All for Life -- Bishop O'Connell greets a a youngster and her mother following the Mass for Life he celebrated in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, Jan. 23. John Batkowski photos
All for Life -- Bishop O'Connell greets a a youngster and her mother following the Mass for Life he celebrated in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, Jan. 23. John Batkowski photos

By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

Forecasts of a bad nor'easter for New Jersey Jan. 23 cancelled the pro-life rally that usually draws hundreds to the Trenton State House on or around the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision every year.

But, the pending arrival of the storm didn’t stop several dozen hearty folks of all generations from gathering with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., for the annual Mass for Life in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral.

Concelebrating with him were the cathedral’s rector Msgr. Joseph L. Roldan; Father Joe Noche pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace,  Hainesport, and diocesan respect life chaplain; Father John Butler, pastor of St. Michael Parish, Long Branch; Father Edward M. Jawidzik, parochial vicar of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, Freehold; Divine Word Father Edward A. Tetteh, pastor of Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd Parish, Trenton, and Father Jason Parzynski, parochial vicar of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton and chaplain of Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville.

As gusts of wind lashed the Trenton landmark, parents and grandparents holding tiny tots, young members of the respect life movement and those who could break free from offices in the state capitol answered the Bishop’s call to prayer for life.

They listened intently as he called on God in three persons to breathe life on a landscape where it has been legally marginalized during the 44 years since the U.S. Supreme Court walked away from upholding what he referred to in his moving homily as “the most basic human right” of to the most “vulnerable in our society: the unborn child in the womb.”

He began by pointing to the fact that “there is one thing we all have in common, my brothers and sisters. Regardless of our race or place of natural origin, regardless of our religion or absence of it; regardless of our age or status or station in life: god gave us the gift of life which our mothers carried until the day of our birth.”

“Every human being who has ever walked the face of this earth has that one thing in common” he said. “And from the moment of our conception until the day of our natural death, we celebrate with gratitude, our God-given right to life. Nothing is more fundamental and more precious than that one human right.”

Bishop O’Connell called to mind the disparity that has prominently existed since Roe v. Wade, one which other nations were “quick to follow.”

 “There are those, our fellow human beings who themselves possess and enjoy that human right – thanks to the God who gave it to them, thanks to their mothers who decided they should have it,” the Bishop said.

“There are those, our fellow human beings, who seek with everything in their power to deny that human right to life to children in the womb because the Supreme Court of the United States made it possible” through the “infamous Supreme Court decision” which “was and ever remains a black mark and a dark day in the history of our nation.”

For millions upon millions in the past 44 years, he said, “light and life has been extinguished before it even had a chance to burn bright. We weep, we mourn, we pray for them and their families. But we cannot give up, not now, not ever. Light pierces darkness. Death gives way to light.”

The Bishop urged everyone to understand that while there “will always be those who mock or denigrate us,” dismissing pro-life advocates as “culture warriors” or by trying to “shame us as anti-woman’ in the name of so-called ‘reproductive rights’ or ‘rights over their own bodies’  … “much more is at stake than their opposition. Remember those words of Jesus: ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the  full.’ His words matter. His words make a difference. And his words lead to life.”

Among those drawing strength from his words were Gloria Rodriguez a cathedral parishioner and Michaelyn Hein, a member of St. Magdalene de Pazzi Parish, Flemington, who recently moved to Hopewell.

“I wish I had the words that describe the feeling about the bishop’s homily,” said Rodriguez who recently lost her beloved son Luis Hernandez after a long battle with multiple sclerosis.

 She especially appreciated how the Bishop asked everyone to pray for the most vulnerable at the beginning of human life and, “in Jesus’ name for the most vulnerable at the end of life through assisted suicide, a new threat to human life that looms on the horizon here in New Jersey.”

“His homily touched me so much when he spoke about the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. We have to respect life. When he said god is the one who gives life, it was like the (culmination) of everything he was speaking about,” said Rodriguez.

She had attended the Mass in memory of her son and said it gave her the courage she needed to “get involved in the pro-life cause again. It is a great feeling.  … When the Bishop spoke about life, Luis was very present.”

Hein, 37, cradled her two-year-old daughter Grace, throughout the Mass. She also cited the courage she drew from the Bishop’s words and from the presence of others, especially on this storm tossed day.

“I appreciated his focus on unity,” said Hein who shared the fact that she had been shaken by a sense of disconnection from friends and acquaintances over the past week who were going to women’s marches. “I felt disconnected in that many people (she knew) said they were attending the march to support human rights” but those rights but they left out” the right to life. “It really made me so sad.”

She said she was aggrieved that the organizers of the main march in Washington, D.C. had refused to allow Feminists for Life to join them. “I asked the questions,” said Hein but the answers were lacking.

“I felt the need to come here today” and be “a person for life.”