For Brian Mizzoni, becoming a parent deeply reaffirmed the value of protecting life from conception onward.
“The miracle of life — it really hit me how our Heavenly Father created us. I’ve had that deep conviction since the birth of my children,” he said. “Then I looked at all the (aborted) children deprived of life, and I felt so bad. I wanted to do something to raise awareness about the sanctity of life.”
Whereas the Jan. 24 March for Life marks the nation’s largest one-day protest against legalized abortion, the pro-life position is on public display 365 days a year in the Corning-Painted Post area — thanks to the efforts of Mizzoni and two fellow members of All Saints Parish, Michael Joseph and Tony Agosta.
Mizzoni, Joseph and Agosta were the driving forces behind a Memorial to the Unborn that was erected this fall next to a shrine of the Blessed Mother at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 115 E. High St., Painted Post.
The idea for the memorial originated with Mizzoni and Agosta more than four years ago. They shared their vision with Joseph, a former grand knight with Corning Knights of Columbus Council 281. Discussions deepened over the next two years, as the trio began to combine their lunchtime meetings with praying the rosary at St. Mary’s Chapel.
Joseph, who is currently a trustee for Council 281, ended up chairing the project and securing necessary funding from his council. He noted that Knights of Columbus councils often erect memorials to the unborn as part of their involvement in a number of pro-life activities.
“Knights of Columbus are champions of the fight against abortion,” he said.
The Knights’ support was a turning point for the project. “It never really took off until they got involved,” Mizzoni said. “When you put it in the hands of a group that’s well recognized, it’s easier to move it through,” Agosta observed.
Even so, it took quite some time to finalize the project with All Saints’ administration and parish pastoral council — especially regarding the memorial’s location and message. It was originally planned to be at St. Patrick’s Church in Corning, but St. Patrick’s closed in 2001. Finally the memorial was approved for Immaculate Heart of Mary, accomplishing the organizers’ goal of having it visible in a well-traveled area.
“The K of C wants people in the community — more than just Catholics — to know that this is an issue that’s important to us, and important to our Lord,” Joseph said.
However, since abortion is a sensitive subject, the wording had to be dealt with carefully. “It was no easy task,” Joseph stated. “Several proponents were for a very strong message that indicated the horrors of abortion very clearly, and we had to temper that with the (parish’s) concern about sending too harsh a message and incurring the wrath of a community.”
Agosta and Mizzoni added that they didn’t want the words to alienate women who have had abortions. “It’s not to chastise. It’s more, what can we do to make people understand, and to educate people,” Agosta said.
The final product displays a quotation from Jeremiah 1:5. Above the quotation is the inscription “In loving memory of the holy innocents” acknowledging the lives ended by abortion. The memorial stone was secured through Haughey Funeral Home in Corning. Joseph described the artwork as “a wonderful handmade inlay of the Holy Family, which was a special feature we wanted to include. And it has the K of C insignia on the face and back of the stone.”
Dedication of the memorial took place Oct. 31, 2004. Council 281 covered the entire $3,000 cost, Joseph said, adding that the council plans to also finance landscaping around the display and that he hopes the monument eventually will be illuminated.
Though erecting the memorial was a significant accomplishment, organizers acknowledged that many more challenges lie ahead in protecting and promoting the lives of unborn children.
“The monument is one piece of a whole pie, of different ways to try to bring education and awareness and forgiveness and remembrance,” said Agosta, who, along with Mizzoni, attended his first March for Life in Washington, D.C., last year.
“We recognize it’s just the beginning,” Joseph said. “Once people have been awakened to the call of these children, we would encourage them to donate resources to shelters for women who had considered abortions but decided not to have them. That’s where the real action is.”