Father Tony Van Hee, a 55-year-old Jesuit priest from the Guelph Spirituality Centre, heaved a sigh of relief when the proposed abortion law, Bill C-43 was defeated in the Senate on January 31, 1991.
Father Van Hee has kept a prayer and fasting vigil on Parliament Hill for the last year-and-a-half (since September 1989) except for a break of three months each summer and three weeks each Christmas.
He did this to focus public and political attention on the fact that no law exists in Canada to protect the unborn child.
His aim (and that of all pro-lifers) is to obtain a pro-life law as soon as possible, even though he thinks it may take a few years.
If Bill C-43 had passed, efforts to obtain a pro-life law would have been more difficult because it would have legalized abortion on demand and been very difficult to change, he believes.
His quiet presence on Parliament Hill may soon be coming to an end, however. On January 27, his Jesuit superiors wrote him a letter stating that he will likely be recalled to Guelph now that Bill C-43 has been defeated. Their final decision will be made in March.
Until then, Father Van Hee will keep his vigil every weekday from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. He moved from the Senate, where he had been stationed to the House of Commons when it resumed sitting on February 18.
Father Van Hee’s apostolate to the pro-life cause is deeply spiritual. He sees the struggle against abortion as one of good against evil. Before he began his fast, he had participated in Operation Rescue because of its spiritual aspects. He’d like to continue working in some way in the apostolate of the pro-life cause, guided by
God and by the decision of his superiors.
He sees abortion as a symptom of materialism and selfishness in the world and says the gospel teachings of prayer, penance and fasting are essential to change the minds and hearts of so many people who are indifferent to the holocaust of the unborn. His own prayerful presence on Parliament Hill has set a fine example of the importance of the spiritual struggle against abortion. His physical presence, in all sorts of weather, attests to his fortitude and fidelity in supporting the pro-life cause.
But he’s a humble priest and he doesn’t ask others to do what he does. If people wish to join in the spirit of the fast, he suggests that Lent is a good time to begin. Give up lunch one or more times a week or give up a treat and fond more time for prayer, however small, whether at home, at work or even on the way to work, he says.
Father Van Hee makes no mention of his own prayerful part in the defeat of Bill C-43, but surely the good Lord must have seen and heard his prayers. Typically, he says, “Pro-lifers worked and prayed very hard over this bill and their efforts should be applauded.”
And so should his.
Easter Blessings, Father Van Hee.