Marching for life in state capital

HARTFORD — Hundreds of Catholics from Fairfield County joined people of all faiths at the Connecticut March for Life on March 22 to send a pro-life message to state legislators that they want “laws to protect life and not take life.”

Several thousand rallied at the State Capitol as lawmakers begin discussing a Constitutional amendment that would legalize abortion at any time during pregnancy, along with a bill that would give public funds for women to travel to Connecticut for an abortion.

“The speakers at the rally inspired the crowd to be courageous, to speak up for life and be loving and compassionate,” said Maureen Ciardiello, Coordinator of Respect Life and Project Rachel for the Diocese of Bridgeport. “It brought together people of all faiths, ages and cultures — not just Catholics — from across the state, who were united in their desire to be heard by our legislators. It showed them there are many in Connecticut who value the culture of life and want laws to protect, not take life.”

Among those attending the rally were Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair and Auxiliary Bishop Juan M. Betancourt of the Archdiocese of Hartford, and Bishop Michael R. Cote of the Diocese of Norwich.

On the eve of the march, Bishop Caggiano celebrated a Vigil Mass for life at St. James Parish in Stratford and told the congregation that human life is sacred, only to be given and taken by God — and that it reached its perfection in the personhood of Jesus Christ.

The second annual March for Life was held at a time when legislative committees begin discussing issues that also include assisted suicide and parental notification for children under 16 who seek abortion services.

“It’s important for people to realize that since the Dobbs decision, the battle now is here in Hartford to protect life and to stop what we anticipate will be an effort by abortionists to see a state Constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to take innocent life,” said Christopher C. Healy, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference. “We anticipate that, we welcome that fight, and we are ready to deal with it. So we are urging people to re-engage on a basic level through their parishes and pro-life ministries to reach out to their elected officials and be heard.”

The U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade after almost 50 years left it up to the states to debate issues, such as when life begins and restrictions on abortion.

The Hartford event began with a rally outside the Capitol building, followed by a march through Bushnell Park and along several streets.

The march was sponsored by the Connecticut Catholic Conference in collaboration with the national March for Life Education and Defense Fund. Twenty-eight buses, subsidized by the Knights of Columbus, transported people from 14 churches and schools in the diocese to the rally. David Janny of St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull organized the buses with the help of Drew Dillingham, the pro-life director of the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council.

“The Knights deserve a tremendous amount of credit for all they did so people could get to the rally,” Janny said. “I am very involved in pro-life causes, and the march shows there are a lot more pro-life supporters in Connecticut than meet the eye. My prayer is that this gives all the pro-life people in the state the courage to stand up and make our views heard. I think we can build on this success and have even more come out next year.”

Father Nicholas Pavia, chaplain of St. Joseph’s Manor in Trumbull and of the diocese’s Bereavement Ministry, has long been active in the pro-life movement, and drove to Hartford for the march.

“After I celebrated Mass at St. Joseph Manor, I went to the march, and it was perfect timing in so many ways,” he said. “So it is with every pre-born person made in God’s image to answer some prayers only God knows. And his plan and timing are always perfect. Therefore no human being must separate what God has put in motion, totally unique and wonderfully made.”

Marie Moura, who leads a prayer ministry for the dying at St. Joseph Parish in Shelton and Our Lady of Fatima in Bridgeport, said: “I felt the presence of God in those very powerful speakers, and I was moved to see so many young adults participate in the march. I hope and pray the awareness we are creating about abortion will teach young adults the importance of life. How many women who have had abortions really understood they were killing somebody? In my heart, I believe they were unaware of what they were doing because they weren’t taught about the importance of life, and now so many of them are hurting and really in pain. But our God is a forgiving God, and we need to have compassion for them. I believe with God anything is possible, and he will make all this better. We have to believe that and have faith and keep praying because prayer is powerful.”

Rosemary Samoskevich, a member of 40 Days for Life Bridgeport, said that like others, she felt “the need to speak out for the defenseless, including the babies in the womb, the aged and sick who are considered a burden to society, the pregnant mothers … who need support when the world advertises abortion as healthcare and attempts to conceal the truth and offer an expedient solution with ‘no consequences.’”

She also criticized the federal government for its ineffective response to violence against pregnancy centers and churches in recent years over the issue of abortion.

“We marched because we are concerned citizens who embrace our Constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and believe in the inalienable right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’” she said. “We represent many concerned citizens who hold these values, but see them eroding.”

Barbara Grabowski, the leader of 40 Days for Life Bridgeport, attended the march with several colleagues, including Irene Gifford and her son Brian, who regularly give witness to life at rallies and vigils around the diocese.

At the Hartford march, they distributed materials about 40 Days for Life, which is an international organization that campaigns against abortion in more than 60 nations. The grassroots campaign brings together people of all denominations in a campaign of prayer, fasting and peaceful witness to seek God’s favor in turning hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, and to bring an end to abortion in America.

“It was great that so many participated to make our voices heard in Hartford,” Grabowski said. “The four Connecticut 40 Days for Life campaigns are offering each other support and encouragement with our respective campaigns, and we handed out a large amount of signage at the march.”

She expressed gratitude to the bishops for working together to make the march possible.

“They worked together as a Connecticut Catholic community of faith, offered Masses and made the march a great success,” she said. “It was good to see representation from all four corners of the state. After all, we may be a small state, but we have a big voice. I hope they heard us.”

Don Mallozzi, who heads the pro-life ministry of St. Edward the Confessor Parish in New Fairfield, along with the 40 Days for Life campaign in Danbury, has been organizing pro-life activities among parishes in the Greater Danbury area. He said some 40 people left from St. Edward’s and St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Parish in Brookfield for the Hartford march.

“The message for us is to fight against abortion and for the elderly and to oppose bills that come up in the state for issues like assisted suicide,” Mallozzi said. “There was a great sense of camaraderie. We were very encouraged by the march and the thousands who attended give us hope that we can fight together to create a culture of life in Connecticut.”

Several hundred college and high school students also participated in the march. Gemma Marchetti, Anna Melton, Thomas Grimm, John Paul Underhill and Ava Lannigan from Cardinal Kung Academy in Stamford led the Pledge of Allegiance at the rally.