Lay people can make the pro-life movement stronger and more effective, active pro-lifers said.
Father Stephen Somerville, Father Vincent Hefferman, Louis Di Rocco, and Campaign Life Coalition National President Jim Hughes expressed their views on how lay people can strengthen the movement, how they got started in the movement, the gains achieved or the weak spots, and their plans for the future.
Father Stephen Somerville,
Pastor, St. Ambrose Church,Toronto
“Lay Catholics should all become actively pro-life and choose their preferred area-education, service, or political agitation, for their prayers, contributions, and action. So should the clergy of course. If all did this, Canada would be converted to a hold land in a few weeks. But most Catholics have deadened their sense of sin. There is now no chance of an easy conversion for Canada. The faithful few must persevere.
“By the pro-life movement, I understand the network of those who actively and publicly work or demonstrate for life and against abortion. TO be pro-life on mere say-so without some active work is not worth of the name. I became thus active in I think 1988 when “Operation Rescue” began in Toronto. I took part supportively in maybe 10-12, and was an actual ‘rescuer’ in three, being arrested and locked-up by the police those three times. I helped lead pro-life singing at such occasions, and wrote the popular and effective song “Little Baby, fine” to the tune of “We Shall Overcome,” refrain of the 1960s Black Liberation movement in the USA. I profoundly admired the Joan Andres and the Father Ted Colletons.
“The pro-life movement seems to be losing ground. The USA has registered some minor, incidental gains, and some pro-lifers there are hardworking and politically shrewd. The Canadian scene is bleak. Many Catholics, being implicitly pro-contraception, have lost the will to resist sin, to wax indignant, and to campaign for conversion. I fear the worst. If Divine providence were to send us great disaster, we could certainly plead guilty and deserving.
“I will continue to support groups like Campaign Life Coalition (the Conscience of Canada), Birthright, and the Right-to-Life Association. I will publicize their work in my parish. I will preach on respect-for-life, on chastity (its necessary foundation), on Confession, fasting and modern prophets. Above all, I will promote serious love for Jesus and Mary, a love that will surely reveal to us what Heaven wants us to do before its too late.
Father Vincent Heffernan,
Founder, Second Chance Ministries
“I read a letter to the editor of the Catholic Register. A lady wrote in and she said she had an abortion. She went to confession but she still felt very guilty and she didn’t know what to do. So I realized then that something needed to be done and these women need to talk about that. This is going to confession and talking about it may take only five minutes. This doesn’t solve the problem. You are forgiven, but there is a healing that needs to take place. So I decided to start a group to get the women together in a self-help support group so they can talk about it, help each other like AA groups.
“Lay people can pray, get involved in whatever way they feel called, maybe by picketing, or try to talk to the women outside before they go into the abortion clinics. But education too, giving talks in schools about abortion, teaching young people about chastity, living a proper life, solving the problem before it happens. I think prayer is the main thing. On your own say rosaries or join prayer groups, charismatic prayer groups.
“We are gaining ground in the sense that more people are becoming aware of pro-life issues. Say, 10 years ago there was hardly anybody talking about post abortion syndrome. More people are now aware of what they are talking about and they have seen more things written about, there are more books. I think probably there are as many abortions as ever, but people are becoming more aware of it.
“Well, I’m continuing to work in this area of ‘Second Chance’, counseling women who had an abortion. But I feel right now the Lord is calling me to do evangelization. It is one thing to work just in the area of pro-life, the Lord wants all that.
“There are so many things people need to know. People need to know about Jesus Christ, they need to know about the Gospel, they need to know that they can be healed, they need to know that the Holy Spirit is at work and that they are set free. If we do all of that, maybe they would not get involved in abortion. I think we need to do that kind of work. In the Catholic church we are not very good at evangelizing.
“I say a mass once a month to end abortion. I have a cenacle here and the Mass is said for that intention.
National President of Campaign Life Coalition
“I thought it was courageous of the late Roman Catholic Archbishop Philip Pocock to withdraw Catholic Charities from the United Way because of the inclusion of the Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest abortion referral agency. He thought it was necessary that Catholic money should not be used in any way to finance an abortion referral agency.
“I was encouraged by my pastor and associate pastor to join the pro-life movement.” Jim previously served as chairman of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, which advices the Archbishop of Toronto on various matters. He cited how a fellow parishioner at Corpus Christi, the artist William Kurelek spoke eloquently and powerfully of the importance of life in his own works.
“First of all, everyone can pray. Lay people can decide to do something. The first part will be never again to vote for a candidate who refuses to stand for the defense of the defenceless. They can support their local pro-life organization. They must become informed of all the issues so that they can be a center of influence in their community and that influence of course is the influence for good.
“In many ways, it is easier now than when I joined it. Seventeen years ago, the people said it was not for them. The younger generation is much more open to the message.
“I can probably pray harder. I’m going to make sure the experience I learn can be passed on to the youth so they would benefit. My efforts were built upon those who went before me.”
Campaign Life Coalition
Louis said he might have signed a petition in the church which was against abortion, perhaps on a legislation that was forwarded to then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
He was put on a mailing list and he sent money once in a while. He became a volunteer in Campaign Life.
“I formed Teachers for Life in 1985. It tried to get teachers and students informed about pro-life matters. I found out a lot of teachers weren’t pro-life. We used to have regular meetings. We sponsored a few talks. We used to send out mailings a few times a year.”
Campaign Life staff and supporters recently organized a farewell lunch to salute Louis’ efforts on behalf of the unborn.
Louis goes to Beda College in Rome in late September for a four-year study in theology and hopefully to be ordained for the diocese of Kingston.
“Wherever I am, in the seminary, from the pulpit, I will bring the pro-life message. I need a lot of prayers.
“Lay people can do a lot. They can pray seriously, offer sacrifice, and contribute to pro-life organizations financially and as volunteers. Basically they have to get involved in some way. Some people would be good at lobbying, distributing literature, writing letters, working for a service organization, picketing, raising funds, talking to MPs or MPPs. Ultimately, we should get at last politically involved and vote only for pro-lifers.
“You think of the situation. It is bad,” Louise said. “You look at it from another point of view and it is promising. The average age of pro-lifers is getting older. We should get more people involved. We have to find a way of doing that. Some political parties do not want to even consider the question of pro-life in their platform.
“There are fewer doctors willing to be abortionists. The majority is in favour of defunding abortions. Most people recognize that what you’re dealing with is a human being.
“The whole abortion problem will suddenly collapse one day, nobody thought the collapse of communism would happen,” Louis added.
“There is a worldwide network of people out there who want to participate in pro-life, pro-family concerns”