HARTFORD – Several hundred people bundled up against the cold rain of a typical mid-January day to attend the Pro-Life Rally and Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph on Jan. 16.
The event provides inspiration and thanksgiving each year as busloads of pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Hartford and others prepare to head to Washington, D.C., to participate in the March for Life on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair was the principal celebrant and homilist. In his homily, he referred to the rhythm of the church’s life.
“It is marked,” he said, “by the joy of Christmas with the birth of the child Jesus in December, and by the sobering challenge of defending the unborn life of every child in January.
“Pope Francis makes a very beautiful and sobering connection between Christmas and the right to life when he says this: ‘Jesus started out like every other baby and became part of a family. When a baby is on the way, we see the mother’s tenderness; we see the hopes of the father, no less for being a foster father like Jo-seph; and we see the patience through the months of waiting … tenderness, hope and patience. But these are lacking for babies and the unborn who are threatened by the evil of those whose hearts are darkened by the hopelessness that sows fear and reaps death.’”
“These are powerful words,” said Archbishop Blair, “and let no one doubt the conviction of Pope Francis when it comes to the evil of abortion and the need to oppose it and to call people to take a stand to work and pray for an end of abortion and other great sins against the dignity of the human person, from conception until natural death.
“But for us who are believers, the work is not so much a work of denunciation as it is a courageous and forceful call to conversion; and I take this, too, as clearly a part of Pope Francis’s message.”
He called upon attendees to pray not only for the victims of abortion, but for its perpetrators, too.
Archbishop Blair reminded the congregation that 2016 is an election year, and he urged those on hand “to work and pray in the political and social realm for an end to abortion, exercising our right as citizens to do so. We also recognize the limitation of politics in this world.”
He noted that this also is a Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“And so,” he said, “we also have to inform all that we do with the ardent desire to move minds and hearts to repentance and conversion -- away from the evilness and hopelessness and barrenness that Pope Francis deplores, to a path of tenderness, of hope and patience.”
The archdiocese’s Pro-Life Ministry and the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants sponsored the Mass. Afterward, attendees were welcomed to a reception downstairs, where they heard testimonies of life-changing conversions and encouragement from two pro-life speakers, enjoyed refreshments and prayed the rosary and chaplet of the Divine Mercy.
They also discussed logistics for the annual pilgrimage to the March for Life on Jan. 22.
Father Robert Rousseau, director of the archdiocese’s Pro-Life Ministry, concelebrated the Mass. He later told the Transcript that he thought the Mass and rally would provide encouragement as the pro-life defense begins for another new year.
“We live in a culture that isn’t very pro-life, and it can be discouraging. But when we come together as we’re doing today with the archbishop, with other people, we realize there are a lot of people out there who don’t get front-page publicity but they’re committed to life, to the sanctity of all lives, from conception to natural death. When we come together, it nurtures us and strengthens us. So we can say, ‘I’m not alone.’ It’s the same thing with the trip to Washington.”
Cathedral of St. Joseph parishioner Sandra Brobowski has been active in pro-life efforts since 1973 or 1974, when the then-rector asked her to be the parish’s pro-life representative.
“I can’t believe we’re still here after 42 years. I do think the pro-life movement is full of people who are hopeful in their support of all life from conception to natural death and at all stages in between.”
The two guest speakers were Carolyn Falcigno, executive director of St. Gianna Center in New Haven, and Dr. Judith Mascolo, a pro-life physician and family practitioner in West Hartford.
After difficult personal and professional experiences, both women have devoted their lives to the sanctity of life, and both are involved in using medical advances to defend and preserve it. Both acknowledged, however, that theirs is often a rough road on a tough journey because of the culture and prevalence of evil surrounding abortion.
They did share, however, some of the positive sentiments of many attendees about the impact of increasing involvement of younger people and the awareness of life promoted through medical advances.