My friend Fr. Stephen Otvos attended the March for Life in Ottawa May 13, 2004. While there another participant overheard him mention that he was a priest from Montreal, and she asked him “Are you Fr. Tom Dowd?” Apparently Fr. Stephen had run into one of the readers of my blog! That is really neat. Message received, Fed!
Fr. Stephen wrote up a piece in his parish bulletin regarding the march, and he sent it to me to share with all of you, so here it is! Fr. Stephen is also a regular reader of my blog, so feel free to leave your comments below, and I am sure he will get them.
The March for Life
by Fr. Stephen Otvos
The first I heard of the "march for life" which happened on May 13, 2004 on Parliament hill in Ottawa, I was somewhat interested but not keenly so. Friends who were planning the trip sent me the information through the Internet by email, and although I knew many things in the back of my mind about the abortion industry, it was only when I read a few facts during that same week from an article by Cardinal Marc Ouellette that I was to make sure I was there. I had learned that in all of Canada, Quebec was the province with the highest rate of abortion at one in four unborn children being aborted. I was appalled. I had to do something. I decided to try and get my parishioners interested in joining me.
In all we were 30 people from Montreal who gathered in Ottawa, with five priests, and three participants from Holy Name of Jesus. Arriving in Ottawa at Notre Dame Cathedral, we began our pro-life day with a mass presided by Bishop Gervais. His homily was inspiring and very pastoral. His main theme dealt with affirming the dignity of the person from conception to the natural end of life, with a closer look at stem cell research. Bishop Gervais brought to our attention that although we sympathize with men like Christopher Reeve and all those with physical disabilities, their suffering cannot justify stem cell research on fertilized human embryos. He stated that there are many other ways to acquire stem cells for research purposes other then from human embryos, and that human embryos must be respected as persons. Bishop Gervais stated "embryos are not merely potential humans, but humans with potential" The conclusion of Gervais Homily ended with a plea to our Government to create decent laws that protect the rights of the unborn.
After our mass we had a brief lunch outside and continued our day by gathering on Parliament hill for our pro life demonstration. Members of the organizing committee shared there experiences and witnessed to the dignity of life and to the horrors of abortion. After a few of these speeches by different groups, each of which made appeals to our government to change our laws, we finally went on our journey, a pro-life procession all around Ottawa. Our walk lasted approximately an hour long in which most of the downtown area could see what we were about. We marched in a prayerful atmosphere, many of whom were praying the rosary. A few spectators began yelling and swearing at us, but we passed them with a blessing, asking the lord to heal their hearts and enlighten their minds. We came full circle back to Parliament hill by the end of the procession, and passed by some prayerful demonstrators with big posters revealing the horror of the children aborted.
As I came back to parliament hill, I left my group to go say goodby to some people I knew. It as then that I heard a women give witness to the emotional and physical scars of having aborted her child whom she named Ronny. It was a sad story of her receiving no support from her parent at her pregnancy at 16 years old. She was brought to see a so-called abortion councillor who told her about "therapeutic abortion". It was a basic lie, she said, to convince a young woman that it was ok to get rid of her child. She told us then that there is nothing therapeutic about abortion, that the dictionary states that the meaning of the word "therapeutic" is: to bring back to health, the cure of disease, soothing, conducive to well being . Abortion has nothing therapeutic about it. Pregnancy is not a disease it is a normal healthy result to sexual relations between a man and a woman. She continued her sharing by explaining the emotional detriment she felt afterwards, the emptiness she felt throughout the rest of her teenage years, the difficulty of beginning new relationships with men, and the loss of a second child through miscarriage due to the damage done to her through abortion. There was nothing soothing about her abortion and it did not contribute to her well being.
I left Ottawa in a state of prayer, and a real pastoral concern for our people in Quebec, especially because their seems to be a great lack of interest on this pastoral problem. The Lack of support for the march for life from Quebec was clearly seen by the absence of participants. There were only two french-Canadian priests with us and no french lay people that I knew of. Was it the scheduling of the event? Was there not enough publicity about this annual event, or was it a because we are so busy that we do not pay attention to these important demonstration of our belief in life? Are we doing enough to bring enlightenment to our people, to help us see the truth behind the lies that are presented by our world, to help women who had abortions and other pregnant women in difficult situations to know that there are other options for them? Are we preaching enough about these issues? It seems we are not responding adequately to te situation at hand. One in four children is just out of control. As a pastor I know I do not have all the answers but none the less we must bring the gospel of life to our world. If we work together in a spirit of prayer, forgiveness and healing we can help our culture become one that respects life, a culture that is imbued with a sense of reverence for the life God has given us. In any case I come back feeling sad by the seemingly lack of zeal in Quebec and determined to try and do something to raise awareness among Catholics and all peoples.