PROVIDENCE — Fifteen years ago, Iris Luzon found herself pregnant and seriously considering an abortion. But she said her grandmother’s prayers and fervent Catholic faith inspired her to choose life for her unborn daughter.
“The pro-life cause is very important to me,” said Luzon, whose daughter is now 15. Luzon and her husband, Juan, both wore black “Pro-Life” long-sleeved T-shirts at the annual Respect Life Mass, held Jan. 23 at the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul.
“I believe it’s a human right. I believe every child deserves to be born,” said Juan Luzon, who normally attends Mass with his wife at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Providence.
Attendance at the morning Mass was at the allowed COVID-19 guidelines capacity as the faithful prayed for the unborn and the threats to human life.
“We’re all standing up for life. We want to push back against this evil that has plagued our country for 48 years,” Lorraine Beaudoin, a parishioner of St. Joseph Church in Providence, said in reference to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade that declared abortion to be a constitutional right.
With a new presidential administration that supports legal abortion, Beaudoin said she was attending the Respect Life Mass because it is time to “double down and pray more.”
“Abortion is something that wounds your heart forever. It leaves a big hole,” Beaudoin said.
The Respect Life Mass featured a visit from the missionary image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas and of the unborn. The image is visiting several parishes this month throughout Rhode Island.
At the cathedral, children from St. Charles Borromeo Church 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.
“She’s needed more than ever,” said Lisa Cooley, the coordinator for the Diocese of Providence’s Office of Life and Family Ministry, said, referring to the patroness.
Quoting from the words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, Cooley urged those in attendance to work toward creating an awareness of all the threats to all human life, “from the innocent unborn child in the womb to the sick and dying.”
“Let us not lose our focus,” Cooley said. “Through the intercession of Our Lady, we too will enter a new era of peace and sanctity of all human life.”
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin was the main celebrant for the Respect Life Mass. Father Stephen J. Dandeneau, pastor of St. Eugene Church in Chepachet, delivered a stirring homily that emphasized that the Gospel of Life is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“When we stand up for the unborn as we are today, and when we stand up for everybody else whose lives and human dignity are unjustly threatened as we do today, we are standing up for Jesus Christ,” said Father Dandeneau, who added that every task, no matter how small, that is done to promote the culture of life is not overlooked or forgotten by God.
“The pro-life cause isn’t just another cause among many,” Father Dandeneau said. “The pro-life cause gets to the heart and soul of our faith. As Christians we believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Gospel of Life.”
Many in the cathedral later applauded Father Dandeneau for his homily.
“I’ve heard a lot of good pro-life sermons, but that was right at the top,” said Matthew Ray, a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in West Warwick.
Robert Leonard, a parishioner of Saints John and Paul Church in Coventry, said he “loved” Father Dandeneau’s homily.
“It was excellent. He touched on all the aspects of the problem we’re trying to fight right now with abortion,” said Leonard, who serves on his parish’s Right to Life committee. As a father of three grown children and a grandfather to six young grandchildren, Leonard said he gets “teary-eyed thinking that a baby could be killed in the womb.”
“We have no right to harm the child. That baby is a gift from God, and deserves to live. I can’t imagine any of my grandchildren not being here with us,” Leonard said.
After the Mass, Bishop Tobin thanked everyone for coming amid the difficult circumstances of the pandemic.
“Your presence today is very inspiring and very encouraging,” the bishop said.
“I hope you keep up the good work. Stay strong in your faith. Stay strong in your commitment to human life. Stay strong in your commitment to the Gospel of Life; living it, praying for it, working for it every day.”