October 9, 2009

Hundreds take part in Respect Life Mass, Life Chain

Bobby Vogel, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Jennings County, leans on crutches while he prays during the Central Indiana Life Chain on Oct. 4 along North Meridian Street in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Bobby Vogel, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Jennings County, leans on crutches while he prays during the Central Indiana Life Chain on Oct. 4 along North Meridian Street in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

Teenager Bobby Vogel, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Jennings County, believes in standing up for life—even when he has to rely on crutches.

Bobby is a member of the cross county team at Jennings County High School in North Vernon, and is recovering from a stress fracture of his right tibia which happened while he was running.

He was among more than 20 Catholic youths and adults from St. Mary, St. Ann and St. Joseph parishes in Jennings County who traveled to Indianapolis on Oct. 4 to participate in the archdiocesan Respect Life Sunday Mass and the ecumenical Central Indiana Life Chain.

“When I was given the opportunity, I wanted to come,” Bobby said as he adjusted the crutches under his arms. He stood in front of the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center on North Meridian Street during the one-hour, pro-life prayer chain.

The national Life Chain project is dedicated to prayers for an end to abortion.

“I just hope that all young mothers don’t give up the gift of life that they have been given,” Bobby said. “They have such a precious gift, and they shouldn’t give that up. My prayer is just to save a life because so many children have died in abortion. So many lives are gone. So many [unborn] babies never get a chance to live.”

St. Mary parishioners Ron and Carolyn Doxsee of North Vernon stood next to Bobby during the pro-life prayer vigil.

“My prayer is that if we could save one child’s life today that would be great,” Ron Doxsee said. “Hopefully, we can end abortion in our country. That’s the ultimate goal, one step at a time.”

About 500 Catholics from central and southern Indiana represented most of the 11 archdiocesan deaneries at the Respect Life Sunday Mass.

“More than 40 banners carried in the procession at the Mass represent the pro-life efforts in the parishes and schools, and among the various groups in the archdiocese,” explained Servants of the Gospel of Life Sister Diane Carollo, director of the archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry.

“We also had a very large Hispanic presence at the Mass,” Sister Diane said. “They are very pro-life and pro-family.”

At the conclusion of the liturgy, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein presented the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Respect Life Award to Christopher Payne, a member of St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington, for his distinguished volunteer service to the cause of life.

Archbishop Buechlein also recognized St. Mark the Evangelist parishioner Alea Bowling of Indianapolis and Branden Stanley of Danville, who is a member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, with Our Lady of Guadalupe Pro-Life Youth Awards for their exceptional pro-life volunteer service.

In his homily during the annual Respect Life Sunday Mass, Archbishop Buechlein reminded the gathering that “our Church continues to stand up for the dignity of all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.”

Pro-life supporters who embrace this sacred duty deserve our heartfelt thanks and prayers, he said, for holding fast to “your commitment to life in a culture that is drifting more and more from its source, the Creator of our human dignity, God himself.”

The Scripture readings for Mass remind us that the dignity of human life and the sacrament of marriage are gifts from God, the archbishop said. “We learn from the first reading that the institution of marriage was created by God. Marriage is not an institution created by the state. It is not even an institution created by the Church. It is created by God, and that underscores the dignity of marriage.”

Addressing the often heated national debate on health care reform, Archbishop Buechlein noted that “concern for the dignity of human persons, in all its dimensions, is very much on our minds.

“Our culture continues to struggle to understand a mature definition of human freedom and of individual rights,” he said. “Individual freedom is good, but it goes wrong if the good of the individual does harm to the common good of society.

“When the sole determination of what is morally true and good is left up to the individual’s choice, then that individual claims for himself or herself the role of God,” Archbishop Buechlein said. “Sisters and brothers, sometimes we forget that justice begins with our responsibilities to God. We owe everything to God. That includes respecting his image and likeness mirrored in all of human life.”

Americans need to expand their understanding of the word “justice,” he said, because “if God is absent, justice is meaningless.”

In the forefront of the national debate about health care reform are many important issues pertaining to the dignity and sanctity of human life, the archbishop said. “Among these, the premier priority is protection of the unborn from the very moment of conception. Abortion is not acceptable under any circumstance.”

Euthanasia and embryonic stem-cell research also are unacceptable and therefore are not negotiable, he said, because of the abuse and destruction of human life.

“The principle involved is this,” he said. “We can’t do wrong in order to do good. The purpose of an action does not justify evil means.”

One of the controversial issues in the health care debate is the care of immigrants, including the illegal immigrants, the archbishop said, and the focus of this complex immigration situation must respect the human dignity of all our sisters and brothers.

“Some folks don’t want to hear this,” he said, “but the search for solutions [to the debates on immigration and health care reform] must be fair and workable.”

Our concern for the poor is a serious moral agenda, he said, that calls for responsible citizenship as American Catholics.

“The formation of our conscience, sisters and brothers, as we continue the dialogue over health care reform is a challenge,” Archbishop Buechlein said, and this formation process must include an emphasis on prayer. †

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