ORLANDO | Women could be seen praying a rosary near the Life Monument statue, an immense structure depicting the Virgin Mary with Jesus as an unborn child, visible within her womb. The visual — fervent mothers praying in defense of life to their spiritual mother — set the tone for the Mass for Life, Jan. 20.
The Resurrection Parish, Winter Garden, mothers’ charism is to pray for the intercession of Our Lady for children, born and unborn. Catholic Charities of Central Florida’s Culture of Life director Leidy Rivas said the Mass intention was for “the sacredness and dignity of all human life from conception to natural death.” The Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe is an opportunity to know “what our call is as Christians, that we have to value every human life – whether it’s the unborn to those on their death bed.”
The goal is a better understanding of Catholic Social Teaching and to connect people with information on ministries. She cited Aging with Dignity as an example of one which “models” St. Teresa of Kolkata’s work.
“So many don’t know these places exist. There are numerous pregnancy centers vetted by the Diocese of Orlando that are doing great work out there. They outnumber the abortion clinics in the diocese (about 10 to 1),” Rivas said, emphasizing the importance of prayer. “We really can’t change the minds and hearts of people if we don’t focus on Jesus Christ – starting there, letting him speak to us and tell us where He wants us to share our gifts and talents to use them for his glory.”
Deacon Gary Tester, president of Catholic Charities of Central Florida concurred with Rivas.
“While we can celebrate the courageous decision of the Supreme Court (in overturning Roe v Wade), it’s kind of sad that we live in such a blessed country, where we have to be grateful that they saw that murder was wrong,” he said. “Our greatest weapon against evil is prayer. We cannot stop praying for a change in this world, this country, this society. We must be vigorous in what we do. Every one of you has the ability to talk to your Creator about your concerns, on your terms.”
Tester suggested availing oneself of resources available in the community, many from Catholic Charities – refugee services, affordable housing, food pantries, free medical and dental clinics and senior services.
Recalling an experience earlier in the week upon arriving at the food pantry on Semoran Boulevard in Orlando, and seeing a double line of an estimated 125 people, he said, “Can you imagine the courage it takes to stand in a line on a public street, in the sun, with people you don’t know, to ask people you don’t know to help you feed the people you love and care for? And each and every one of those people that come to us have a dignity that comes from the Father. And every one of their lives should be respected.” It brought the point home that all are called to accompany those in need.
In his homily, Bishop John Noonan stated, “Laws alone do not change hearts and minds. Faith and reason will.” He applauded Catholic Charities and the diocesan office of Laity, Family and Life’s March 18 upcoming presentation of “In Your Hands”, a conference on healing, suicide awareness and Divine Mercy. “The Church is asking us to do something more,” Bishop Noonan said. “We are to improve our outreach and support to pregnant and parenting mothers in their need, encourage clergy and laity to make positive impacts together. It is together that we can change people’s heart; change the national pro-life conversation. It’s about life and it is important. We must give our parishioners the vision on what it is to be the Gospel of Life. May our next 50 years be a time for us to ask the Lord help inspire, lead, guide and strengthen our faith in God so we know and believe that life is a gift to protect and safeguard.”
To learn more about how to build a culture of life, click here.
To reach Catholic Charities of Central Florida’s Culture of Life office, click here.
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, January 27, 2023