ROCHESTER — On a warm, sunny morning Sept. 23, a small group of men and women huddled near the Rochester Planned Parenthood facility at 114 University Ave., displaying signs with such messages as “Love Will End Abortion” and “Pray to End Abortion” while reciting the rosary. Some of the participants, but not all, wore face masks.
Marking the first day of the 40 Days for Life fall campaign, this scene is repeating itself daily throughout October before concluding Nov. 1; a 40 Days for Life also is taking place in Ithaca near Planned Parenthood, 620 W. Seneca St.
The international 40 Days for Life initiative is among many activities — several of which have been modified for safety purposes in light of the coronavirus pandemic — occurring around the Diocese of Rochester that align with the Catholic Church’s priorities during October on respecting life and honoring Mary.
Among the events being celebrated both nationally and in this diocese are Life Chain, which was set for Oct. 4 at Wisner Park in Elmira; the America Needs Fatima Public Square Rosary Rally Oct. 10 in Rochester, Elmira, Newark, Newark Valley, Sodus, Chili, Hilton, Spencerport, Greece and Corning (Oct. 11); and Rosary Coast to Coast Oct. 11 at Holy Cross Church in Rochester/Charlotte as well as at Hamlin Beach State Park.
Special events also are being conducted at St. James Church in Irondequoit, where a Novena for Life is occurring Oct. 4-12; and St. James and St. John the Evangelist churches in Waverly and Spencerport, respectively, which are offering their annual Living Rosary Oct. 7. In addition, several parishes are doing rosary recitation throughout October either in church or online.
Also, events prior to Respect Life Month occurred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Dansville, where a National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children was held Sept. 12 at the cemetery’s abortion memorial site; and in the Elmira area, where a virtual Walk for Life — normally an in-person event — took place Sept. 19 to raise funds for the Southern Tier Pregnancy Resource Center.
Meanwhile, efforts to preserve life are occurring throughout the year as well. A prime example is regular prayer at Planned Parenthood facilities in Rochester, held each Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m. and the fourth Saturday from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.; in Ithaca, Fridays from 8:30 to 11 a.m.; and at 35 W. William St., Corning, Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 to 10 a.m.
The Corning vigils are organized by Chemung Valley 4 Life, an ecumenical organization. Stephen Spaulding, the group’s president (see related story), said the group’s activities were suspended for about a month at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, but “everything back much closer to normal.”
In Rochester, the Focus Pregnancy Help Center at 135 University Ave., is located almost directly across the street from Planned Parenthood. Mary Jost, director, said that the center’s services were limited during the pandemic’s early months but “we’ve never closed down.” She added that clients are now being allowed back inside the facility — one at a time, and wearing masks — to access pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, diapers, formula, clothing and other baby-related items.
“We’re very, very busy,” Jost said. “Thank God our volunteers are back.”
In addition to the volunteers at Focus, parish-based examples of supporting crisis pregnancy centers are St. Mary, Honeoye/St. Matthew, Livonia, which conducted an envelope drive for Birthright of Rochester in September and is collecting diapers and wipes for Mary’s Place, a refugee outreach in Rochester; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hamlin, which is collecting gift cards for Birthright of Rochester and the Women’s Care Center in Rochester; and St. Francis and St. Clare in Waterloo and Seneca Falls, which is collecting donations for the Family Hope Center in Geneva and Ovid.
Donating to pregnancy centers is an ideal way of aligning with Respect Life causes without necessarily having to do so in person, observed Shannon Kilbridge, director of the diocesan Office of Life Issues. She suggested that diocesan Catholics visit the diocesan life-issues website at life roc.org for further ideas, pointing out, for instance, that the site links to the state Catholic conference’s advocacy network. There, Catholics can voice their concern about such bills as the Medical Aid in Dying Act (A2694/S3947), which, if passed, would legalize physician-assisted suicide in New York.
Opposing this bill serves as an example of how “this is a time when more engagement is needed” despite physical restrictions brought on by the pandemic, Kilbridge added.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For scheduling and registration details about initiatives noted in this story, visit https://catholiccourier.com/art icles/respect-life-marian-events-planned-in-diocese-of-rochester or refer to the appropriate website or parish bulletin.