People are singing the praises of French teacher Louis Di Rocco, organizer of Ontario’s two recent Life Chains.
The latest one, held on October 6, was a great success. It attracted 7,000 people in the Toronto area alone, an increase of 33 per cent over the first one held last June.
On the Life Chain weekend, pro-lifers lined main streets and highways across Ontario and in every Canadian province, holding signs with the same message: ABORTION KILLS CHILDREN.
In Toronto, over one hundred Roman Catholic parishes participated, joined by 70 Protestant Churches and a Greek Orthodox Church, as well as members from an orthodox Jewish Synagogue. Both events each took three months to organize.
If Louis were so inclined, he could probably sing his own praises better than most having once sung tenor with a local opera company. However, he isn’t that sort of fellow. Instead, he prefers to work quietly in the background translating his teaching and organizational skills into pro-life activism.
Although he’s a main link in Life Chain in Ontario, he also takes on the other major responsibilities such as the annual sale of Christmas cakes, Campaign Life Coalition’s major fund-raising project.
Furthermore, he serves as President of the Family Coalition Party of Ontario, and one of its chief fund-raisers. Whatever the project, colleagues give him an A-plus. He’s an organizer “par excellence.”
Louis has been a high school French teacher for 24 years. This year he’s on a leave of absence from the staff of his Toronto collegiate because he wants to give more time to Campaign Life Coalition.
Multi-lingual, he speaks English, French, German and Italian (his mother tongue) and sings in other languages and dialects, as well.
When he was 6, his parents emigrated from Italy to Canada (he has an older brother and sister) and by the age of 10, he knew he wanted to become a teacher. Always a good student, he did not consider another career except for one year in the seminary during his first year at St. Michael’s College University of Toronto. He decided he didn’t have a vocation and left the seminary. He continued his studies, graduating with a B.A. from University of Toronto and later qualifying as a teacher.
Music and teaching have always been the first loves of his life, but he’s an eligible bachelor and a gourmet cook – so he’s keeping his options open. But in his bury life, in 1985, he discovered a new avocation: pro-life activism and his life hasn’t been the same since.
Although he’s always been pro-life and remembers arguing against abortion with teachers in the staff lounge in the 1970s and 80s, he wasn’t involved in the issue. But in 1984, after Morgentaler opened his downtown Toronto abortuary, he discovered that he was on a Campaign Life mailing list. One day he received a newsletter begging for volunteers to translate English pro-life pamphlets into Italian. He responded and this marked the beginning of this pro-life activism.
In the summer of 1985, Father Alphonse de Valk asked him to start Teachers for Life. He did, but could not give much time to the project because he had taken a partial leave of absence from teaching to concentrate on studying music (theory, voice and guitar). Moreover, he had just been invited to join a local semi-professional opera company and his agenda was very bury.
Slowly though, he began to realize the importance of pro-lifers putting their beliefs into action because of the growing acceptability of abortion symbolized by the opening of Morgentaler’s abortuary. During the next two years, he did other pro-life tasks and in 1987 when the Family Coalition Party was formed, he ran as their candidate in his riding (he also ran a second time in 1990). With typical vigor and attention to detail, he knocked on many doors and obtained 1,400 votes, a surprising showing for the then unknown FCP.
Christmas cake sales
In fact, he was so good at this political work that the FCP made him their President in 1988, the year he also joined Operation Rescue and later was arrested five times for peacefully obstructing abortuary entrances, along with dozens of other pro-lifers. As well, he helped promote sales of Father Ted Colleton’s best selling book, Yes I’d Do It Again.
When times quieted after the 1990 election, Steve Jalsevac, busy CLC office manager, asked Louis to take over the Christmas cake project which Steve had begun a few years earlier. By now the cakes were growing in popularity and sales were increasing. Louis expanded the market to include Ottawa, Kingston and parts of Quebec, adding to well-established cake centers, one in Hamilton, run by Dr. Carm Scime, one in Niagara Falls, run by Jim Preistman and his wife (sister of Jim Hughes), and another in Walkerton, run by Tom Fritz, who heads Business for Life (a network of pro-life business people) and sells cakes to business contacts and firms which give them out as gifts to their colleagues and employees.