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Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, Life Chain shows visible support for unborn

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A breezy but sunny afternoon greeted those who gathered along thoroughfares throughout Western New York in “life chains,” silently praying while holding up signs sharing assorted messages with a common message urging respect for and protection of the unborn.

Holding signs to show their support of life, hundreds of people stand along Maple Road and Niagara Falls Boulevard as part of the Life Chain. (Photo by Michael Mroziak)

 “Unfortunately, we have to meet again this year to protest the slaughter of the innocents, of the unborn children who are penalized by abortion,” said Ed Germain, who along with his wife, Diane, coordinated the life chain outside St. Christopher Church in the Town of Tonawanda. “We have many supporters here, both as St. Christopher’s, and those who join us outside the parish.”

Those who arrived at St. Christopher to take part spread out on the sidewalk along Niagara Falls Boulevard, spacing themselves several feet apart. Turnout was lower than the previous year, Germain admitted. There was a Buffalo Bills game in progress during the prayer hour. Additionally, Germain wondered, was the possibility that some may feel more complacent following the decision in June by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case which resulted in legalized abortion nationwide.

The issue, he points out, is far from settled and will be one which motivates many voters in November. The ruling by the nation’s highest court earlier this year gives states the power to determine their own abortion legislation. Some states, upon the ruling, immediately enacted restrictions or bans. Leaders in New York, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, have indicated they intend to codify laws which legalized abortion legal in the state even before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

 “It’s going to go to the states, and the states are going to become the battlegrounds,” Germain said. “And New York state is one of the most, if not the most liberal abortion states. We have to pray and act.”

Meanwhile, people stood shoulder-to-shoulder along Maple Road in Williamsville, in front of St. Gregory the Great Church. Coordinators estimated about 175 people stood along the sidewalk, while others prayed inside the parish’s Eucharist Adoration Chapel.

“Pro-life,” as defined by the Catholic Church, covers not only the abortion issue but other matters including euthanasia, dignity of disenfranchised persons, and the death penalty. 

Mary Pesarchick, who chairs the Respect Life Committee at St. Gregory the Great, noted that gun violence is also an issue to be considered, and pointed out that Father Leon Biernat, pastor at St. Gregory the Great, has addressed it to his congregation.

But while there’s a wider range of concerns to those who call themselves pro-life, Pesarchick explained when asked why there’s much more focus on the abortion issue.

“The abortion issue is the trunk of the tree. If we don’t get this right, the rest of it doesn’t really matter,” she replied. “The (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) have said that this is the preeminent issue, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that or run away from that idea.”

Life chains were planned and hosted throughout the diocese. Attendance numbers among them were mixed, with clusters of participants appearing sporadically along busy roadways throughout the diocese.

One of those clusters featured a pairing of Catholics and Lutherans, gathered outside First Trinity Lutheran Church at Niagara Falls Boulevard and Braxmar Road.

“This is an excellent cause, and probably one of the most important of our day,” said Susan Whited, a member of First Trinity Lutheran Church. “I’m so grateful that we can work together. It’s wonderful.”

Representing the Catholic portion of the interdenominational group were members of St. Gabriel Parish in Elma. Among them was Mark Bittner, who explained that St. Gabriel members make the drive to Tonawanda because they can reach more people along the boulevard than in their community.

St. Gregory the Great Parish in Williamsville saw 175 people join in the Life Chain on Respect Life Sunday, Oct. 2. (Photo by Michael Mroziak)

Holding a sign and a rosary, Bittner estimated he has participated in life chains for about “20 to 30 years.” In all those years, he has seen plenty of mixed reactions from passing motorists, ranging from car horns honking in support, to passing drivers displaying obscene gestures. He joked that, “We’re number one in a lot of people’s homes,” but then shared his strategy for overcoming the negative responses. 

“Everything comes through Jesus,” Bittner replied. “Anything that happens out here, you just relate to what Jesus went through. He went through His agony and passion, so He calls us to do the same.”

Whited also acknowledged mixed responses by passing motorists, and likewise brushed off the nastier reactions.

“Today was the first time I saw two middle fingers and no hands on the wheel,” she said. “But you know what? It doesn’t matter. God loves everybody, and we want to make our voices heard for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

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