Bishop O'Connell preaches the homily during the Preparatory Mass for Life he celebrated Jan. 17 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Vic Mistretta photos
Bishop O'Connell preaches the homily during the Preparatory Mass for Life he celebrated Jan. 17 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Vic Mistretta photos

By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

In preparation for the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., hundreds gathered with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., Jan. 17, for the Mass of Sending.

Photo Gallery: Preparatory Mass for Life in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral

The special Mass was celebrated in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, where it was streamed live by the diocesan Department of Multimedia Production for those who couldn’t attend but wanted to participate in praying for those who were traveling to Washington.

In a moving homily, Bishop O’Connell urged his 300-plus listeners to stay the course for life set 46 years ago when the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized abortion.

It was a decision wrought and upheld by those who have failed humanity gravely, the Bishop said. For, in ignoring the voice of God, this “fateful and fatal decision” has cost nearly 60 million lives, said Bishop O’Connell.

It was the voice of God calling out for life that the Bishop called attention to in the Scripture readings, recalling the first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews and the words of the sacred author: “The Holy Spirit says: oh, that today you would hear his voice, ‘Harden not your hearts …’”

“We are here tonight as an answer to a prayer: we do hear his voice. We are here tonight because those who came before us 46 years ago … did not,” stressed Bishop O’Connell.

“They did not hear God’s voice calling out ‘thou shall not kill’ or the Lord Jesus’ proclamation ‘I have come that you may have life,’ no. They listened, rather, to voices seeking to rebel against God’s voice, God’s intention, God’s plan.  They listened to the ‘voice of death,’” the Bishop noted solemnly.

“The Supreme Court decided to replace God’s law, God’s voice, with a law and voice of its own,” Bishop O’Connell continued. “Today, 46 years and over 58 million aborted human lives later, that voice is still heard.  And so we pray for our country, for those who provide or procure abortion, ‘oh, that today you would hear God’s voice.’”

The Bishop explained that the Mass along with the March on Washington, the Mass in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, and Rally for Life at the State House in Trenton on Jan. 22, were each focused on helping the ongoing advocacy for life.

“Ours is not an assault on women as many fellow citizens claim, not at all.  Ours is an advocacy for the unborn, a choice for life from conception to natural death.  I believe with every ounce of life within me, that our efforts will ultimately prevail …” Bishop O’Connell said.

When the Mass concluded, many of those who attended lingered in the Co-
Cathedral, where they were greeted by Bishop O’Connell and concelebrants, including Msgr. Sam Sirianni, Co-Cathedral rector, Father Joselito Noche, diocesan liaison for respect life and pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Hainesport, and 10 priests of the Diocese.

Among the Mass participants were seasoned veterans of the trip to Washington including Tom Panettieri, respect life coordinator for the Co-Cathedral, and Jim Meyer of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Freehold, and first-timers, including Paula Landen and her daughter, Karra, 15.

Panettieri, who has gone to the rally 20 times, and Meyer, who has attended each year but the four he was in military service, have both braved bad weather a number of times over the decades. With the roiling weather forecasts, they weren’t expecting sunny skies this year.

“I’ve gone down there in the coldest weather, in blizzards,” said Meyer. “I never worry about it. I am in it for the long haul.”

The Landens were very excited to be sharing this first-time experience as mother and daughter. “We are just excited to see how many people turn out,” Paula Landen said. “To be among so many in support of life is going to be a bonding experience for us.”