Last month nearly 100 people gathered at St. Michael Church in Lyons to pray for all unborn human life, uniting their prayers with those of thousands of other Catholics who prayed for the same thing during this past Advent. Knights of Columbus Council 897 held its second-annual Vigil for All Nascent (Unborn) Human Life at the Lyons church Dec. 3.
"We started it last year for the Knights of Columbus, picking up on what Pope Benedict had communicated, that the Saturday after Thanksgiving should be a pro-life vigil. That’s how it started in our area," explained James Wilhelm, financial secretary for Knights of Columbus Council 897.
In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Catholics across the globe to join him in a worldwide vigil for life Nov. 27. Such a request was "unprecedented," according to a Sept. 28, 2010, statement from Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
"I heartily encourage all Catholics, whether at home or traveling over the Thanksgiving holidays, to take part in this special prayer, whose purpose, according to the Holy See, is to ‘thank the Lord for his total self-giving to the world for his Incarnation which gave every human life its real worth and dignity’ and to ‘invoke the Lord’s protection over every human being called into existence,’" DiNardo said in the statement.
Then on Nov. 27, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI presided over an evening prayer service at the Vatican, which was held as part of the planned worldwide prayer vigil for life. The pope said the pro-life vigil was an appropriate way to begin Advent, a time when Catholics the world over prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, according to Catholic News Service. The next day, the pope spoke to pilgrims from his apartment window and likened the period of expectant waiting before Christmas to that experienced by a married couple preparing for the birth of their child.
While Pope Benedict XVI was praying with the faithful at the Vatican on Nov. 27, 2010, Wilhelm was praying with more than 50 Finger Lakes-area Catholics during the Knights’ first-annual pro-life prayer vigil at St. Michael Church. The turnout wasn’t bad for a first-year event, especially one held over Thanksgiving weekend, he said, but afterwards Wilhelm and the Grand Knight of Council 897 convened a roundtable discussion to determine how to increase attendance at the vigil the next year.
"We discussed what would be a better day and we moved it to the first Saturday after Thanksgiving weekend," he explained. "That’s probably why we got a better crowd (this year), because Thanksgiving is a bad weekend in this country with people traveling."
The switch apparently was a good idea, because this year’s vigil drew nearly 100 people from areas as far away as Auburn, Geneva and Farmington, Wilhelm said. The vigil opened with a "full-blown procession" followed by exposition of the Eucharist and prayers for the unborn, he added. Deacon Timothy Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of Wayne County, presided over the vigil, assisted by Father Felix Dalimpuo, pastor at St. Michael in Newark, and Father Augustine Chumo, pastor at St. Michael in Lyons, St. John the Evangelist in Clyde and St. Patrick in Savannah.
"We just heard rave reviews from people. The goal is to pray that we establish and go back to the true pro-life story for the safety (of the unborn) and culmination of abortion, getting rid of abortion, having everyone come back to God and have their kids. It makes no difference what denomination they are," Wilhelm said.
The Knights’ Council 897 is very active in the pro-life arena, Wilhelm added, noting that the council purchased and installed a monument to the unborn on the grounds of St. Michael Church in Newark. That monument is the site of a weekly rosary for the unborn, and fellow Knight and past Grand Knight Leo Kamalsky is an active member of that prayer group, Wilhelm said.
One of the older members of the council, Kamalsky is an ardent pro-lifer and one of the organizers of the Dec. 3 prayer vigil. Although he’s not as actively involved in planning events as he once was, he still devotes his time and energy to praying for the unborn, and Wilhelm said many others would do well to follow his example.
"Prayer life is most important if you’re going to get anything done," Wilhelm said.