Faithful from around the Diocese gather Sept. 24 for the 40 Days for Life Mass celebrated in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Mike Ehrmann photo
Faithful from around the Diocese gather Sept. 24 for the 40 Days for Life Mass celebrated in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Mike Ehrmann photo

Hank and Alice Graebe are fervent supporters of respecting life at all stages.

In the next month, they intend to show their support for ending abortion by prayerfully reciting the Rosary at a clinic in Freehold. They will also continue to keep in prayer those impacted by the state’s new assisted suicide law, which permits physicians to prescribe lethal medicines to terminally ill patients.

The couple cared for Alice Graebe’s mother until she passed away at age 91 at home, where “she was safe and cared for.”

“I feel the message is very clear,” Hank Graebe said. “We are the voice of the voiceless.”

Photo Gallery: 40 Days for Life Mass

The Graebes were among some 500 faithful from around the Diocese to gather Sept. 24 for the 40 Days for Life Mass celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Concelebrating was Father Arian Wharff, parochial vicar, and eight priests of the Diocese.

The Mass was a prayerful start for the internationally coordinated 40 Days for Life campaign slated for Sept. 25-Nov. 3. The campaign aims to end abortion through prayer and fasting, community outreach and peaceful vigils. It is a linchpin of Respect Life Month, which is in October.

Time of Hope

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell noted the Respect Life Month theme, “Christ Our Hope in Every Season of Life.” With new attacks on human life continuing to emerge, Christ offers unfailing hope in the face of despair, he said. The Bishop urged “all Catholics in the Diocese of Trenton to never lose sight of the conviction of our faith that Christ is indeed our hope in every season of life.”

The Bishop asked all to continue to “pray, speak out boldly and witness and work without hesitation or pause to support and respect life in all its stages” for the next 40 days.

As Catholics, Bishop O’Connell said, “We must realize it is our task to transform the ‘culture of death’ and not be transformed by it.”

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King in a 1968 address he gave in Washington, D.C., the Bishop said, “We ‘must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope. And the Lord Jesus Christ is our ‘infinite hope’ now and ‘in every season of our life.’”

Praying for Life

At the end of the Mass, which was sponsored by the diocesan Department of Pastoral Care, faithful shared Respect Life ideas for the month to come.

Clad in a T-shirt reading “Pro-Vida – Pro-Familia,” Estella Valladares, a member of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Freehold, and its Respect Life team, said coming to the Mass is one of the many “little but important things” she will be doing throughout October – including reciting the Rosary outside Planned Parenthood in Shrewsbury.

“They are all done for the glory of God, so that one day, we will see [abortion] end. I have five kids and a grandbaby to think about. If we don’t stop abortion, what kind of world will they see?” she said.

Regina Walsh, a member of St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft, said it was important “for all Catholics of all ages to support 40 Days for Life.”

Walsh, who attended the Mass with her husband, Douglas, Grand Knight of the Father McGivney Council, Knights of Columbus, who was among the company of Knights assembled at the Mass, spoke of how they have a “multi-generational home” in which they cared for her parents as well as her mother-in-law.

“It was something that the older generation focused on,” Walsh said. She added how the couple learned from the example set for them by their elders. Now, the Walshes are striving to set a standard for their son, Douglas, a student at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken.

“If we don’t participate in the Church community, why would the next generation? We want our son to understand how important it is to take an hour and come to pray,” for life, she said, adding that she saw the Mass as a hopeful sign of support for life in all its stages throughout the Diocese.