Two days before the beginning of the fall 40 Days for Life campaign on Sept. 28, Auxiliary Bishop Peter Byrne celebrated a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral that served as an unofficial kickoff for volunteers and others interested in learning more about the pro-life effort.
Small palm cards were left in each pew showing where the 40 Days campaign of prayer, fasting and public witness will take place at nine abortion sites throughout the Archdiocese of New York.
We announced the campaign in a recent CNY issue, along with other opportunities to pray and assist the pro-life cause, especially during October, which is designated as Respect Life Month throughout the United States.
The pro-life community, as you might expect, is seeking to meet the moment presented by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in late June overturning Roe v. Wade.
Bishop Byrne, a leading voice in pro-life ministry for decades, is not a man of many words. His homily at the cathedral Mass was just about four minutes, according to my iPhone. During that time, he gave the several hundred people spread about the cathedral plenty to consider.
In brief remarks about 40 Days for Life, he said the purpose of those who join in prayer outside abortion clinics is “inviting people to consider life for their babies.”
He followed up with a comment on the state of the Empire State and the witness of public officials, which often runs counter to that message.
“We live in a state where public officials have invited people to come here from all over the country to take the lives of their unborn children,” the bishop said.
The witness of the pro-life community “to a better way is a vocation of all of us in some way,” he said.
The bishop called those listening to him, including those in the cathedral and others watching the Mass live-stream on YouTube, to the Gospel virtue of humility.
“Whatever situation we find ourselves in, the virtue of humility, the acknowledgement of our own weakness, is an important virtue, particularly when it comes to witnessing for life” he said. “It’s always important to be aware and to acknowledge our own weakness and sinfulness, and not be in a position of being judgmental.”
Bishop Byrne also spoke about the value of generosity toward anyone in “a vulnerable situation” who needs acceptance and outreach and should be seen as Christ before us.
“That message applies to all situations, but particularly the one we highlight tonight,” he said.
As the Mass was taking place inside the cathedral, pro-abortion supporters were protesting outside with a cacophony of chants and signs, including some sacrilegious and profane. Access to the cathedral was restricted to a couple of entrances.
After Communion, Laurie Jones, the 40 Days for Life leader in Manhattan since 2019, spoke about her own inspiring journey to becoming a pro-life leader in the Catholic community.
Speaking with Ms. Jones by phone this week, I asked what she would recommend to someone who might be considering joining 40 Days for Life at its public witnesses. She said she would tell them to pray and fast about it, and “see how the Lord might lead you.” The best place to do so, she said, is in a Catholic church, preferably before the Blessed Sacrament.
“How can you serve Him best, and whether he’s calling you to this ministry,” she said.
She’s been involved in pro-life work since 2008, the same year she entered the Catholic Church.
Recruitment of volunteers has been a slow build over time, she said. She was heartened by the response of those who approached her after last week’s Mass at St. Patrick’s, and said 12 new volunteers had signed the pew cards.
“It was a very positive response,” she said.