Catholics mourn unborn in first nationwide remembrance effort

Catholics mourn unborn in first nationwide remembrance effort

Fr. John Bonavitacola, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe, and Fr. John Coleman, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Chandler, lead Catholics in praying for the unborn in front of a statue of Our Lady of Lasolette Sept. 14 in Tempe. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Fr. John Bonavitacola, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe, and Fr. John Coleman, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Chandler, lead Catholics in praying for the unborn in front of a statue of Our Lady of La Salette Sept. 14 in Tempe. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

TEMPE — Catholics and others committed to the pro-life cause gathered at more than 100 gravesites and memorial sites for the first National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children Sept. 14. Three of those sites were in the Diocese of Phoenix.

Each vigil marked a tangible and solemn anniversary. It was 25 years ago that pro-lifers held a massive burial in Milwaukee, Wis.

A theology professor learned earlier that year about the remains of aborted babies kept at a nearby loading dock in Illinois. That professor, who remains a member of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, collected them and organized the burial.

Those gathered during the 45-minute vigil at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe last week mourned the loss of those 1,200 aborted babies at that first burial and the millions of other lives aborted since then. The vigil was a coordinated effort between the Tempe parish and St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Chandler.

There have been some 56 million U.S. abortions in the last 40 years.

“It’s a staggering amount of loss of life in this community, not to mention the staggering loss across the world,” Fr. John Coleman, pastor of St. Andrew, told the small crowd.

Roughly 75 people braved the near midday sun. They gathered around a white marble statue of Our Lady of La Salette. The elevated, weeping figure, mourns all sins against human life, especially abortion.

They prayed through word, silence and song that future visitors to the statue might remember abortion only as a thing of the past.

“While it may be legal, that doesn’t make it moral,” Fr. Coleman said.

He reminded those gathered, which included a few young families, of the pro-life work the domestic and parish church has before them. He said some 73 percent of women getting abortions claim a Christian affiliation.

Fr. Coleman and Fr. John Bonavitacola, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, condemned the ever-climbing number of abortions. Somehow it dropped five years ago — the same year the statue portraying the Blessed Mother crying for the sins of humanity was finished — but Fr. Coleman said it stayed steady since.

“Can you imagine trying to put up somewhere 56,495,000 flags representing the number of children who have died through abortion?” Fr. Coleman questioned.

He extended the staggering loss to include as many mothers and fathers whose lives were affected as well as grandparents and siblings. Fr. Bonavitacola led a litany in response to abortion written by the national director of Priests for Life. One woman in the crowd wearing a black “My Choice Has a Name…” T-Shirt, repeatedly wiped away tears during the closing song.

“This is such a major crime,” said Donald Kosis, a parishioner at St. Andrew, who organized the memorial service.

He remembers fighting a world war in order to stop the massive loss of human life in Auschwitz. Some volunteered to join that fight.

God puts a soul in people from the moment of conception, Kosis said. Some 1.2 million of those are destroyed daily via abortion. He equated that to the latest population figures for Tempe, Mesa, Chandler and Scottsdale combined.

“I hope that this was the start of the fight of taking [abortion] off the books,” Kosis said.

The Gass family, parishioners at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, brought two of their three girls to the memorial. Carey Gass, the mom, said it’s important to pray as a family for the souls of unborn children and for an end to abortion. The family was among dozens of Catholics who stayed to offer a rosary inside the church.

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More than 50 other community members gathered for a deacon-led rosary in the Rachel Mourning section at Holy Cross Cemetery in Avondale or the Holy Family statue at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Mesa. Each site offers burial space for aborted children and babies naturally still born at under 20 weeks gestation. Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries held 21 services in the Rachel Mourning section at Holy Cross Cemetery last year and 70 at Queen of Heaven Cemetery.

Local Catholics can mourn those lost to abortion any time at these Catholic cemeteries and at other parishes — such as St. John Vianney in Sedona, St. Joseph in Phoenix and St. Steven in Sun Lakes — that have memorials dedicated to the unborn.

The Pro-Life Action League, Citizens for a Pro-Life Society and Priests for Life have next year’s national remembrance event scheduled for Sept. 13, 2014.

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