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Witness speakers speak of dilemmas and decisions at diocesan March for Life events


More than 150 people braved the freezing temperatures to show that nothing keeps them from standing up for the sanctity of life. Even though the Covid-19 pandemic prevented a diocesan trip to Washington, D.C., a local March for Life and youth rally took place.

Cheryl Calire, executive director of the Office of Pastoral Ministries, speaks on the role that clergy has had on her pro-life efforts. Calire also empowered those present to speak up for the sanctity of life during a pro-life rally at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Williamsville on Jan. 22. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

Anyone driving along Maple Road on the evening of Jan. 22 would see the pro-life contingent praying the rosary outside St. Gregory the Great Church in Williamsville.

The day started off with a rally for the young people of the diocese, but people of all ages gathered to hear from Bishop Michael W. Fisher and others who gave witness to their personal dilemmas and triumphs when it came to unexpected pregnancies.

Bishop Fisher told the young people that they are precious and the Church needs them to continue the protection of all life from conception to natural death.

“We need your voice. We need your witness. We need your zeal. We need your enthusiasm. And we need your hope. No more do we need that than when we are speaking out for life,” he said.

Adam Jarosz, youth minister for St. Greg’s, introduced witness talks from Cheryl Calire, executive director of the Office of Pastoral Ministries, and Jennifer Freiburger, assistant coordinator for the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center.

Calire spoke on the role the Church has in advocating for life issues.

“When our family had a personal family crisis, I didn’t call my best friend, I didn’t call my mother, I didn’t call my father. I got in a car and drove to talk to my parish priest,” she said. “I can only hope that after today that there will be something instilled in you to be able to say to yourself, ‘I need Christ in my life. I need my shepherd in my life.’”

Freiburger told of being a teen and sitting in the same seats as the teens today, heartbroken after learning that abortion was legal and available. She stood in front of the Main Street clinic in Buffalo. She spoke to women about to enter for abortions, hoping to change their minds. “I was passionately pro-life,” she said.

As an adult, she came face to face with the reality of so many women before her. Divorced and pregnant, she did not think she could raise another child on her own, so she planned an abortion.

“I didn’t want to do it, but I couldn’t see how I could possibly bring a child into this world, not being able to provide. I justified it,” she explained.

A call asking her for donations to a pro-life charity caused her to berate the well-meaning person on the phone. After hearing Freiburger’s story, he organized a meeting with Calire at Chuck E. Cheese.

A swarm of exuberant pro-lifers brave the freezing temperatures to show their support for the sanctity of the unborn. They marched in front of St. Gregory the Great Parish in Williamsville on Jan. 22 as part of a daylong series of pro-life events. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

“My heart was changed. My relationship with God was being mended. God showed me through Cheryl that He will provide. I had to realize and go back to no matter how shameful this is, no matter what God is meant to provide. He is my strength. He takes away my shame.”

She canceled the scheduled abortion, then went on to have a healthy son, as well as get a degree. For someone who felt she could not raise another child, she has succeeded. “I cannot even explain how blessed my life has become.”

The day closed with Mass celebrated by Bishop Fisher, where Father Daniel Ulmer, parochial vicar of St. Gregory the Great, delivered a homily which touched on his own brush with abortion. His mother was 39 when pregnant with him. A nurse suggested amniocenteses so that, “if anything is wrong with the baby, you can get rid of it.”

“That’s the mindset. If there’s something wrong with it, just get rid of it,” Father Ulmer said.

Phyllis Ulmer said no to the thought of abortion. “My child is my child. I will love him no matter what,” she said, and went on to have a healthy son.

Father Ulmer suggested to the congregation that living by example will promote the culture of life. “Each and every day we need to show how we love all human life. We need to be people who treat other people with dignity and respect. When we show people they are made in God’s image and likeness, we are affirming that each and every person deserves life.”

He said supporting pro-life charities such as St. Gianna’s and Mother Teresa Home also support the culture of life. 

Alex Judge has attended the March for Life in Washington in the past, and was excited to be part of this year’s local event.

“I think that being pro-life is really important, especially in a world where it is nowhere to be found. It’s really important to stand up for what we believe in, that we take a stand to protect people who mean the most and everyone has a chance at life no matter what. It’s not our choice to make. It is only God’s choice.”

The 19-year-old from Williamsville was surprised by the number of people who came. “It was encouraging to see a bunch of young people here,” she said. “I’m really proud of everyone for sticking it out in the cold too.”

A rosary of balloons floats above St. Gregory the Great Parish in Williamsville on Jan. 22 as part of a daylong series of pro-life events. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

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