Tony Gosgnach
The Interim

The foundation of a new society of Roman Catholic priests dedicated exclusively to the pro-life cause promises to bring the struggle to preserve human life to a whole new level. Father Frank Pavone, national director of the Priests for Life organization, recently announced the formation of the society in Amarillo, Tx., in which diocese it will be based under the stewardship of the local bishop, John W. Yanta.

“It has been a dream of mine for over a decade to form a community that can accept seminarians who want to devote their entire ministry to the defence of the unborn,” said Pavone, who will also become a priest of the Diocese of Amarillo. “It is time for such a community. I am grateful to Bishop Yanta for allowing me the opportunity to make this dream a reality.”

Yanta is making available to the new society, at not cost, several vacant buildings, including boarding facilities, a chapel, gym and spacious grounds. The society will complement the Sisters of Life, a community of women religious founded by the late Cardinal John O’Connor, archbishop of New York, in the early 1990s. It will support itself through private donations from benefactors.

Although the society already has strong support from a number of Cardinals, it will not require “official” Vatican approval until it is much larger. For now, the sanction of the local bishop is all that is required.

Pavone’s current Priests for Life organization has been providing support for those clerics who wish to make the pro-life cause part of their overall ministry, but until now, there has been no way for a priest to devote himself exclusively to pro-life work. That will change with the birth of what is to be called the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life.

“Many young men who feel attracted by this (pro-life) charism have approached me over the years and throughout the country, looking for a place in the church where they can fufill this vocation,” noted Pavone. “They want to be priests and they want to do pro-life work in the priesthood … This new association, therefore, would provide the ‘institutional place’ whereby this charism can be expressed for men who wish to become priests and brothers.”

Priests for Life will continue to exist as an association of Christian faithful under canon law and Pavone will continue to serve as its national director. It will establish its headquarters in Amarillo, while maintaining offices and staff in New York, Washington, D.C., Virginia, California and Rome, Italy.

“This is a pivotal moment in time,” said Pavone, fresh from being centrally involved in the Terri Schiavo case. “I have long been convinced that God is raising up numerous disciples ready to devote their entire lives to ending the tragedy of abortion … I have no doubt that we will see a tremendous and immediate response to this initiative.”

Pavone outlined a threefold mission for the new community: to bear witness to, and defend the sanctity of, each human life; to minister to the entire pro-life movement; and to provide ongoing education and motivation for clergy. These goals will be reached by priests engaged in an “active,” rather than contemplative, lifestyle and travelling into local communities and parishes, while doing extensive media work.

Pavone said reaction to the new society has been uniformly positive and encouraging. “People see the need for a visible expression of this very real charism in the church and they see the irrefutable logic of this need.”

He took a moment to address concerns about “diverting” priests into specialized work when there is a shortage of vocations. “The answer is that the pro-life movement is precisely the source of many new vocations,” he said. “Many will be led to the priesthood precisely because such a pro-life community exists.”

Pavone told The Interim that he hopes to establish a Canadian presence for the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life at some point in the future. “It will be based in the U.S., but have an international dimension and eventually expand to other countries.”

He added priests have already begun the process of joining, which starts by their getting permission to be released for initial ministry with Priests for Life. “Then, having worked with us for a period of time, they will be formally incorporated into the new society.” A “discernment retreat” for men considering joining the new society is being held in Amarillo June 24-26 and a seminarians’ pro-life conference is taking place in Newark, N.J. August 16-21.

Pavone wants the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life ultimately to be “a key source of renewal in the church, in regard to the courage and creativity with which clergy and their people eliminate the scourge of abortion and euthanasia.”