More than 25 seminarians from across Canada came together for five days of pro-life training as they attended the first ever Seminarians’ Pro-Life Congress hosted by Priests for Life Canada (P4LC). The theme for the week, starting Aug. 30 and closing on Sept. 3, was “Loving Life Through Life.” Each day the seminarians were presented with information on the life issues such as abortion and euthanasia as well as the sexual revolution, contraception, and natural family planning. Mass was said throughout the week by Most Rev. Ronald Fabbro, Bishop of London, Most Rev. Brendan O’Brien, Archbishop of Kingston, Bishop Gerard Bergie, Auxiliary Bishop of Hamilton and Most Rev. Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto.
Fr. Tom Lynch, national director of Priests for Life Canada, explains the goals of the Congress: “First, to reach a select group of seminarians who (are) interested in deepening their knowledge of the life issues confronting priests today. Second, to work at building connections and friendships among a very widely flung group of future priests. Third, to inform and motivate them as to the work of P4LC.”
Seminarians came from St. Augustine ’s in Toronto, St. Peter’s in London , Ont., and Christ the King in Mission, B.C. They were provided with a thick binder of pamphlets and articles along with high calibre of speakers that presented crucial information. Francis Zambon, a seminarian at St. Peter’s in second-year theology, was very happy to have taken a week to “grow in my knowledge of the issues surrounding life from conception until death.” He told The Interim, “The week provided a great overview of various life issues and provided opportunities to connect with other seminarians and those who will be able to support us in our future pro-life ministry.”
The week started with an address from Fr. Lynch, followed by Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, Superior General of the Sisters of Life speaking on “The Spiritual Battle in Building a Culture of Life.”
Tuesday focused on “The Priest as Loving Life in Adulthood.” The day three presentations took on the issues of the sexual revolution, internet pornography addiction and natural family planning.
On Wednesday the focus was on abortion. The morning started with Dr. Deborah Zeni, a family physician in Georgetown, Ont., who specializes in obstetrics and pediatrics. Zeni presented the woman’s side of an unplanned pregnancy sharing her own personal story of becoming pregnant soon after marriage and still doing her internship. She was then able to present the facts on why the majority of women have an abortion: fear. She said that less than 10 per cent of women have an abortion for “convenience.” She said that the unfortunate reality is that women are largely forced into having an abortion either by people in their lives or the circumstances of their live. The seminarians received the message: abortion is not about “choice,” but about “abuse, exploitation, victimization and poverty.” Zeni also presented the very real and documented aftermath of abortion with the physical risks such as haemorrhaging, infection and infertility. As she closed her presentation she emphasized, “We are called to compassion to support women with unintended pregnancies before and after abortion, and before and after birth.”
Following this presentation the seminarians were presented with a legal history of abortion in Canada. The current legal state of abortion in Canada was clarified: there are no criminal prohibitions. However, there is also no constitutional “right” to abortion in Canada, contrary to popular belief. Many people erroneously believe that the law was settled in 1988.The public believes that the Supreme Court said there a right to abortion in its Morgentaler decision, when instead it deemed the 1969 law unconstitutional and urged Parliament to pass a new abortion law. Abortion was not always left untouched by the law. At the time of Confederation there was a complete prohibition on abortion and this did not change until May 14, 1969. Tim Runstedler, seminarian at St. Augustine’s in second-year theology, responded to the information in this session: “It is disappointing how little care was taken to make these decisions that have major results and impact on our country.” He appreciated having the chance to hear an in-depth presentation about how Canada came to its current state of abortion laws.
Brad Trost, MP and Pat O’Brien, former MP, spent the afternoon with the seminarians to discuss abortion and politics, and what churches can go about the issue.
Thursday, the last full day, was geared towards issues at the end of life: euthanasia, palliative care, hospice care and the importance of advance directives and power of attorney in maintaining the Christian dignity of the sick and dying.
Priests for Life Canada will continue to support the seminarians by sending material, email updates and more opportunities for presentations. For more information about Priests for Life Canada visit their website www.PriestsForLifeCanada.com.