The way Divine Word Father Guilherme Andrino sees it, observing the 10th anniversary of the Respect Life Ministry in Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Lakewood, is more than a celebration of the past. It is a call to action for the future.
“We recommit ourselves to this noble cause with renewed passion and determination” he said.
PHOTO GALLERY: Martin Valverde concert in Lakewood
The Respect Life ministry’s anniversary was commemorated Aug. 26 by some 700 people who gathered for a concert presented by internationally renowned Catholic musician and evangelist, Martin Valverde.
Father Andrino described the decision of bringing in the well-known Catholic singer as a way “to bring the people to participate with us.”
The hope was that the commemorative Spanish-language event would also raise greater awareness about Respect Life issues among the Hispanic faithful from around the Diocese, according to Jossie Ramos, coordinator of Hispanic initiatives.
Other initiatives Ramos noted that are in place to help promote the Respect Life cause among the Hispanic community include the Torches of Our Lady of Guadalupe held each fall and the four Respect Life county torches that travel to various Respect Life events in the Diocese throughout the year.
Ramos added that there is a post-abortion healing retreat that is specifically tailored for the Hispanic community and that Father Rene Pulgarin, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Keyport, celebrates the May Mother's Day Mass for families who have suffered the loss of a child at any age.
There are also Respect Life materials that are made available on the diocesan website at: https://dioceseoftrenton.org/respect-life-ministry
Before Valverde’s performance, the event featured a presentation by Father Kevin Kelly, administrator of St. Joseph Parish, Raritan, (Diocese of Metuchen) who is a visual artist and musician.
Father Kelly has served in several parishes in the Metuchen Diocese with large communities of Spanish-speaking immigrants, primarily from Mexico. He has also spent time each year serving in the Diocese of San Miguel, El Salvador, and has made several mission trips to Puebla and Oaxaca in Mexico.
In his presentation, Father Kelly talked about Salvation History, in which he reviewed the poignant stages of Jesus’ life.
“To sum it up, the story is about the love between God and his people,” Father Kelly said, then reminded the gathering to continue to follow their own path of faith.
"God has an excellent love, a love without condition.
“Continue on the holy path and believe a life of compassion, grace and blessings," Father Kelly said.
Valverde is clear and intent when speaking about the Respect Life movement.
“It's not just about respecting the life of the unborn" but the whole gamut of life -- from birth until natural death, he said to the more than 700 people in attendance.
“If you confess you are Christian, then you are pro-life,” Valverde added. “… Either you are [pro-life] or you aren’t. There’s no in-between.”
On a personal level, Valverde spoke about the value of Respect Life from the perspective as the parent of a special needs son.
“He is a teacher to us,” Valverde said. “Through him, we are learning how to live.”
Marking a Decade of Life
Father Andrino said of his parish’s Respect Life ministry, “It has been 10 years of standing up for the voiceless, protecting the unborn and supporting those facing difficult pregnancy situations.”
The ministry initially started in St. Anthony Claret Parish, a Spanish-speaking community, and continued as such after St. Anthony Claret Parish was merged and became part of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.
Some of the programs the Respect Life ministry hosts each year include collecting clothing and baby food for pregnant women in need and hosting retreats for parishioners to learn more about defending life. The group also prays every week in front of abortion clinics and also prays the Rosary for Life before the start of Mass.
“Over the past decade, we have witnessed stories of courage, resilience and transformation,” said Father Andrino. “We have seen individuals empowered to choose life amidst difficult circumstances, families embracing the beauty of adoption and communities rallying together for life.
“Our pro-life movement has not only saved lives but has also nurtured a culture of compassion and love,” Father Andrino said. “Together, we’ve made a difference, spreading love, compassion and hope.”
Laura Cortes with the Office of Communications and Media contributed to this story.
Father Kevin Kelly, left, greets Josue Arriola, director of the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life, during a break between his presentatation and the Martin Valverde concert. Mary Stadnyk photo