The contingent of Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, including Sister Karen Dunn, provincial, and 11 novices pose for a photo after Mass with Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen and Bishop O'Connell. Bishop Checchio was among the speakers at the New Jersey Right to Life Rally at the Statehouse. Staff photo
The contingent of Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, including Sister Karen Dunn, provincial, and 11 novices pose for a photo after Mass with Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen and Bishop O'Connell. Bishop Checchio was among the speakers at the New Jersey Right to Life Rally at the Statehouse. Staff photo
For Jack Smithouser, it was very important for him to attend the Respect Life Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, Jan. 14.

“Having respect for life is something that was instilled in me at a young age,” said Smithouser, a senior in St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel.

“Life needs to be preserved in all its forms. No policy or action should interfere with that.”

Smithouser was among the more than 100 people who turned out for the Mass with Msgr. Joseph Roldan, rector, serving as principal celebrant and homilist. Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., was also present and presided from the sanctuary.

PHOTO GALLERY: 2022 Respect Life Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton

PHOTO GALLERY: 2022: NJ Right to Life Rally at NJ Statehouse

In brief remarks after Holy Communion, Bishop O’Connell made reference to the Mass occurring during a “tragic week,” the day after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill protecting abortion rights on Jan. 13. The Bishop then lauded the congregation for their unwavering support for life in all its stages and, to those who heading to the Statehouse Annex after the Mass for the New Jersey Right to Life Rally, he assured them of his prayers and that he was with them in spirit.

Through his homily, Msgr. Roldan responded to the bill signing in which he spoke of feeling broken-hearted because “as a nation and, most surely as a state, we live in times of great lies and attack on the human dignity of the most innocent in our community.

“We have allowed those we placed in positions of trust and power to lie to us, to push us aside as unreasonable, unrealistic and out of touch with the current times,” he said. And while “we are broken-hearted, we are not hopeless.

“Our hope is not in our government but rather in an all-powerful God who does not abandon us,” he said. “If we remain faithful and turn from our wicked ways, God will save us. We cannot blame society for our ills, for society goes where the family is. We need to hold tight to our strong Catholic values. We need to live them out in our families and to hold those who profess our faith to the task of living them out in authentic love for God and neighbor.”

Msgr. Roldan decried the way in which society often presents abortion as being necessary because it’s a “health issue” and also a political issue.

“Killing is not a health issue but rather a death issue,’ he said. “It is about a moral issue, it is about the human issue. For this simple and truthful fact, the Church, in all her authority and love, must cry out for truth and justice,” he said.

Msgr. Roldan cited that “one of the great lies” about the topic of abortion is it’s being referred to as a political issue.

“The Church takes a stand on moral issues, not political ones,” he said, reminding the congregants to remember that the Church’s teaching on abortion has not changed.

“Make no mistake,” he said. “It will never change. It can never change because the outcome is always the destruction of the human person.

“It is always and will always be a moral evil to participate in an abortion,” Msgr. Roldan said. “Abortion always ends with the willful destruction of the human person, of a human life. That’s the truth.”

Other Mass-goers like Smithouser shared similar sentiments on why they attended the Mass for Life.

Patrick Smith, the campus minister and assistant athletic director in St. John Vianney High School, noted how meaningful it was to accompany several students to the Mass saying that he felt it served as a way for the students to give witness to the defense of human life in all its forms.

Traveling from Sussex County to Trenton for the first time to participate in the Respect Life Mass and then the rally afterward, were a contingent from the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, including Sister Karen Dunn, provincial, and 11 novices. “Given the current situation,” said Sister Karen, referring to the abortion law that was signed the day before by Gov. Murphy, “we want to give a response” that is rooted in prayer.

“We want to be with the Church, with the Gospel, those who need to be protected and those who had lost loved ones to abortion,” she said.

Novice Sister Pamela Rose Suresca expressed concern about young people and their understanding of abortion which she figures is pretty much based on lies.

“I hope we can get the message across that young people are formed by God to be a son or daughter of God,” she said. “That is the greatest privilege we have, to have the gift of life.”