Pro-life advocates told to defend life with courage at annual Respect Life Mass

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CRANSTON — Pro-life advocates from throughout the Diocese of Providence gathered at St. Paul Church on Saturday, January 13, to express their concern for all human life and pray for God’s blessing on the pro-life movement at the annual Respect Life Mass.

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin served as principal celebrant at the Mass, organized annually in January by the diocesan Office of Life and Family Ministry with support from the Human Life Guild. Several priests from the diocese served as concelebrants including Father Adam Young, Father Nicholas Fleming, Father Jaime Garcia, Father Christopher Mahar and Father James Ruggieri.

“This Mass only happens once a year, but our commitment to human life is something that can be expressed and lived out every day, of course, in many different ways,” said Bishop Tobin during his homily. “We come to pray because we know that we need God’s help.”

Sharing the story of a former parishioner who had taken a risk to pursue a path he knew was morally correct, Bishop Tobin encouraged all those gathered to reflect on the virtue of courage and its essential role in the fight for greater respect for human life.

“We think about all the great saints in history from the time of the apostles to this very moment. How many of the great saints in history took enormous courage for them to do what they did? It took enormous courage for them to follow Jesus, and follow Jesus faithfully till the end.”

Those who act courageously within the pro-life movement – from mothers who choose to give birth to their babies, to politicians who act under the guidance of their conscience, to college students unafraid to speak up in an unreceptive culture – will receive God’s rewards, assured Bishop Tobin. However, those fighting for greater respect for human life must also remember that courage is not the only Christian virtue.

“Courage needs to be wrapped in prudence, patience, prayer and charity,” he said. “That’s why we turn to God today and all the time in our living out of the Gospel of Life. Only God can give us all the virtues we need to persevere in our commitment and to do so successfully.”

The example of a courageous mother resonated for many of the participants in an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on loan to the diocese and placed in the sanctuary of St. Paul Church for the celebration of the Respect Life Mass. Following the sacrament of communion, Father Garcia, pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Church, Providence, offered a prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe as children from his parish prepared to present roses to the patroness of unborn children.

“The fact that she is marching out with a courage like we do when we go out to the abortion clinics and we go to the March for Life and stand up for life – that message 487 years ago is for us today as well,” said Carol Owens, coordinator of the Office of Life and Family Ministry, as she reflected on the Virgin Mary displayed in the image.

“We’ve got to stand up, we’ve got to march out for life with courage,” she added.

Many of those in attendance were preparing to travel to Washington, D.C., for the 45th annual March for Life on Friday, including Bob Raspallo, a parishioner at St. Joseph Church, Cumberland, who spoke with Rhode Island Catholic following the Mass.

“I think it is the issue,” he said when asked why he chose to become involved in the respect life movement. “You deny people their life, their civil rights and educational rights are nonexistent.”

Lorraine Beaudoin, a parishioner at St. Joseph Church, Providence, said she often prays the rosary outside abortion clinics with other pro-life advocates. While she considers the work important to the movement, her observations of women who visit the clinics can sometimes be disheartening.

“The worst thing to see is a car go into Planned Parenthood with a rosary hanging on the visor or a car seat sitting in the back,” she said.

Janice Minuto, a parishioner at St. Sebastian Church, Providence, shared that her passion for the pro-life movement and in particular for the rights of unborn children comes partly from her own experience with adoption.

“I adopted both my children through Catholic Charities. One became a physician, one became an interior designer, they both do great things with their lives,” she said.

Minuto added that she feels many Catholics could be doing more to support the pro-life movement at a time when society in general does not show respect toward human life.

“It is very difficult to be a Catholic in a society with a culture that has an agenda that is contrary to a lot of what God has created,” she said.