ROCHESTER — After arriving home from the March for Life in Washington, D.C., around 2 a.m. Jan. 22, Deanna Joy got a few hours of sleep then joined in a peaceful public witness and prayer for the end of abortion.
“It was cold, but it was just an opportunity to give the respect for life and the opportunity to come together for the cause to the end of abortion,” Joy said of her participation in an event outside Planned Parenthood on University Avenue the morning of Jan. 22.
From there, Joy, still wearing her snow pants and carrying hat, gloves and hand warmers, headed to Sacred Heart Cathedral to continue praying for the sanctity of all human life.
Since the 1973 Supreme Court decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, Jan. 22 has been designated as a day of prayer and penance, called the “Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.” To mark this day, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano offered a diocesan Mass for Life at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“It is a joy to welcome you to this cathedral church,” Bishop Matano said to those in attendance following the opening procession. “I thank God that indeed you are firm in your faith and united with all our sisters and brothers throughout the entire United States and the world itself in prayer for the extraordinary gift of life. So with gratitude in our hearts and with the intercession of our mother Mary, we pray that the lives of all from the moment of conception until natural death truly be respected.”
After Deacon Michael Kristan proclaimed Luke’s Gospel about Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth, Father Anthony Mugavero, pastor of Holy Apostles Church, spoke of that visit and how Jesus’ presence could be dramatically felt before his birth.
“His presence could be felt in the encounter he had with John the Baptist, Mary and Elizabeth, because he had been in there (Mary’s womb) since his conception, only days before, since Mary’s yes to the angel Gabriel. … Regardless of how small Jesus was in the first moment of his earthly life, he was really, truly, fully present.”
We must treat the flesh of others with great care because it is so precious, holy and sacred, Father Mugavero said. He then asked a question: How does our society treat that image of God in others?
“If you watch, read or listen to the news, you know not very well, to say the least,” he said, citing such societal ills as euthanasia, assisted suicide, racism, sex trafficking, violence, poverty and mistreatment of refugees in different countries.
However, God’s image is taking the greatest hit in those impacted by abortion, especially our unborn brothers and sisters, Father Mugavero noted.
“The most innocent and defenseless are being done away with at will, with no protection whatsoever, right up until the time of birth, and unbelievable, sometimes beyond,” he said. “What makes the unborn different from all other victims of injustice? It’s the fact that they are never heard from. They literally have no voice, and because of that, they continue in silence to be marginalized, they are brutally destroyed and discarded.”
That is why, Father Mugavero said, these innocent victims need the strongest protection and all of our voices and power working on their behalf.
Joy told the Catholic Courier she tries to lend her voice to the protection of the unborn by participating in the sidewalk ministry outside Planned Parenthood as often as she can.
“It just energizes me this work in the ministry, and God has certainly given me a gift, and by his grace to answer that call to be present,” Joy said. “It just really gives me life.”
Though she lent her voice to protect the unborn in both Washington, D.C., and Rochester, she said she felt it was still important to be present at the Mass for Life to celebrate the holy Eucharist, the source and summit of the Catholic faith.
“To be fed spiritually, to come together and pray is the backbone that sustains us to do what we do as Christians. To be equipped to fight the good fight, going out to be the defender and protector for our pre-born brothers and sisters,” she said.