Central Floridians celebrate life

Jan 25, 2024
Members of the Culture of Life ministry at Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo pray during the Mass for Life, Jan. 19, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Orlando. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

ORLANDO | Arriving early as they do every Friday, three women from Resurrection Parish in Winter Garden quietly read Scripture and pray for their children, several of whom are already adults. Recognizing the need to intercede, that all might have life in Christ, Marcia Fonseca, Cristane Freites and Christina Pereira meet regularly at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe. On Jan. 19, 2024, their pleas, united with the faithful around the Diocese of Orlando, came before the Lord at the Mass for Life.

Before Mass, Father Edwin Cardona, parochial administrator of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Altamonte Springs, led the congregation in the Rosary of Our Lady of Sorrows. Catholic Charities of Central Florida staff, respect life ministers, and Tina Stafstrom from Life Choices Medical Clinic in Altamonte Springs each led a decade in the name of single mothers, aborted children, the elderly, lawmakers, and more.

“We’ve come to know who we are, and that all life is sacred,” shared Bishop John Noonan. He stated the great tragedy of disrespect for life continues because “people have lost a sense of hope and of who God is, and above all, lost the sense of the Creator.” Mass for Life covered these men and women in prayer.

Others filling the basilica were students, religious, pro-life agencies, and parishioners from around the diocese. Savannah, a freshman at Bishop Moore Catholic High School commented on the beauty of the Mass.

“I could see how many people truly believe in how sacred life is,” she said. “It’s so amazing to see Catholics come together in an effort to protect the lives of everyone, from the unborn to the very old.”

The school’s Director of Mission Effectiveness, JP Kuhlman found the students’ excitement powerful.

“Our young people are so passionate about promoting a Culture of Life, and they are such joyful witnesses of the beauty of every human life,” he said.

A group of seven women, members of the Culture of Life Ministry at Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo, sat toward the front of the church. The ladies were there to fulfill their desire to participate in the communal prayer of the Mass, offered for the vulnerable. Facilitator Eileen Janke welcomed the opportunity, unable to go to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Ministry member Mary Catherine Deeter said she participated in the Mass for Life “to pray we go back to where the right to life is paramount.”

Some of the prayers Ted Allington devotes to the protection of life. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

Toward the back of the church, Ted Allington sat quietly pensive. Waiting for Mass to begin, his eyes were focused on several prayer cards among the pages of his daily Missal – a prayer to St. Joseph, to the Mother of the Holy Innocents, Padre Pio, and others. The cards often form part of his prayer practice, interceding for the unborn.

Allington has been praying for an end to abortion for years. Each day he offers a devotional prayer to the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, praying the Holy Family opens the eyes of those seeking to end a life, that they might discover the sacredness of the gift.

Sometimes Allington goes to Planned Parenthood on University Blvd., near the University of Central Florida and prays discreetly from his car. There he prays a rosary and stays for about an hour “as a witness and to be there for the babies.”

“I always count how many women go in and how many come out,” he said noting there are roughly 10 women per day. Sadly, he says the numbers are relatively unchanged since the Dobbs decision to restrict abortions.

Allington recalled one day, a woman exited Planned Parenthood with pamphlets and headed right toward him. He became nervous. There was a reason he remained in his car. He did not want any confrontation, but to simply pray and allow the Holy Family to do their work through his prayer.

Much to his surprise, she passed him and dumped the pamphlets in the nearby dumpster. “It was amazing,” he said. Knowing he can never be sure what the woman decided, the experience still gave him hope that his prayers are working.

Hosted by Catholic Charities of Central Florida’s Culture of Life ministry, director Leidy Rivas closed the Mass noting, “As humans, created in the image and likeness of God, we possess a singular and distinct nature. The dignity of every person is a divine gift granted by God Himself. This means that every individual, from the moment of conception until natural death, possesses inherent dignity and immeasurable worth. This includes unborn children, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, the incarcerated, the exiled, and those marginalized by society. It is our responsibility to advocate for, safeguard, and cherish all human life.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, January 25, 2024