By Rosemary Daniels | Correspondent
A band of the faithful gathered in St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Red Bank, March 9, to re-commit themselves to fighting for the rights of the unborn, and for others who are unable to fight for themselves.
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This day, known as the annual Respect Life Mass and Witness for Life, was sponsored by the diocesan Respect Life Ministry of the Department of Pastoral Care, and included Mass, a march to the Shrewsbury Planned Parenthood Clinic, and a presentation to the student winners of the Respect Life poster, essay and video contest.
The Mass was celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. Concelebrating were Father Joselito M. Noche, chaplain and diocesan liaison for Family Life and Pro-Life Activities; Father Anthony Carotenuto, pastor of St. Anthony Parish; Father Jose Fernandez-Banqueses, parochial vicar in St. Anthony Parish; Father John O. Chang, pastor, St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton; Father Ronald Cioffi, pastor, St. Joseph Parish, Keyport, and Father Edward Jawidzik, parochial vicar, St. Robert Bellarmine, Freehold.
Resplendent in the purple vestments of Lent, Bishop O’Connell welcomed the group, saying, “Thank you for your commitment to life.”
Father Noche, in his homily, cited a need for humility when faithful stand in front of Planned Parenthood and pray for a change to a 40-year old law which denies 14th Amendment rights to unborn children. Acknowledging that people will encounter impatience and frustration, he exhorted the crowd of almost 200 worshippers to persevere in the Christian crusade to demand respect for life at all stages, “… because every time we pray in front of this facility, it is a step of hope in saving a life and a grace-filled hope that one day this facility will close through our witness and persistence in prayer.”
Father Noche pointed to the awful realities of a world that condones legalized abortion, permits destructive experimentation on human embryos, promotes assisted suicide and euthanasia, and discounts the elderly. “This is our world today,” intoned Father Noche, “but it does not have to be our world tomorrow. Remember, our faith as Christians does not depend on the world’s shifting values. As Catholics, we should be firm with our voices and must stand for our principles, faith and tradition.” He reminded the congregation that when we take part in any pro-life activity, “It’s about God, and about submitting to his holy will.”
He closed with a quote from Pope Benedict XVI, “We must entrust ourselves with humility to the Lord because only then can we become instruments of his hands, and have the permission to do great things.”
Peg Campbell, a religious education teacher at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson, said, “I enjoyed Father Noche’s message about not giving up. It was encouraging.”
At the close of Mass, the group of students who won in the Respect Life contest stood at the foot of the altar, and received a warm round of applause for the achievements. Then, one by one, they were congratulated by the bishop before returning to their families.
Then the group headed out into the March sunshine to commence their one mile pilgrimage to the Planned Parenthood. Led by a colorful cadre from the Knights of Columbus, they walked through downtown Red Bank, escorted by a respectful contingent of Red Bank policemen.
Arriving at the clinic, Father Noche led the group in the recitation of the Rosary, against the colorful backdrop of papal and diocese flags. Young and old put their voices together praying for an end to the taking of innocent life. A gentleman in a pickup truck that had been stopped to let the group cross the street, called out to the group, “I think it’s great that you do this. I’m an evangelical, and I look forward to seeing you out here each year.”
Once the group returned to St. Anthony Parish, they enjoyed breakfast provided by the hospitality group from the parish. Holding places of honor at the front of the hall were the winning entries from the Respect Life video contest.
This contest, held annually by the diocesan Respect Life Ministry, encourages school children from kindergarten through eighth grade to express themselves about the sanctity of life through essays, posters or videos. The program is open to youngsters from Catholic schools, religious education programs, or parish youth groups, and this year drew some 150 entries. The theme for 2013 was “Faith Opens Our Eyes to Human Life In All Its Grandeur And Beauty.”
Certificates and prizes were awarded by Father Noche and Donna Goodwin, diocesan coordinator for Respect Life Ministry.
Hannah Bacso of St. Charles Borromeo School has entered and won in each of the last three years. In 2011, she placed third in the essay contest for grades six to eight. In the following year, she placed second, and this year she earned first place, again in the essay category. Hannah made the trip with her sister, Sophie, and her mom, Susan, who shared about her daughters, “Having adopted two girls from China has probably had the biggest impact on me about the respect life movement. I cannot imagine not having had the opportunity to have them in my life. Every day I am so thankful to their respective birth parents for having had the courage to make life choices rather than choosing abortion. As hard as those choices may have been for them to make, they became gifts to me as otherwise I would not have been blessed with my two girls.”
Trenton Catholic Academy and Saint Charles Borromeo School submitted class projects for the videos, and each won in their grade category. Massimiliano Verduci of St. Gregory the Great Academy, Hamilton Square, won first place for his poster. “I showed all forms of life: human life, animal life, plant life, and spiritual life,” said the eight year old.
In their second year of competition, St. Leo the Great School, Lincroft, had winning entries in the essay, video, and poster categories. Caroline Dnistrian, 10, won second place for her video which included photos of the Right to Life March the prior year. Mom Cindie was amazed at the result. “She knew exactly what she wanted to do. Her sister gave her some video tips, but she took it from there. Rosemary Devine, fifth grade teacher, said, “We’ve been so pleased to participate. We had three winning entries last year as well. When I discuss the contest with the students, we talk about the different ways that life needs to be respected. When you talk with them, you know that they really get it.”[[In-content Ad]]