WESTERLY — More than 200 people were in attendance at a sold-out Respect Life dinner honoring Father Ray Suriani, pastor emeritus of St. Pius X parish, which was held on Saturday, January 26, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
Father Suriani was presented with the St. Thomas More Defender of the Faith Pro-Life award because of his commitment to pro-life issues for more than four decades. He is also a beloved and highly respected shepherd in the community.
While presenting the award, Father Giacomo Capoverdi, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, said that Father Suriani “has a knack for capturing the essence of the pro-life debate, and his homilies and writings are informative and persuasive nuggets of truth.”
“He has a deep and abiding passion for defending the dignity and sanctity of human life in the womb from the very moment of conception until natural death,” Father Capoverdi said.
The pastor cited 2 Timothy 4:2, a quote on the top of Father Suriani’s online blog post, which reads “I charge you to preach the word to stay with this task rather convenient or inconvenient, correcting, helping, healing, constantly teaching and never losing patience.”
“These words truly encompass how Father Ray has preached the gospel of life with incredibly great passion and also speak of the countless babies and souls he has saved and strengthened who are also very grateful for his pro-life work,” he said.
After accepting the award Father Suriani gave a well-received speech in which he shared his thoughts on how he believes that God wants us to move forward in our efforts to establish a true culture of life.
He said we need to deal with the root of the issue, which is “contraception, and the contraceptive mentality,” and that statistics clearly show that “contraception has had a devastating effect on family life and marriage.”
“As strange as this might sound, contraception has given birth!” he exclaimed. “It’s given birth to abortion and a host of other social evils.”
Instead, Father Suriani recommends Natural Family Planning because it’s “effective, costs nothing, has no harmful side effects — and is rooted in good science.”
Father Suriani closed his speech by stating that just being pro-life today isn’t enough.
“We must make the commitment to be radically pro-life,” he said.
Through the years, in addition to fulfilling his responsibilities as a pastor, Father Suriani has worked with enthusiasm to protect life and educate people about pro-life issues. He has saved the lives of the unborn, helped women and men who have considered the possible choice of abortion — or who have grieved their past choices— and educated thousands about the importance of respecting life from conception until natural death. He has given many powerful homilies, written articles, blogs and editorials. His courage and witness have inspired many to act.
Nuala McLaughlin, head of Immaculate Conception’s Pro-life Committee, organized the event and Father Capoverdi served as the host and emcee.
The program included a few speakers, including last year’s award recipient, former diocesan Respect Life Coordinator Maria Parker, a life-long advocate for pro-life issues. State Rep. Sam Azzinaro, also a previous recipient of the award, was in attendance.
Father Michael Najim, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Westerly, congratulated Father Suriani and spoke about a current pro-life issue of great concern regarding the recent passage of the New York law which allows abortions up until the time of birth.
“It is nothing less than diabolical and a very grave situation,” Father Najim said.
Monica DiOrio, director of the Immaculate-based Deborah K. Fellacaro Crisis Pregnancy Center of Westerly, spoke about the center’s many services, and about her interactions with Father Suriani.
“He has always been someone who is courageous in speaking out for the fullness of the truth in his work with young people and as an amazing advocate for pro-life,” DiOrio said.
At the end of the evening, two teens who attended the dinner shared their thoughts on Father Ray’s impact.
Thomas McLaughlin, 18, is president of Westerly High school’s Students for Life Club.
“Without a doubt Father Ray has definitely influenced a lot of youth in the community,” he said.
Kolbe Blier, 19, stated, “He’s a really strong influence. He’s always very gentle and kind in his responses and he’s always open to questions. He is certainly a father figure to all of us.”
A video of Father Suriani’s award acceptance speech can be viewed by visiting www.saintpiuswesterly.org/pro-life.
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