HARTFORD – In a nearly full Cathedral of St. Joseph during the annual Respect Life Mass Oct. 7, three individuals and a family of five were awarded the St. Gianna Beretta Molla Pro-Life Award.
At the same Mass, pro-life representatives from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Hartford were re-commissioned, and 11 new representatives were commissioned.
Receiving the St. Gianna award were: Father Joseph E. Looney, pastor of Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem; Ron and Noreen Pearsall and their daughters Angela, Catherine and Kristen of St. Thomas Becket Parish in Cheshire; Ellen Cavallo of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Oakville, a nurse and the director of Carolyn’s Place in Waterbury; and Mary Byczynski of Holy Angels Parish in South Meriden, organizer of the annual Respect Life Conference there.
Newly commissioned pro-life representatives and their parishes are Joseph and Gail Marinaccio of St. Bridget in Cheshire; Gelma Carasone and Colleen Dupont, St. Ann in Hamden; Anthony and Helen DeRito, St. Paul in Kensington; Carol Pasqualini, St. John the Baptist in New Haven; Brian Caulfield, Most Holy Trinity in Wallingford; Jill Krok, Blessed Sacrament in Waterbury; and Delores Petcavage, Holy Angels in South Meriden.
Also, Florence Krukowski, St. John the Baptist in New Haven; James Loughran, St. Mary in Windsor Locks; Cindy D’Amico, Church of the Good Shepherd in Seymour; and William Lozito, St. Dominic in Southington.
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962), for whom the award is named, was a pediatric specialist from Italy who chose to undergo risky surgery for cancer rather than aborting her unborn child. She died from complications. She was canonized in 2004.
Father Robert J. Rousseau, director of the archdiocesan Pro-Life Ministry and pastor of St. Augustine Parish in North Branford, said that Father Looney has been involved in pro-life work more than 40 years, even before the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
"He has been very instrumental [in pro-life] and always in the forefront," he said.
Father Looney deflected praise, and said that Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist Suzanne Gross, program coordinator for the Pro-Life Ministry, deserves a lot of credit.
"I have to thank Sister Suzanne because she makes us priests look good. Put that in The Catholic Transcript," Father Looney said.
Father Rousseau said, "This year, we decided to go with a family, the Pearsalls, who are right in the trenches and have been faithful for many, many years."
Mr. Pearsall said that the family has been raising awareness of the 40 Days for Life movement for years. The Pearsalls also sponsor parish activities to educate parishioners about pro-life issues, he said.
About award recipient Ellen Cavallo, Father Rousseau said, "We chose her because she’s been faithful to pro-life before but certainly at Carolyn’s Place."
Ms. Cavallo said, "I really am accepting the award for all of the courageous young men and women I have met over the last 20 years" at Carolyn’s Place, a pregnancy care center in Waterbury that has saved more than 1,300 babies since 1992. An anniversary celebration for the center is scheduled for Nov. 4 at Bella Vista in Waterbury, she said.
"Mary Byczynski from South Meriden has been doing this pro-life conference for 13 years," Father Rousseau said. "She is one of the people who don’t get much publicity, but they’re out there working, ministering constantly."
Ms. Byczynski said her conference brings in nationally known presenters. This year’s Oct. 20 roster included Dr. Alveda C. King, pastoral associate of Priests for Life; and Hugh Owen, of the Kolbe Center of the Study of Creation; as well as Franciscan Sister Angela Marie Castellani of the Pro-Life Ministry in Meriden; Father Thomas Hickey, pastor of St. Paul Church in Glastonbury; Father Rousseau; and Ms. Cavallo.
"It’s a great day, a wonderful day," Ms. Byczynski said. "It’s an educational day, and we just love doing it. The people who come are so thankful, so grateful, and we’re grateful for them to come."
In his homily, Archbishop Henry J. Mansell noted that the Roe v. Wade decision 40 years ago led to "horrendous activities, the taking of human, innocent life. We know in the United States there are fewer regulations on abortion than any country in the Western world."
But on a hopeful note, he said that pro-life people now outnumber "so-called pro-choice people." He thanked people for speaking out against the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that would require religious entities to provide and help pay for abortive and contraceptive services, against Church teachings.
"There is a growing feeling of the wrongness of the mandate," Archbishop Mansell said.
Much of the Mass was taken up with the St. Gianna award presentations and commissioning of new pro-life representatives, but dozens of parishes also sent renewing representatives. One couple, from Our Lady of Pompeii Parish in East Haven, were Roland and Terry McNary, who have been representatives for about five years.
"We try to get people involved with the 40 Days, and that’s basically how we got in pretty deep, because we are members of [the Helpers of] God’s Precious Infants," said Mr. McNary. He said they are on the board of a new pregnancy resource center, St. Gianna’s Pregnancy Center in New Haven.
Mrs. McNary said, "We’ve also been known for taking the girls into our home."
"We’ve had three at our home," all within the past year, Mr. McNary said.
The liturgy featured music from the Cathedral Choir and the Archdiocesan Children’s Choir, with Dr. Edward Bolkovac and Brian Gedricks conducting. Dr. Ezequiel Menéndez, director of music, accompanied the Children’s Choir on piano in a rendition of "We Want to See the World," written in 2007 by David Burke. The song is a conversation between an angel and unborn children. As the angel tells them about God’s beautiful creation awaiting them at their birth, the unborn children sing:
"We want to see the world, like other boys and girls. We want to feel the love from our mothers and our fathers.... Will we ever see it with our eyes?"