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Huge Diocesan contingent led by Bishop, youth

Staff Report (Florida Catholic)


The 2017 National March for Life on Jan. 27 in Washington, D.C. may go down as a turning point in the Pro-Life movement as hope was prevalent and more than 450 marchers who represented the Diocese of Venice were there to witness history.

Led by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, the Diocesan group participated in each of the major activities associated with the National March for Life: Mass at the National Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception; a Youth Rally at the Verizon Center; participation in a Rally for Life on the National Mall; and finally taking part in the March to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court with hundreds of thousands of others from across the nation.

They are in Washington every year to solemnly commemorate the tragic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the case which opened the door for legalization of abortion in the United States, and to remember the more than 58 million Americans who have been lost to abortion.

Emmalee Brown, of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice said the March for Life “was truly inspiring. I felt proud and empowered being there and standing up for life with thousands of people.”

Brandon Stalnaker, of St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres, who was also attending his first March said “being in the crowd and feeling the energy of the people was more amazing than what I had imagined it would be.”

Andrew Herrera, also of St. Raphael, said that when he marches “it brings me gladness and sorrow. Gladness because I march for those who can’t defend themselves, and sorrow because my brothers and sisters around the world are still dying from this terrible death.”

Sadie Callahan of Epiphany Cathedral has been to the March several times. “each time I have attended, the March for Life has served as a life-changing experience for me through which I have been able to peacefully advocate my strong belief that every human life is a gift.”

Sadie’s mother, Regina Callhan said the 2017 March was her fifth, and “none of them have compared to the energy you could feel in the crowd, the presence of God and true hope for the future of this March. I see hope, determination, and a fire for life in our youth.”

Bishop Dewane said he was inspired to see the enthusiasm of the youth and is confident that the Pro-Life movement is strong within the younger generation. “The young people know; a large portion of their generation has been lost to abortion. This must end.”

The poignant experience of the 2017 March comes with the realization that the new President is Pro-Life. This was evidenced by the first-ever presence of a sitting Vice President, Mike Pence at the March. Also present was Kellyanne Conway, a key President Trump advisor.

Several of the Marchers who stayed in Washington into the weekend had an encounter with Conway at St. Patrick Church where they were all attending Mass. The group thanked her for being at the March and even had time to get a group picture.

Also positive was news that the Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions is adamantly Pro-Life, and just days after the March, President Trump named Pro-Life Judge Neil Gorsuch as the Supreme Court nominee.

Perhaps it was Paige Hardel of St. Agnes Parish in Naples who explained her reason for being in Washington the best: “We marched for those who couldn’t.”

In addition to youth from St. Agnes, Epiphany Cathedral and St. Raphael, pilgrims as part of the Diocesan group were also from Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota; Our Lady of the Angels Parish Lakewood Ranch; Bishop Verot Catholic High School in Fort Myers; St. William Parish in Naples; St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral; St. Francis Xavier Parish in Fort Myers; San Pedro Parish in North Port; St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples; St. Michael Parish in Wauchula; and St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples; as well as groups from the Rhodora Donahue Academy in Ave Maria, Ave Maria University, Ave Maria School of Law.

Priests present were Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish; Father Dennis Cooney, Pastor of St. Raphael Parish; Father Eric Scanlan, Diocese Director of Vocation; Father Casey Jones, Chaplain at Bishop Verot; Father Steven Clemente, Parochial Vicar of St. Katharine Drexel; Father John Hoang, Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of the Angels; Father Duong Nguyen, Parochial Vicar of San Marco Parish in Marco Island; and Father Joseph Gates, Parochial Vicar of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers.

Praying for life did not end in Washington, the Diocese Respect Life Office will be hosting several prayer walks in the coming weeks, including two 40 Days for Life spring campaigns.

Join Bishop Dewane for the 8:30 a.m. Mass on Feb. 21, at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, 2500 Easy St., Port Charlotte, followed by a procession to the nearby abortion center (1/2 mile) to pray for an end to abortion in Charlotte County.

On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop will celebrate 8 a.m. Mass at St. John the Evangelist Parish, 625 111th Ave. N., Naples.  This will be followed by a peaceful Prayer Walk at a nearby Planned Parenthood. This event marks the beginning of the Spring 40 Days for Life Campaign.

In addition, for the first time, there will be a 40 Days for Life spring campaign outside of Planned Parenthood in Fort Myers, at the corner of at College Parkway and Winkler Road from March 1 to April 9. 

Everyone is welcome to each of these peaceful prayer walks. To learn more about these and other Diocesan Respect Life activities please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/respectlife or contact Jeanne Berdeaux, Diocese Respect Life Director, at Berdeaux@dioceseofvenice.org or 941-374-1068.

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