HARTFORD – Archbishop Leonard P. Blair honored parishioners in the archdiocese for promoting awareness of respect for life – from conception to natural death – at the annual Respect Life Mass on Oct. 9 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
“One might say that it is the best of times and the worst,” Archbishop Blair told the congregation during his homily. “It’s the worst because … threats to life are being advanced on all fronts. The best because, by the grace of God, many upright people of good will are defending life and awakening the consciences of others to respect life.
“In the face of every threat, they remain steadfast in the belief that from each tiny child waiting to be born to individuals nearing death, all are precious, all deserve care and protection,” the archbishop said.
“Without God, without obedience to his commandments, we are nothing, never will be and never could be. This is a truth that our society is forgetting at its peril, not just in eternity but in this world, too,” he stressed.
“If, then, we are people of faith, we will understand and embrace being sent forth at the end of Mass,” the archbishop said to all, especially to the pro-life representatives being commissioned that day to go out and proclaim the Gospel of God’s love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the human person and the Gospel of life.
At the Mass, the archbishop presented the St. Gianna Beretta Molla Award to four recipients for their sustained and dedicated commitment to protecting all human life. The award – a citation and bronze medal – was presented to Father Thomas J. Walsh, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish in Wallingford; Thomas Dwyer, parish pro-life representative at St. Joseph Church in Bristol; and Thomas and Donna Finn, advocates for life and marriage.
The award is named for Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, a physician, working mother and wife who sacrificed her life to preserve the life of her child.
Father Robert J. Rousseau, director of the Pro-Life Ministry for the Archdiocese of Hartford, shared the accomplishments of each award winner with those in attendance.
Father Walsh has been a leader on numerous issues that impact the dignity of the human person. He has defended religious liberty and life at every stage. He attends the March for Life in Washington, D.C., each year and he founded a pro-life committee at Most Holy Trinity in Wallingford.
Mr. Dwyer has led his parish pro-life committee at St. Joseph’s in Bristol, and taught religious education for 10 years. He is committed to the 40 Days for Life campaign, which he helped organize in Hartford, and he continues to pray at the abortion clinic in Hartford year-round.
Dr. and Mrs. Finn have been the presenting team for the Engaged Encounter marriage preparation retreat for more than 30 years, and they coordinate the annual archdiocesan Marriage Enrichment Program. Together they wrote three books about Catholic marriage and human sexuality. Dr. Finn, a clinical psychologist, has testified at the capitol in defense of marriage and in opposition to physician-assisted suicide.
At the Mass, Archbishop Blair also commissioned new parish pro-life representatives for the Pro-Life Ministry. They were appointed by their pastors.
During the commissioning ceremony, dozens of representatives from throughout the archdiocese stood and pledged to work with their pastor to pray, educate, shape public policy and help men and women who may experience a pregnancy-related crisis and those grappling with end-of-life issues.
The archbishop presented the pro-life representatives with blessed candles as a sign of their witness.
In past years, pro-life representatives have worked to educate their parishes about any number of issues, including marriage, embryonic stem cell research, abortion, parental notification, assisted suicide, euthanasia, death penalty, assisted reproductive technology, chastity, and religious liberty and the HHS mandate.
Approximately 45 young adults from St. Paul High School in Bristol attended the Mass, and they stood and pledged to be Students for Life and to study the Gospel of life.
“I’m so happy to see St. Paul High School young men and women here, represented so beautifully and powerfully in our midst,” Archbishop Blair said.