growing up, Dr. Harding said. He said few people go to confession; there isn’t the awareness that God sees everything one does and the sense of accountability Catholics had when he was young.

Speaker brings life-long belief in pro-life message to the classroom

By Tanya Connor

“I guess I’ve always been pro-life, but when did it hit home for me?”
Rosalie Berquist, a newly trained Massachusetts Citizens For Life speaker, was giving her powerpoint presentation at Trivium School in Lancaster last Friday.
She said she’s a member of the school’s board of directors, the Respect Life Ministry at St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury and the Massachusetts Citizens For Life Speakers Bureau, and is available to give similar talks to other junior high and high school students.
Mrs. Berquist told her attentive young listeners abortion was legalized when she was expecting a child and she was horrified at the thought that someone would drag her off and take that baby from her. She asked if that is happening anywhere in the world today and a listener cited China.
She assured listeners they would not see anything offensive or frighten them in her presentation.
She showed pictures of unborn babies 24-weeks-old and younger and  a 24-week-old premie.
“She’s protected now, because she’s already born,” Mrs. Berquist said. “And isn’t it sad to see that in another part of the hospital” a baby that age could be aborted?
At 20 weeks, the baby can recognize mother’s voice, she said. At 16 weeks, unique fingerprints have formed.
Mrs. Berquist played a recording of a baby’s heartbeat at about nine weeks, and flashed on the screen the slogan: “Abortion stops a beating heart.”
Showing a magnified image of conception, she asked, “Can you imagine that you and I fit on the head of a pin?”
Next were photos of her grandson and granddaughter happily holding their newborn brother.
“What is a woman left with after an abortion?” Mrs. Berquist asked and the screen went blank. “Does she have anyone to hold?”
An August 1963 Planned Parenthood pamphlet, from before abortion was legal, used the word “baby” for the unborn and cautioned that an abortion could make a woman sterile, Mrs. Berquist said. Now the organization, one of the largest abortion industries,  tells a different story, using terms such as “product of conception” or fetus, she said.
“Have you ever heard of anybody going to a fetus shower?” she asked, adding that people “call it what it is.”
Mrs. Berquist recalled a claim used to defend abortion: “It’s my body so it’s my choice.” But she noted the baby doesn’t have a choice and that he or she is not part of the mother’s body. The mother has a choice, she said; she can have a live or a dead baby.
Mrs. Berquist told of a psychologist noticing that young clients drew pictures of all the children in their families, included the aborted ones. She said the  psychologist also discovered that a suicidal girl had had an abortion, that her mother had worked to legalize abortion and that her grandmother had wanted to abort her mother. Other risks of abortion Mrs. Berquist listed included blood clots, infection, premature births, sleep and eating disorders, drug abuse and divorce.
In the United States there are one million abortions a year and two million people waiting to adopt, she said.
Fathers sometimes do not have a choice about the abortion, and God is left out, she said, drawing laughter with a picture of a ribbon-wrapped baby bearing a gift tag that said, “From God.”
Mrs. Berquist decried the United States Supreme Court justices making a law – to legalize abortion – and ignoring science by saying they did not need to resolve “the difficult question of when human life begins.”
One doesn’t have to be Catholic to know life in the womb is human, she said, and noted that there is an organization called “Atheists for Life.” But she spoke of God’s commandment “Thou shalt not kill” and said every human life is sacred and must be protected from conception to natural death.
Mrs. Berquist asked why this presentation was being given to young people, and told students they are at Trivium School because their parents sacrificed. But they will not always be there, and they may get lonely, she said. She said of the 3,000 abortions a day, more than half are had by young, unmarried women. When a man and woman bond in an act of love, there’s a chance a new human life will be formed, and this is an activity to be reserved for marriage, she said.
Everyone makes mistakes, she added, and asked students if they will give good information if someone tells them she’s pregnant.
She noted that Problem Pregnancy and Visitation House in Worcester help women with crisis pregnancies. Women who have had abortions have said they wished someone had come to help them, even when they were going into the abortion clinic, she said.
“Never let your past be an obstacle between you and God,” Mrs. Berquist said. “Remember that God is love and mercy.” She told of Project Rachel, which helps women who have had abortions.
“Pray for unborn babies, their mothers, their fathers,” she urged. “And don’t forget to pray for abortionists.” She told of people working in the abortion industry who left their jobs and became pro-life advocates.
“We can’t all go on the March for Life, but we can pray,” she said.
A video called “The Miracle of Life,” music and Scripture verses accompanied a summary of her talk projected on the screen. It ended simply: “Choose life.”