HARTFORD — More than 200 defenders of life gained strength and inspiration for their pro-life work on Jan. 14 at the Respect Life Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.
The pro-life advocates heard an uplifting homily by Archbishop Leonard P. Blair, were treated to a reception and rally with two invited speakers in the lower cathedral and then prayed the rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet.
Each year, the Mass is offered for pro-life advocates who are preparing to head to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.
This year’s March for Life will be held on Friday, Jan. 27
Archbishop Blair was the principal celebrant of the Mass.
He was joined by Father Robert Rousseau, the archdiocesan director of Pro-Life Ministry; Msgr. Vittorio Guerrera, administrator of St. Luke’s Parish in Hartford and board member of St. Gerard’s Center for Life in Hartford; and Father Joseph Mauritzen of Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, spiritual advisor to the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants.
It was the first time all three of these pro-life leaders were united as concelebrants at a Respect Life Mass, said Constance DeLoreto, a member of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, which co-sponsored the Mass along with the Pro-Life Ministry of the Archdiocese of Hartford.
During his homily, Archbishop Blair said there are many reasons for hope in the pro-life movement, chief among them the new generation of young people who have come “to appreciate the value and importance of life.”
Archbishop Blair stressed that Catholic pro-life advocates are not merely social workers or conscientious objectors. “We’re brought together by something much deeper,” he said, “namely our firm faith that every human person from conception until natural death is sacred to God, the author of life.”
However, crimes against life often pull people in two directions, the archbishop said. They give rise to the “righteous indignation” of the prophets, but also to the redeeming mercy of Jesus that prompted conversion and a turning away from sin.
“There have been many moving and powerful examples of people who have been advocates of abortion and assisted suicide who’ve had a real conversion and in doing so have become a powerful force for good. And so we must never give up hope for anyone,” he stressed. “We must never condemn [people] to hell as long as they have breath in this life, and it is possible for them, through the grace and mercy of God, to find the right path.”
Archbishop Blair advised all in attendance to persevere in their work. “How we are received and what happens is ultimately in God’s hands, not ours,” he said. “Our job is to be faithful and true, to be courageous and bold and also to love everyone and to try to win all hearts to the truth about the dignity and value of human life from conception to natural death.”
Following the Mass, Father Rousseau, who was introduced as “a champion for life,” spoke about the challenge of doing God’s will. He also noted that each person is different and unique and cautioned those in attendance against comparing themselves to others or worrying about the results of their work.
“You can do things where you are that no one else can do,” he said, in whatever environment God has placed you in. “God is encouraging us to be his love in the midst of all that we are dealing with. He’s encouraging us to be an island of mercy in a sea of violence and an island of truth in a sea of confusion.
“It’s not easy,” he said “but that’s what it means to be pro-life. It means to be pro-God, and God is love. That’s our call and our challenge.”
Leticia Velasquez, director of St. Gerard’s Center for Life, also addressed the pro-lifers. She recalled the March for Life she first attended as a teenager in 1979.
Mrs. Velasquez acknowledged that sometimes pro-life work can be challenging and takes faith, especially when the results are not immediately apparent. “We have all felt this way,” she said, “and somehow God gives us the grace to soldier on, believing in the importance of standing up for the unborn who have no voice, and trusting in Jesus to reward us in heaven.”
As director of a pregnancy care center, she said she agreed with the 2016 report, The State of Abortion in Connecticut by the Connecticut Catholic Conference, which said that the state’s pregnancy centers help to give women a real “choice” when facing an unplanned pregnancy.
To make those options more visible and available, she said, St. Gerard’s Center for Life on Eaton Street will be opening a second location in Hartford on Jefferson Street, right next door to an abortion clinic on the corner of Main and Jefferson streets.
The new pregnancy care facility will offer pregnancy testing, limited medical ultrasounds, and counseling about community resources. The facility is currently undergoing renovations, she said, and will open sometime in March.