Fr. Ted Colleton reports from Creating a Culture of Life: An International Forum Paul Tuns, the editor of The Interim, has kindly requested me to write an article on the recent pro-life conference. While I feel very grateful, I am also fully aware that I lack the expertise to do full credit to this really wonderful occasion.
I have attended many conventions during the past 25 years, but this was by far the greatest and, I believe, the most successful. Jim Hughes tells me that Dr. Jack Willke, former president of the U.S. National Right to Life Committee as well as founder and president of the International Right to Life Federation, said it was “one of the best” conferences he has ever attended.
And well it should be. Creating a Culture of Life – An International Forum was sponsored by Campaign Life Coalition Canada, Life Canada and the International Right to Life Federation. Held at the Regal Constellation Hotel, Toronto, Oct. 24-26, 2002, nearly 650 people attended the conference. Still, it was like a family party. No introductions were needed. There was no need, as we all knew why we were there. We were a large family whose main interest was the saving of our beloved, but yet unborn, babies.
From where had all these people come? While most of them were of course from Canada, others were from far away. I met people from the United States, Brazil, the Philippines, the Netherlands, and India. I believe there were also people from other countries whom I did not have the pleasure of meeting.
At previous conferences, I recall that the speakers occupied different rooms. So, those attending had to make a choice as to which speaker they would listen to. This conference was different. A huge hall was booked so that everybody could attend every talk. This was a much better idea as each speaker – excluding myself – was really worth listening to. In all, there were 20 speakers, including five doctors and three politicians, such as Liberal Senator Anne Cools, founder of Women Transition Inc., which provides aid to victims of violence and abuse.
One very prominent speaker was Dr. Marie Mignon Mascarenhas, from India. She is the director of Research Education Service and Training (CREST), established to provide family and community therapy, vocational training and rehabilitation in India. In 1980, she was invited to the Synod on the Family in Rome and served for five years on the Pontifical Council for the Family. She was a founding member of the board of the International Right to Life Federation. She gave an excellent talk on how abortion is foisted on the developing world, and the plight of the girl-child.
Another speaker whom I must mention is Anna Halpine, whom I knew when she was in her teens. Born in Canada, Anna is the co-founder and president of the World Youth Alliance. At the United Nations, she lobbies on behalf of life and family issues.
Finally, I cannot forget to mention one of the best speakers, Rabbi Yehuda Levin. Rabbi Levin is a pro-life orthodox Jewish Rabbi from New York and the founder of the Jewish Anti-Abortion League. He is also a regular speaker at the March for Life in Washington. He entertained us with an excellent and totally pro-life speech.
Each morning commenced with a prayer meeting. Catholics had Mass in the morning and the evening, celebrated by one of numerous priests, and the makeshift “chapel” was open all day for those who wished to spend some time in private prayer. I glanced in now and then during the day and there was usually someone there on his or her knees. Also, every session began with a prayer from the podium. After the wrapup on the final day, a High Mass was celebrated by Bishop De Angelis, who preached a very eloquent and practical homily to a packed hall.
As in all such conferences, one of the highlights was the banquet, to which a special speaker was invited. This year, we had the privilege of the presence of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Fr. Neuhaus was born near Ottawa and now lives and works in New York. He was named in U.S. News and World Report as one of the 32 most influential intellectuals in America and is the author of numerous books. It would be impossible to summarize his very eloquent speech. But in general, he reminded us that we must never give up the struggle for the life of the unborn. There must be no “letting up” even when we appear to be losing the “battle for life.” His talk was certainly a great inspiration to all of us and I believe we left the convention with “hope in our hearts.”
It was a wonderful event and the organizers certainly deserve our gratitude and congratulations for their flawless organization for such an important event.