‘God’s heart is moved by pity,’ Bishop Fisher says at pro-life Mass
The faithful of the diocese were reminded of the sacredness of human life during this year’s Pro-Vita Mass. The annual event is held in observance of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the United States. This year, the Mass was celebrated in conjunction with the White Mass that honors health care workers on Jan. 24 at St. Joseph Cathedral.
On a normal year, the pro-life advocates who attended this Mass would be marching on the street of Washington, as a peaceful protest to current abortion laws. This year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., is being held virtually due to the Coronavirus pandemic and increased pressures on law enforcement. Only a few invited guests will participate in the Jan. 29 march. Others are asked to participate by registering at marchforlife.org/2021-virtual-events/.
“It’s good for us to be here together as a diocese and people of God to reflect on this great gift of life that God has given to us and to mark the solemn occasion of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” said Bishop Michael W. Fisher during his homily. He added that he has attended the March for Life since the 1980s, missing only one year.
The readings for that day, which told of Jonah going to Nineveh and Jesus making Simon and Andrew fishers of men, provided a good backdrop for understanding the ministry of life. The people of Nineveh led hedonistic lives, but their empty happiness would not last.
“That’s what always happens when we rebel against God, God’s plans, His moral law,” Bishop Fisher said, adding, “God’s heart is constantly moved by pity, pity for those who are sinful, wanting to draw us back.”
We, like the people of Nineveh, can be brought back to God’s plan.
“Isn’t this why He creates us? Because He draws us into His family, a family that finds its fullness in the kingdom of God,” the bishop said.
Bishop Fisher mentions the three cornerstones of Catholic teaching are the sacred dignity of the human person, solidarity and subsidiarity.
“These are what motivate us to advocate and to activate, to bring our Catholic faith into the public forum, to be a moral voice that enlightens the common good of our culture and our society,” he said, adding that this must be framed with the recognition that all life is sacred and blessed.
“Each of us, no matter what race, culture, man or woman, has dignity, potential and freedom as a child of God.”
Cheryl Calire, the executive director of the Office of Pastoral Ministries/Pro-Life which sponsored the Mass, spoke on the oxymoron of the term pro-choice.
“No, (women) don’t come to us and say they felt they had a choice. They come to us saying they felt they didn’t have a choice. That is why they made that decision. So, we try to be that love that they can see Christ in us that we will be there to support them. Not just say, it’s not a good thing to do, but to really accompany them when they make that all-important decision to say yes to life.”
Following the Mass, the Pro-Vita Awards, begun in 1995, were presented to people who have labored tirelessly for the pro-life cause and to give them strength, encouragement and support.
As a seminarian, Deacon Daniel R. Ulmer did his field education with the Office of Pro-Life Activities for two semesters.
“I enjoyed that placement so much that this past summer I had the opportunity to work in the Pro-Life Offices again,” he said. “The pro-life cause is so important because the foundation of Catholic morality is really that every single human person is created in God’s image and likeness. That starts at the moment of conception until natural death. In the culture today where we just have this throwaway culture, this culture of death where we don’t see the value of the other person and we treat them with disrespect and don’t see God’s presence in them, I think the pro-life message is even more important today, so we can come back and see God’s presence in every single person and preserving human life.”
Mark Bittner and Lisa Parker, accepted the award on behalf of the Warriors for Life, a group of faithful founded in 2009 that prays in front of the women’s clinic at 2500 Main St. in Buffalo every Saturday morning and offer resources to women who feel they have no choice other than abortion.
“I believe (abortion is) the greatest social injustice that there is,” said Parker. “We believe prayer is so important, that’s why our ministry is for anybody who is going in, to try and offer them help.”
The warriors chose Saturdays because that was the busiest day for the clinic. They have since noticed that the abortionist no longer conducts business while the warriors are present.
“We don’t know why,” Parker said. “She still does them during the week. We’ll always wonder. No one is saying, ‘We closed because of you guys,’ But she is not doing abortions from what we can see on Saturdays. We take that as a possible little triumph.”
Also receiving awards were Deacon Mark & Linda Hooper from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Orchard Park, Rick Cummings from Infant of Prague Parish in Cheektowaga, and Dr. Hope Woodroffe from the Piver Center for Women’s Health & Wellness.
Calire surprised her staff – Miriam Escalante, Maren Lelonek, Cheryl Zielen-Ersing and Olivia Giza – by presenting them with special medals blessed by Bishop Fisher. Bishop Fisher received an engraved prayer to honor his installation.
Bishop Michael W. Fisher speaks on the sanctity of life at the Pro-Vita Mass held Jan. 23, 2021 at St. Joseph Cathedral. The Mass, which honors those in the pro-life movement, coincided with the White Mass honoring health care workers. Photo by Patrick J. Buechi.