HARTFORD – Archbishop Henry J. Mansell, principal celebrant of the annual Respect Life Mass, commissioned new pro-life representatives from parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Hartford at the annual Respect Life Mass Oct. 6 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph. The Mass is sponsored yearly by the archdiocese’s Pro-Life Ministry.
In addition to the commissioning, many people renewed their commitments as their parishes’ leaders. Each representative resolved "to promote the teachings of the Catholic Church on the dignity of human life" and to work with their pastors "to pray, educate, shape public policy and provide assistance to men and women in crisis related to pregnancy or end-of-life issues."
The St. Gianna Beretta Molla Pro-Life Award was presented to Father John J. Bevins, pastor of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury; Brian and Amy Hoeing and their children, members of St. Joseph Parish in Meriden; and Samantha Bailey-Loomis, a student at Branford High School and a member of St. Mary Parish in New Haven.
Archbishop Mansell said in his homily that our country’s founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and James Madison spoke out in defense of the rights of conscience, which the archbishop said were being trampled on today in many ways. People who have been silent on life issues are coming to understand, based on ultrasound technology, that an unborn fetus is a human life, he said.
"We do have to speak out in terms of the moral climate of our time. We have to speak out ... for the rights of conscience for everybody – Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists, agnostics," he said.
"Civilization enjoys its finest hours when protecting life in all its forms," he said.
Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist Suzanne Gross, program coordinator of the Pro-Life Ministry, said a pro-life representative upholds four basic pillars: education in the parish, staying abreast of life-related state and federal legislative issues, pastoral programs for people troubled by pregnancies or end-of-life issues, and prayer.
Father Robert Rousseau, director of pro-life activities at the Pro-Life Ministry, announced the recipients of the St. Gianna Beretta Molla Pro-Life Award. Of Father Bevins, he said, "He persistently continues to be an example for life. How many people are touched, God only knows."
When presenting the award to the Hoeing family, Father Rousseau said, "The cradle of life is the family, and in the family we learn to be loved, to be accepted, to be who we are." He said the Hoeings have been active in many pro-life activities, including the March for Life in Washington. "As a family, they represent a complete dedication to human life," he said.
In presenting the award to Miss Bailey-Loomis, he said, "There are many young people out there who are taking a stand for life. A woman we honor today is in public school and started a life group. She had her struggles but continues to be a faithful witness, showing us that it can be done, and if it is done, it has wonderful impacts."
Miss Bailey-Loomis told the Transcript that she started a pro-life group at Branford High School and it now is active outside the school, as well.
"But it’s not just that. Before that, I’ve done so much work standing up for my beliefs, which in a public school is the hardest thing in the world. But it’s been an adventure, definitely," she said.
She wants to study business management and journalism at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and go on to work full time for the pro-life movement.
Renewing her commission as a pro-life representative at St. Augustine Parish in North Branford, Carolyn Falcigno told the Transcript that she wants to keep the life issue on the minds of parishioners, especially during the 40 Days for Life that continues to Nov. 3. She said there are crosses in front of the church representing the babies killed by abortion – one cross for each 3,000 killed every day.
She said she works with St. Gianna Center in New Haven, helping women with unplanned pregnancies to find resources.
e Donabedian, of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Hartford, is a newly commissioned pro-life representative. She said she has prayed in front of abortion clinics and joined pro-life marches, including the March for Life in Washington.
Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, has been a pro-life representative for several years, but this year, he and his wife Leslie were commissioned at their new parish, St. Margaret in Waterbury.
Also newly commissioned for their parishes were Krystyna Hoppe, for St. Stanislaus in Bristol, and Anne Boers, also for St. Thomas the Apostle in West Hartford.