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Bishop Fisher Features Pro-Life

Bishop blesses new respect life coordinators


The pro-life effort in the Diocese of Buffalo gained strength with the commissioning of 10 new Respect Life coordinators. Their role is to uphold the dignity of all life. They serve the diocese by coordinating efforts in their parish to align with large-scale efforts such as the March for Life, 40 Days for Life, and collections for the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Centers.

Michael Szpakowski, from St. John the Baptist Parish in Lockport, accepts a certificate from Bishop Michael W. Fisher and Cheryl Zielen-Ersing naming him a respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Buffalo. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

Bishop Michael W. Fisher celebrated Mass at St. Louis Parish in downtown Buffalo on Sept. 23 to personally welcome them aboard. The Mass was followed with an informational inservice for the coordinators led by Cheryl Calire, director of the diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities.

“We thank you in a very special way for the work that you continue to do, lifting up all the dignity of all life and keeping that message before our people throughout our diocese and in our parishes,” Bishop Fisher said at Mass.

Bishop Fisher read a statement from Bishop Michael Burbidge, chairperson of the Pro-Life Committee for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who he worked with in Washington.

“He put out a statement not too long ago and it really sets the tone for our work in this coming year,” he said.

Bishop Burbidge wrote, “While ending legalized abortion remains a preeminent priority, the most immediate way to save babies and mothers from abortion is to thoroughly surround mothers in need with life-giving support and personal accompaniment.”

Bishop Michael W. Fisher, with assistance from Father Sean Paul Fleming, blesses those attending the Sept. 23 respct life coordinators commissioning Mass at St. Louis Parish. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

“There we have the language of our heavenly father,” Bishop Fisher said, “that word accompaniment, meaning a word to support one another. He goes on and this is the phrase, ‘This is radical solidarity.’ St. John Paul II first defined radical solidarity in this way. ‘In firmly rejecting pro-choice, it is necessary to become courageously pro-woman, promoting a choice that is truly in favor of women. The only honest stance in these cases is that of radical solidarity with the woman. It is not right to leave her alone. I, being in radical solidarity with women who are pregnant, raising children in difficult circumstances, means putting our love for them into action and putting their needs before our own.’”

Pope Francis has said that solidarity means more than a few sporadic acts of generosity. Rather, it suggests a new mindset and a change of heart that allows one to walk alongside expectant mothers with compassion and support for both the mother and child. It means addressing the fundamental challenges that lead an expectant mother to believe she is unable to welcome the child.

“So again, this statement I think gives us a wonderful motivation and mission and theme for the year in our Church to follow,” the bishop said. 

Following Mass, Calire led the commissioning of the new respect life coordinators. 

St. John the Baptist Parish in Lockport welcomed three new coordinators.

Sarah Lindstrom, from the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center, reads from Thessalonians at the Sept. 23 Mass at St. Louis Parish that commissioned new respect life coordinators. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

“I’ve always been very pro-life,” said Jeffrey Halstead, who has worked with the Knights of Columbus for more than 20 years. “That’s one of the reasons I joined the Knights of Columbus, because it is the major pro-life movement in this country. When it comes down to it, all of our rights don’t mean anything if we don’t have the right to life. If you’re not allowed to be born, not a lot means much after that.”

Michael Szpakowski had been praying in front of the Women’s Services Clinic in Buffalo every Saturday morning for the past seven years.

“I just believe in the sanctity of life and we have to speak out for the children in the womb,” he said. “And we also have to find a way to speak to women who are suffering from the trauma of abortion, so that they may find peace. We have to find a way to stop the madness that’s been handed down from generation to generation, especially for the past 50 years.”

Daniel Passarell said he’s new to the cause. A fellow parishioner recruited him after seeing a pro-life sign in front of his house.

“I think the Church is right about the dignity of all human life,” he said. “If we don’t have respect for the dignity of human life then as a society, we’re going to continue to degrade into chaos. If we can’t respect our own life And the dignity of the most vulnerable, then what can we say we stand for.”

Karen Ralabate started her efforts at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Cheektowaga back in January. She now works with the community to put information into the parish bulletin, leads a group of 11 in prayer outside Planned Parenthood in West Seneca clinic the first Friday of the month, and held a baby shower for St. Gianna Molla Center on Mother’s Day. They also installed a monument at the parish in the memory of unborn babies.

She got involved after being unable to see her mother before her death due to Covid restrictions.

“So, all of those life issues touched me in all those different areas. I wanted to see what I could do to help our parish, and people, and myself in healing from these different things that happened in our lives.”


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