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Pro-life Mass draws full crowd at cathedral

Posted By March 27, 2014 | 12:12 pm | Lead Story #2
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By Tanya Connor

St. Paul Cathedral was standing-room only Tuesday morning.
The occasion was the annual Mass for Life on the feast of the Annunciation, at which Bishop McManus presents diocesan pro-life awards.
Students from 22 Catholic schools in the diocese and a group of about 30 homeschoolers and their parents filled most of the pews, according to Allison LeDoux, director of the diocesan Respect Life Office. She said Catholic schools in the diocese are asked to attend, and traditionally  bring junior high students, but this year the cathedral seemed fuller than usual.
Several priests concelebrated the Mass with Bishop McManus. Among them was Father Daniel J. Becker, pastor of St. Paul Parish in Warren and St. Stanislaus Parish in West Warren, where St. Thomas Aquinas School is located. He received the Gospel of Life Award for “his humble witness and fidelity to the Church and the Gospel of Life.”
Julia Gilberto, president of Assumption College’s Advocates for Life, received the Ruth V.K. Pakaluk Pro-Life Youth Award – and an unusual amount of support. Francesco Cesareo, Assumption’s president, sat with her and some of her other supporters in the pew. Mrs. LeDoux said this was the first time an honoree’s college president attended the Mass and the first time she saw that kind of outpouring of support from a college; campus ministry representatives came, and talked with her afterwards.
Also honored were long-time Worcester activists Roger and Joyce Dubuque (pictured above) and James “Jay” Guillette, who received the Mother Teresa Pro-life Award for “those whose efforts demonstrate heroic witness to the intrinsic value of each human life.”
Students from Catholic schools served in various ways at the Mass. The music ministers were the Trinity Catholic Academy Choir from Southbridge and the Cathedral of St. Paul Children’s Choir, directed by Brandon Vennink from Trinity and accompanied by his wife, Lei Ray Yu, St. Paul’s organist and music director.
Bishop McManus also solicited students’ help for his homily. After asking them what annunciation means, he talked about the announcement that changed history: when the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary she was to be the mother of the messiah.
Mary was afraid, not because of this honor, but because she wasn’t married, so, if found to be pregnant, she could be put to death, he said. But the angel spoke of the Holy Spirit coming upon her and calmed her fears.
The bishop said it is wonderful to celebrate the Annunciation during Lent, since the baby who took flesh in Mary’s womb is the same person who died for us on the cross.
When you love someone, you want to give them the best, Bishop McManus said, adding, “God only gives us the best.”
So, he said, God sent Jesus, who taught us to love God and neighbor, whether that neighbor is the unborn child developing in the womb, the person in a wheelchair, or the old person in a nursing home who never sees her children, grandchildren or neighbors. We are called to love them, as they are God’s children, he said. Jesus came to save everyone, no matter how rich or poor.
Bishop McManus asked the students how old they thought Mary was at the Annunciation, said she was about their age, and asked them to imagine they had received the message she did.
“At 14 years of age, this woman has been called blessed from generation to generation to generation,” he said. “The Mother of God, your Mother, my Mother,” who changed history.
“We Catholics are in the forefront of the pro-life movement,” he said, adding that he’s always struck that the movement’s face is young; at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., many of the thousands of marchers are youth.
The bishop said three million youth joined Pope Francis for Mass at World Youth Day in Brazil. He said the pope challenged them to leave the Mass and go back to where they came from and bring with them the message of Jesus, the message of life, that God loved us so much he gave us Jesus, and Jesus loved us so much he gave us himself.
“God is counting on you, the Church is counting on you, to be ambassadors of life,” Bishop McManus told them. “Together, let us give witness” to the fact that life is a gift to be cherished, protected and celebrated.