Msgr. Joseph Roldan celebrates a Mass Jan. 22 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. The Mass commemorated the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children in the United States. Mary Stadnyk photo
Msgr. Joseph Roldan celebrates a Mass Jan. 22 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. The Mass commemorated the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children in the United States. Mary Stadnyk photo
Tears welled in Alma Santiago’s eyes as she reflected on the Respect Life Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton – a tradition she faithfully upholds each year.

While sitting in a pew following the Mass celebrated Jan. 22 – the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade – Santiago said it was important for her to participate on this particular day because “we pray for the many children who have been lost to abortion.”

PHOTO GALLERY: NJ Right to Life Rally -- State House Annex

PHOTO GALLERY: Pro-Life Mass -- St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton

Santiago said she also prayerfully remembered the medical personnel who perform abortions, the women who have had an abortion, and those who support the procedure “that they might change their minds. ”

“We have to remember that every child has his or her own identity,” Santiago said. “They come into this world for a purpose. And when you think about all the lives – the hundreds of thousands of lives – that have been aborted, we really don’t know who we lost.

“Had they lived, they could have gone on to become priests. Had they lived, they could have been the ones to help find a cure for COVID. But they did not have a chance to come into the world,” she said.

Santiago was among the faithful from throughout the Diocese and beyond who came to the Diocese’s Mother Church – or watched via livestream video – to pray for the intentions of all human life, especially the more than 60 million babies who have been lost to abortion since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision, making abortion legal in America.

Looking out to the congregation, a number of which went on to the State House after Mass to participate in the annual Rally for Life, Msgr. Joseph  Roldan, Cathedral rector and principal celebrant of the Mass, preached that while there have been many conversations and concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, “I wish to ask: ‘Why do the numbers matter for these 400,000 lives lost because of the pandemic, but the lives of the more than 620,000 innocent lives reported lost [each year] because of abortion do not matter?’”

Msgr. Roldan reiterated how the Church staunchly teaches that life begins at conception.

“It is at this moment when we discover the potential of greatness: The human person is developing in the image and likeness of God,” he said. “The science is very clear on this: Life begins at conception, and yet this truth is not recognized by the laws of our great nation. The disrespect, the disregard of this life is not accepted because the person is not recognized as a person. We as a nation have lived many dark truths when individual lives were not valued, not due to anything they did, but rather who they were. We cannot continue to live this lie.”

He continued, “One of the best examples of this dark history is when we, as a nation, accepted slavery. Slavery was accepted because those individuals were not seen as humans.

“In a real way, the unborn of today are not seen as humans. And as non-humans, they have no rights. They are identified simply as cells, tissues, fetuses, embryos, but never as humans, as babies, as persons,” he said.

“Innocent lives matter,” Msgr. Roldan said. “Words matter, science matters and love matters – and that’s because God matters.”   

Msgr. Roldan asked the congregation to remember and thank “our mothers for loving us enough to bring us into the world.”

“We must continue without losing hope for a better nation, and indeed, a better world, where all peoples born and unborn are treated with respect and dignity,” he said. “We must remain steadfast in demanding a more perfect world for all. We must demand our nation creates agencies that provide true health care, where lives are saved and not destroyed, where unplanned pregnancy is not seen as a curse to be quickly removed and flushed away, where the human body is honored, where the Hippocratic Oath means something, where it means a sacred duty pledged by physicians is lived to the highest ethical standards.

“We must demand that agencies not take advantage of desperate mothers who are often lost, alone and confused,” he continued. “We must teach sons to be responsible men that take honor in their duty of fatherhood. … In this great nation, this United States of America, there is no reason why we cannot have a more perfect world where God’s truth is spoken and God’s love is lived.”