Affirming the commitment to human life, in all its stages


GREENVILLE — The dignity of human life is constantly under attack, from war, abortion, poverty, bigotry and other injustices.

The participants and speakers at the Diocese of Providence’s 11th annual Human Life Guild Day, held Oct. 3 at the St. Philip Church Parish Center, once again sought to affirm life in all its stages, from conception to natural death, and in all circumstances.

“Either all human life is sacred or else no human life is ever safe from indiscriminate attacks,” said Father Jonathan De Felice, assistant moderator of the Curia and vice chancellor for the Diocese of Providence.

Father De Felice served as the homilist for the opening Mass at St. Philip Church, where Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and other concelebrating priests presided. Bishop Tobin thanked the dozens of people in attendance for their dedication to the pro-life cause.

“Your presence, your commitment to human life, in the midst of the world in which we’re living and traveling these days, is very important and greatly encouraging,” Bishop Tobin said.

In his homily, Father De Felice stressed the theme that “every life is worth living,” and he called on the faithful to work together to defend and affirm life, adding that the human person is sacred in the eyes of God.

“A world where everyone’s human dignity is respected, a world in which every life is worth living, that world is not created by politics, humanist philosophies or by the presumed sophistication of the 21st century,” Father De Felice said.

“No, that world is based on fundamental values proclaimed in the scriptures,” said Father De Felice, who called on his listeners to work with God until the last wall of prejudice is torn down, the last weapon of war is laid down and innocent life is protected in the womb.

Human Life Guild Director Carol Owens, who also serves as director of the diocese’s Office of Life and Family Ministry, presented several awards to local residents for their pro-life work. She later told those who gathered in the St. Philip Parish Center that whatever they do for the unborn, no matter how seemingly small or grandiose, makes a big difference.

“We need to make a difference, and we need everyone to do that, not only those sitting in this room today,” said Owens, who told everyone that they are all important to the pro-life cause.

Father Christopher M. Mahar, the Human Life Guild chaplain who also serves as rector of the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence, was the event’s keynote speaker. In his address, he expounded on the themes in “Salvifici Doloris,” the 1984 apostolic letter written by St. Pope John Paul II on the Christian meaning of suffering.

Father Mahar delved into John Paul II’s reflections on the reality of suffering, which can be transformed into something redemptive. While adding that some forms suffering are evil and should be rejected outright, Father Mahar said that God reaches out to his suffering people as a consoler who accompanies them in their sorrows.

A Christian perspective that sees suffering as a mystery, which brings people out of themselves and into relationship with one another, runs counter to modern society’s view that suffering, especially physical illness, has no value and should be avoided.

Speaking just two days before California legalized physician-assisted suicide, Father Mahar noted that euthanasia is spreading in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, and slowly gaining a foothold in the United States.

“Sadly, many people are choosing to end their lives,” Father Mahar said.

Meg McDonnell, executive director of the Chiaroscuro Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to relinking the goods of sex, marriage and children, discussed the powerful social and cultural forces that often discourage young adults, especially those from poor and working-class backgrounds, from marriage and family.

McDonnell also recounted her organization’s efforts to help women who believe in the Catholic Church’s teachings on sex and marriage to have their voices heard during the national debate on the federal government’s contraceptive mandate, which was spun by Planned Parenthood and its media allies to be a “War on Women.”

By getting faithful women’s voices heard, McDonnell said they were able to successfully change the “War on Women” media narrative.

“That’s the power of being persistent, of putting our voices out there,” McDonnell said.

William Patenaude, a regulator with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and a columnist for Rhode Island Catholic, highlighted the link between human life and ecology in his talk that focused on Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si.”

“This is a life issue,” said Patenaude, a devout Catholic with a master’s degree in theology.

Patenaude said the mainstream media had “hijacked” Pope Francis’ encyclical into a missive on climate change, even though the pope only mentions climate change in four of the document’s 246 paragraphs.

Underscoring ecology as a life issue, Patenaude noted that the Catholic Church in the Philippines opposes increased mining because of child labor, deforestation, as well as heavy metals and toxic chemicals that enter the water supply and cause health problems.

“The Church is entering this conversation because it needs to be there,” said Patenaude, adding that the Church evangelizes when it speaks on ecology.

John Jackson, president of Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, attended Human Life Guild Day, and said he believes that the key to real action on the life issues is getting young people involved.

“I just think this whole issue is the most important issue concerning our society today, the protection of life from conception to natural death,” Jackson said. “The people who have been involved in this on a regular basis are the real heroes.”