By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Twenty minutes before Mass, and Maryann Peale of Missouri Right to Life was sweating bullets.
“I hope more people than this show up,” she fretted as she watched six people pray the rosary inside the Chapel of Ephesus.
Be not afraid.
They came. They quickly filled the 60 or so seats inside the chapel at the downtown Kansas City Catholic Center. Then the chairs came out in the lobby. Ten. Twenty. Fifty. One hundred.
By the time Father Angelo Bartulica and Father Sean McCaffery began to celebrate the 10:30 a.m. Mass, the entire Catholic Center lobby was filled with nearly 200 people, and Peale’s mood had changed.
“I am just thrilled,” she said. “This is incredible.”
This was also Jan. 22, the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme court Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that legalized abortion across the United States.
Bishop Robert W. Finn, as he has done whenever possible, attended the big March for Life that day in the nation’s capital that drew hundreds of thousands from across the country.
The downtown Kansas City march made up in resolve what it may have lacked in sheer volume compared to the Washington, D.C., march.
After several unseasonably warm January days, the downtown temperature hovered barely above freezing as the pro-lifers first celebrated Mass, then marched five city blocks uphill to Ilus W. Davis Park, across from the Charles Evans Whittaker U.S. Courthouse, where they stood for more than an hour, hearing from a variety of religious speakers and pro-life workers about why protecting life at its most vulnerable stage is fundamental to all other human rights.
“We are putting others before ourselves,” said Father Bartulica in his homily.
“Every human being created in the image and likeness of God is wonderfully made,” he said. “It is important for us as Christians to be mindful of this, and not only on Jan. 22.”
That not only extends to vulnerable life in the womb, but to all vulnerable life, said Father Bartulica, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Raytown.
“I am the son of immigrants,” he said. “But we have some who fear immigrants. They worry about what piece of the pie it (immigration) is taking from them.
“The weak and disabled. We may see them as inconvenient, so we seek ways to eliminate them with assisted suicide or snuffing them out in the womb,” Farther Bartulica said. “It is important that we uphold all life, because that is what we will be judged upon.”
No life is “an accident,” Father Bartulica said.
“Our purpose in the church is to be the Mystical Body, so that when people encounter us, they encounter Christ,” he said.
“Let us pray on this day for the unborn, and for the mothers finding themselves with unwanted pregnancies. And let us pray for those who live in darkness and have performed the evil acts of abortion and assisted suicide,” he said.
“But let us pray for ourselves, so that our lives will be conformed to the heart of Christ, the heart we rely on for so much mercy,” Father Bartulica said.
As they arrived at Ilus W. Davis Park after their frigid, uphill hike, many of the pro-lifers — especially the young — held home-made signs.
“A baby is a blessing, not a burden or a curse.”
“The scream that no one hears. But God hears it.”
“Real feminists don’t kill babies.”
“Your mom had a choice.”
Kathy McCormack, a member of Sacred Heart Parish, told of helping women — and men — who have had abortions heal spiritually and emotionally through Project Rachel.
“They are just as much a victim,” she said. “If you know someone who has been touched by abortion, get them in touch with Project Rachel. Say a prayer for them, and offer your support.”
Project Rachel can be reached at (816) 591-3804, online at www.projectrachelkc.com, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mary Warner told how 700 babies were born last year in the Kansas City area after their mothers went to one of the three Rachel Houses for emergency support instead of an abortion clinic.
One of those mothers was Jessica, who hadn’t told her parents or her boyfriend that she was pregnant. They showed her the baby, in her womb, by ultrasound.
“Her baby was given the opportunity to audition for his life, and she changed her mind,” Warner said.
Jessica brought her newborn son back to Rachel House. She also told the staff that she and her boyfriend were married and in the process of buying a home.
Rachel House in midtown Kansas City can be reached at (816) 921-5050; in Lee’s Summit at (816) 875-1059; in the Northland at (816) 453-1011.
Other resources for women in crisis pregnancies include Mother’s Refuge in Independence at (816) 353-8070; Birthright of Greater Kansas City at (800) 550-4900; The Women’s Clinic of Kansas City and the Women’s Clinic of Grandview at (816) 836-9000; the Parkville Women’s Clinic at (816) 746-4855; the Life Choice Center of Harrisonville at (816) 887-5100; and the three diocesan Catholic Charites locations in Kansas City at (800) 875-4377, in St. Joseph at (888) 629-2886 and in Warrensburg at (816) 344-3699.
At the rally, Father McCaffery, pastor of St. John Francis Regis Parish in Kansas City, recalled Pope St. John Paul II’s “Gospel of Life.”
“Nothing can permit the killing of an innocent human being,” he said. “Every innocent human being is equal to all others. It makes no difference if you are the master of the world or the poorest of the poor. Every life is equal. If we take away the right to life, no other rights are available.”
Too often, the world judges the value of life by its usefulness and talents, he said.
“We should be judged not for our gifts, but because we are created in the image and likeness of God,” he said.
Ministers from several Protestant churches echoed that teaching at the rally.
“This day, I call upon heaven and earth, and I set before you life and death. Choose life,” said Pastor Roger Gilbert of Deerbrook Covenant Church.
“If you believe that God is the creator, then the creator is the only one who can open our eyes to see and our ears to hear,” said Pastor Randall Klynsma of Northland Reformed Church. “God has chose the weak of the world to do great things. We have to do what we can do.”
“We continue in thoughtful prayer for facing this decision who think they have no choice,” said Pastor Algternon Baker of Bethel Family Worship Center. “Help us be merciful and forgiving.”