Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes recalls the first time he met Fr. Abello. “He, accompanied by Fr. Ted Colleton and Fr. Alphonse deValk came into my office for a ‘quiet chat’,” Hughes told The Interim. “Fr. Abello suggested that I get arrested and go to jail so that there would be a pro-life figure to rally around. The two other priests vehemently objected for many reasons and Fr. Ted announced that he would simply lock the gate at Morgentaler’s which would lead to his arrest.” The following day Fr. deValk was arrested for walking up and down outside the abortuary “and for his efforts spent the next day and night in the infamous and now closed Don Jail.”
Hughes remembered another incident with Fr. Abello. The two were working on a strategy in the CLC offices when Jim’s wife Ginny phoned to say the basement of their neighbour’s house was flooding because of the blocked eaves trough on the Hughes home. Jim told Fr. Abello they would have to continue the meeting at another time. Fr. Abello said he would take care of it and they would meet later in the day. Shortly afterwards, Ginny phoned Jim to say a priest in a cassock was on a ladder cleaning out the eaves trough on their three-storey home. Jim said his neighbours teased him for months about being so important that he could have a priest clean his eaves troughs. That night Ginny fed father Abello his only meal of the day.
Hughes recalls a faithful, forceful and fearless priest. Fr. Abello attended pro-abortion meetings to speak on behalf of the unborn. He would counsel prostitutes on Jarvis Street in downtown Toronto to help them see the error of their ways. In British Columbia, the university bus line banned him because he carried a graphic image of an unborn child on his lap each day. In 1985 he was arrested for “creating a disturbance” at the Morgentaler abortuary in Toronto although he was eventually acquitted.
Fr. Abello frequently wrote letters to the editor defending the sanctity of human life and he continued sending letters to The Interim (and Campaign Life Coalition) long after he left Canada. Some, Hughes said, were encouraging while others suggested new strategies, “but always, always with protecting the unborn child in the womb as his foremost concern.”
On and off, he has spent 15 years in India beginning in 1946, but Fr. Abello returned to India permanently in 1986 and CLC arranged for a note of gratitude from the pro-life community to be presented to him. Activist Dan McCash wrote: “Father, you inspire us all with your simplicity, faith in God, and direct action.”
When Constable Packer refused to guard the illegal Morgentaler abortuary in Toronto in the late 1980s, he had little support. Hughes arranged through Fr. Abello to have Mother Teresa write a letter of encouragement to the police officer. She sent a hand-written note to David Packer.
Mary Ellen Douglas, CLC national organizer, told The Interim Fr. Abello also arranged for Mother Teresa to send a note of support to Dan Eardley of Kingston when he ran as the first candidate for the Pro-life Party of Canada.
Hughes said,” Fr. Abello was an inspirational priest and a wonderful solid pro-lifer and he will be greatly missed.”
Fr. Abello was born in Leuven, Saskatchewan on June 12, 1931 and joined the Jesuits in 1956 before taking his final vows in 1974. He earned a PhD in physics form Wayne State University in Detroit, was an inventor interested in making a more efficient battery, and a teacher. He taught philosophy in India when he wasn’t helping the poor and his obituary in the Globe and Mail acknowledged he was a “champion of the unborn.”
Fr. Abello passed away Jan. 22, in Calcutta. He is survived by his brothers Fr. Louis Abello and Tony Abello and sister Giacinta Auser.