PROVIDENCE — Not all heroes wear capes. Some just say “yes” to life in difficult circumstances.
“Please God, each of us can be a hero every time we defend and protect human life,” Father Nathan Ricci, J.C.L., said in his homily during the annual Respect for Life Mass, which was held on Jan. 18 at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence.
Father Ricci, the assistant chancellor for the Diocese of Providence, told the story of a fellow priest’s mother who resisted the “whispers of wolves clothed as sheep” to abort three crisis pregnancies. In each case, she chose life, including the third pregnancy where she ignored her doctors’ advice to have an abortion because of medical complications. Instead, she gave birth to a boy who would become a priest.
“Because of her ‘yes’ to life, her child would become a bridge between God and man,” Father Ricci said. “Her simple ‘yes’ to one human life would prepare the way for thousands of thirsty souls on their journey to eternal life.”
More than 150 people attended the Saturday morning Mass, which featured a visit from the missionary image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas and of the unborn. The missionary image is visiting several parishes in Rhode Island from Jan. 10 to Feb. 3.
Children from St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Providence presented 13 roses before the image; 12 for an unborn child who is aborted every month and the 13th rose for mothers, fathers, grandparents and everyone impacted by abortion’s aftermath.
Carol Owens, the Life and Family Ministry coordinator for the Diocese of Providence, prayed for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe “to bring God’s people together as we continue our mission to overcome this culture of death in society.
“Let that peace begin today,” Owens said.
The annual Respect for Life Mass was held after a difficult year for the local pro-life community that saw Rhode Island lawmakers in 2019 enact a law that expanded abortion access in the state, including late-term abortions in some cases.
“We suffered a very historic defeat this past year. Unfortunately, it’s not getting any better, and it might get worse,” said Barth Bracy, the executive director of the Rhode Island Right to Life Committee, who attended the Mass.
“We need God’s help and we need people to stand up because the other side is inflamed,” Bracy said. “They got the wind at their back and now they’re going for public funding of abortion, and they very well may get it if we don’t have more pro-lifers standing up and making their voices heard.”
In the current legislative session, Bracy said Planned Parenthood and its allies are lobbying state legislators to permit public funding of abortion, which is currently prohibited in Rhode Island, through coverage of the procedure in Medicaid, state employee health insurance plans and via plans sold on the state’s health insurance exchange.
Emboldend by victories in Vermont and New Jersey, the assisted suicide lobby, led by the organization Compassion & Choices, is also targeting Rhode Island, Bracy said. A bill that would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medication was filed last year, but didn’t advance.
“I think it’s very possible, if not probable, that this year and next year, Rhode Island is going to be one of the states that they’re going to be focusing their resources on and making a large push,” Bracy said of the assisted suicide lobby.
“So the challenges are great,” Bracy added. “Now, more than ever, we need God’s help, but God’s help often comes through for faithful pro-life Catholics who hear the message and stand up and get involved, and make their voices heard.”
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, who presided at the Respect for Life Mass, told those in attendance: “As we know, we need God’s help in everything we do. We pray in our liturgy today for God’s assistance, and grace and power in our work on behalf of human life.”
Bishop Tobin later told the pro-life faithful, “You are all heroes.”
“We thank you for defending the gift of human life,” the bishop said.
Janice Minuto, a parishioner of St. Patrick Church in Providence who attended the Mass, spoke after the liturgy of the importance of engaging the faithful and getting them energized on behalf of life. She also praised Father Ricci for his homily, which she described as very clear and not leaving anything to misinterpretation.
“It was so truthful, so important and so relevant,” Minuto said. “It was really beautiful.”