Anne Dennis, outreach coordinator for Tempe-based Aid to Women Center, offers literature to a woman outside the cathedral following the annual Respect Life Mass at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)

PHOENIX — A change in administration in Washington will not alter the mission of the Diocese of Phoenix’s pro-life message and should not cause supporters to lose hope.

That essentially was the message from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and others to the annual Respect Life Mass Jan. 24 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, marking the 48th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on Jan. 22, 1973.

Bishop Olmsted spoke two days after newly installed President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris reaffirmed their commitment to legalized abortion, but the bishop questioned “how reproductive health care can include killing an infant in the womb.”

In his homily, the bishop noted that ultimately abortion — like every other form of sin and death — is defeated through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“The world in its present form is passing away,” he said, recalling St. Paul’s words in the Mass’ Second Reading, from the First Letter to the Corinthians. (1 Cor. 7:29-31).

The bishop told worshippers, “God can rescue the lost who seem beyond the reach of redemption or who seem to be closed to conversion,” citing the First Reading’s account of the people of Nineveh who were evangelized by the prophet Jonah.

“We must never lose hope in the power of God’s mercy to change lives,” he said.

“We do not know how long God will allow unspeakable crimes like abortion to continue, but (its) days are numbered. Those who are witnessing to the Gospel of Life are on the side of a victory that has already been won by Christ.”

However, speaking the truth of the Gospel is but one aspect of promoting life.

The bishop urged worshippers to pray for those considering an abortion as well as those who promote it.

“We must remember the conversion of those who support abortion will never come about unless our words are animated by love, supported in prayer and built on God’s mercy.”

The Mass included prayers for those laity and ministers who promote the Gospel of Life as well as for expectant mothers and families welcoming new babies.

“We pray for the replenishment of the diocesan community with faithfulness to teach the gospel and new resolve to share the spiritual formation of its children,” the bishop said.

Annie Buehnerkemper of Laveen, a parishioner and mother of three who is now expecting a fourth with her husband, Chris, welcomed the message.

“I really appreciated the truth,” she said, adding that her parents played a key role in instilling the Gospel of Life. “I’m grateful that my parents helped me understand my own dignity. That has helped me see the dignity of others. Children are a gift and a joy.”

Speaking outside after the Mass, Anne Dennis, outreach coordinator for Tempe-based Aid to Women Center, said that while women considering abortion may share similar circumstances in general, it is important to recognize and approach each of those in crisis as an individual with their own story.

“We need to approach every person that comes to us with love, compassion and the truth,” said Dennis, a parishioner at St. Timothy in Mesa. Aid to Women provides education, support and encouragement to women and their families through pregnancy. Its services include confidential consults to explore a woman’s options, free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds to determine the length of a pregnancy, and even a comprehensive, low-cost prenatal-care package for those who do not have insurance.

Mike Phelan, the diocese’s Director of the Office Marriage and Respect Life, said an individual’s involvement in promoting the Gospel of Life can involve a lot of time or relatively little. Speaking in an interview prior to Mass, Phelan said that God sees what a person does and is pleased regardless of the time contributed.

“We can all be involved to some degree. There is no greater cause to consider. To be used by God to rescue a child outside of an abortion clinic, to help educate young people about when life begins and ends, what abortion is and does, what its impact is, is very, very valuable.”

A family during the Respect Life Mass at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (Jeff Grant/CATHOLIC SUN)