New pair plans pro-life trip - Catholic Courier

New pair plans pro-life trip

CANANDAIGUA — Don and Kathy Peters are well-known in local pro-life circles. For nearly three decades the couple organized and led an annual pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life. This year, however, the pair decided it was time for a change. Although they will still participate in the march, they’ve recruited two new people to take over as coordinators of the local pilgrimage.

Fran Flugel and Liz Gilges have agreed to coordinate the bus trip from Canandaigua to the nation’s capital this year. Although neither one has ever attended the march, both are staunch supporters of the pro-life movement.
“I feel strongly that we have to be a voice for the voiceless,” said Gilges, who belongs to St. Mary’s Parish in Canandaigua.

The first March for Life was held Jan. 22, 1974, exactly one year after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Although Don and Kathy Peters did not participate in that first march, both were so captivated by news coverage of the event that the next year they traveled to Syracuse from their Waterloo home to catch a bus bound for the march.

After taking part in their first march, the couple was hooked. In 1976, the Peters — who belong to St. Mary’s Parish in Waterloo — decided to organize a bus trip to the march from the Finger Lakes region, and they’ve been coordinating the annual pilgrimage ever since. The Peters estimate that they’ve brought about 1,000 people to the march in the nearly 30 years they’ve been coordinating the trip.

Both Don and Kathy had been pro-life supporters before participating in their first march, although each came to the movement in a different way.
“I came to my pro-life beliefs as part of the civil rights movement,” said Don, who converted to Catholicism in the late 1980s. “I want to extend rights to more and more people, and the people who are most oppressed in our society are the unborn children. I see it as a civil rights thing.”
For the early part of her adult life, Kathy was actually pro-choice, she said. After reading pro-life doctor J.C. Willke’s book, Abortion, Questions and Answers: Why We Can’t Love Them Both, Kathy began to think people in the pro-life movement might be onto something.

Kathy turned toward the pro-life movement even more in the early 1970s, after she and Don tried unsuccessfully to expand their family. Kathy was having trouble conceiving, so she went to the hospital for some tests.

“I think one of the turning points was when the girl next to me in the hospital was having an abortion,” Kathy said. “Here she’s taking a human life and I want to conceive.”

Since embracing the pro-life movement, the Peters have become involved in a number of pro-life organizations. They’ve even opened their homes to pregnant women who had nowhere else to go and might otherwise have had abortions.

“They just want someone to talk to them and say, ‘Giving up your baby for adoption is not a bad thing,’” Don said, recalling one young woman who nearly aborted her baby because doctors told her the infant would be deformed.

The Peters took the woman into their home, and Kathy even went to Lamaze classes with her. Eventually, the woman gave birth, and “the baby was perfect,” Don said. He and Kathy recently received a card from the woman, whose child had just graduated from high school, he said.

Flugel, who belongs to Our Lady of Victory Parish in Rochester, can relate to that story. When his wife was pregnant with their second child, Teresa, the doctor told them the child would be born with a permanent disorder. After delivering this news, the doctor asked them what they wanted to do about the pregnancy. Flugel and his wife were shocked and horrified, because to them, “there was no choice,” he said.

The couple immediately left that doctor in favor of a pro-life practitioner and began praying. They prayed that Mother Teresa — who Flugel’s wife had met and who had died on their wedding day — would intercede for them. Teresa eventually was born without the disorder, and doctors say it was misdiagnosed and she never had it. The Flugels, however, know better and believe in the power of prayer, he said.

Gilges grew up in a family much like the Peters and said her mother often took in pregnant woman. Gilges has always been pro-life, and scientific advances in recent years have only confirmed her beliefs.

“We know so much about fetal development now that there’s really no excuse (for abortion),” Gilges said.

Gilges and Flugel are excited about the upcoming bus trip they’re coordinating. The coach bus will leave from the parking lot of St. Mary’s Church at 10 p.m. Jan. 22 and will arrive at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., the next morning. There they will attend Mass before eating breakfast and lobbying on Capitol Hill.

Pilgrims will then join the march, which begins at the Ellipse and ends at the U.S. Supreme Court building. After the march, they’ll head back to the bus, and Gilges and Flugel hope the bus will arrive back in Canandaigua by midnight.

“It’s a pilgrimage. It’s not a vacation,” Gilges said.

Students may reserve a seat on the bus for $20, and everyone else may reserve a seat for $40. People of all ages are welcome.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information or to reserve a seat on the bus to the March for Life, contact Fran Flugel at 585/924-7051 between 5 and 10 p.m., or e-mail him at

Tags: Life Issues
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