STAMFORD—They stood on the sidewalks and street corners, holding signs that proclaimed the sanctity of life to the world passing by. Signs that said, “Abortion kills children,” and “Lord, forgive us and our nation” and “Abortion hurts women.” Some people scoffed, others honked their horns to show support.
Several dozen faithful from the diocese took part in the “Life Chain” on Atlantic Street outside the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist on Sunday after the annual Respect Life Mass.
An organizer of the Life Chain, Tim Dineen of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton, said, “Our purpose is to make people aware that abortion has to be overcome in this country. You never know how the Holy Spirit is working. Someone may see one of the signs we’re holding and be changed by it.”
The Life Chain is held every year on the first Sunday in October at 1,200 locations across the country, where people pray and rally. It was begun in 1987 by a small California pro-life ministry called “Please Let Me Live.”
Frank Carpanzano, who has been organizing the event for the past ten years at the Basilica, said, “We just want to let people know that life is sacred and needs to be protected. We are here to give witness and to pray for an end to abortion. We have to let the Lord decide when it is going to end, and we have to pray and persevere.”
Maureen Ciardiello, coordinator of the Respect Life Ministry of the diocese’s Office of Faith Formation, organizes the Mass every year, which kicks off Respect Life Month. The event also marks the beginning of Respect Life Year, which offers educational programs and information to create awareness of the sanctity of life and show the community what it means to stand up for life. (For more information, contact the Office of Faith Formation at 203.416.1670 or email: OfficeofFaithFormation@diobpt.org.)
“We do a more peaceful, prayerful presence,” she said, rather than getting involved in the angry debate that surrounds the issue of abortion. “It is part of our faith to stand up for people who are vulnerable and to bring it all in prayer to Christ and let him be at the center of it all…Since the Mass is the ultimate form of prayer, there’s no better way to start out the Respect Life Year than with the Mass.”
In his homily, Father Albert Audette Jr. said that more than half of Catholics “offer their children up in sacrifice through abortion,” which he called “an unbelievably horrible sin.” “How can this be?” he asked.
He also pointed to the importance of having a strong faith in Christ and cited the example of the Apostles. “The Apostles were very concerned with their faith and as they grew in the realization that Jesus was the Messiah, their faith became abundantly clear and they suffered martyrdom and great tragedies in their short lives,” he said.
He told the congregation, “We are the Apostles of today, who must form the faith, guard the faith and give it to our little ones.”
Photos by Amy Mortensen
Scholastica Nabwire, president of the Legion of Mary, took part in the rally after Mass and stood on Atlantic Street with a sign that said, “Jesus forgives and heals.”
“Our world is just crazy,” she said. “We need Our Lord and Our Mother to help us because we can’t do it by ourselves.” Originally from Uganda, she has been a parishioner at the Basilica 22 years and is in formation to become a lay Franciscan.
“We need to fight for life because some people just don’t understand,” she said. “We have to be an example for them so they can see how we live our lives because it so hard to persuade somebody who is not trying to follow God.”
Father Joseph Gill, parochial vicar at the Basilica, took part in the rally and held a sign that said, “Lord, forgive us and our nation.”
“When I was growing up in Maryland, we did the same thing on Respect Life Sunday, and I was five years old when I went to my first one,” he recalled. “For me this issue is the modern day Holocaust, and in years to come, we will look back and ask ourselves as a nation how could we have allowed this to happen in much the same way the Germans asked themselves how they could allow that to happen in their own back yard.”
“I would encourage people not to be afraid to stand up for life,” he said. “What we were doing is a positive thing by pointing out that all life is sacred from conception to natural death. We are trying to raise awareness in a big way. There are people in Stamford who don’t know this is an issue and that it happens right here in our city.”
He said that a fundamental tactic of Satan is to deceive us so that we see life as a threat rather than a gift from God.
Fred Cobb stood on the corner of Atlantic Street and Tresser Boulevard, and held a sign that said, “Women DO regret abortion.” He is a parishioner at the Basilica and also a member of the Sidewalk Advocates, a pro-life group that conducts prayer vigils in front of Planned Parenthood in Stamford. He said his group also offers counseling and gives women resources and alternatives to abortion.
Ann Marie Carpanzano, director of religious education at the Basilica, has supported the pro-life movement her entire life, and her father Frank has been taking her to Respect Life Masses since she was a child.
“He showed me the importance of this and that life begins at the moment of conception until natural death,” she said. “I am a strong Catholic and this has been my belief all my life. It is the truth and the way God wants it to be. That’s why I’m here.”
By Joe Pisani