Courtesy of Catholic Standard
ANNAPOLIS — Ahead of the March 30 Prayer for Life and Legislators Vigil at St. Mary’s Church in Annapolis, Wilmington Bishop William E. Koenig reflected on the importance of prayer and the action to confront abortion and promote a culture of life.
After being ordained bishop of that Delaware diocese in July 2021, later that year he joined people praying outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Wilmington. And about a month ago, he blessed a Knights of Columbus-funded ultrasound machine at the Cecil Pregnancy and Family Resource Center in Elkton that serves pregnant women and supports mothers with children.
Bishop Koenig said it was about planting seeds in people’s minds and hearts to protect vulnerable human life.
“We bear witness to the importance of life. We pray for the defense of life and we pray for hearts to change,” the Bishop said. “That’s what it’s all about, changing one heart at a time.”
The prayer vigil was sponsored by the Maryland Catholic Conference, the Annapolis-based public policy arm of the two Catholic archdioceses and one diocese in the state – the Archdiocese of Baltimore; the Archdiocese of Washington, which includes five Maryland counties surrounding the nation’s capital; and the Diocese of Wilmington, which includes counties on the east coast of Maryland.
Bishop Koenig and four other bishops serving Maryland State Catholics participated in the prayer vigil, which came a week after the Maryland State Senate approved a bill expanding the access to abortion in the state, and a day a Senate committee heard testimony about another bill that, if passed, could have Maryland voters deciding whether abortion will be on the state constitution.
Ahead of the vigil, Susan Gibbs — a communications liaison for the Catholic Conference of Maryland — noted that a large number of Maryland Catholics contacted their delegates and state senators in opposition to the proposed abortion legislation. through MCC’s Catholic Advocacy Network, with an alert resulting in 15,000 emails to lawmakers.
“It’s inspiring that so many people are ready to stand up (for life) at a time when it’s very hard to do in our culture,” Gibbs said. She added, “This is the highest commitment we’ve had in several years. Concern for women and children is very high in parishes across the state.
Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, also praised Catholics in the state for their advocacy. “It’s wonderful to see people doing what they can on this issue and making their voices heard. It (such legislation) has life and death consequences,” she said.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori spoke at the prayer vigil, and then said that legislation that would allow nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants to perform abortions in the State “seems to pose a real danger to women’s health”.
Archbishop Lori said that instead of Maryland enshrining abortion in its Constitution, “we should be a state that invests our resources, our energy and our love in helping women facing difficult pregnancies.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of human life, he said.
“The lesson to be drawn from this is that we should become a state and a country that loves life and protects it, instead of a state that takes life or sees death as a solution to our problems,” Bishop Lori said. . He added: “We should love mother and child. … We should cherish both lives.
Ahead of the vigil, Andy Rivas, public policy and advocacy officer for the Archdiocese of Washington, emphasized the importance of prayer in advocating for life and other issues.
“It all starts with prayer. You pray before you discern and learn legislation, then you pray to represent the church and its teaching well, then you pray for success,” he said, adding that in his 23 years of advocacy work, “I learned prayer is the most essential part of the process.
Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life who spoke at the prayer vigil that evening, said afterwards that prayer “is everything” in the fight against abortion. “First and foremost, this is a spiritual battle, for people’s hearts and minds,” she said.
The approximately 90 people present at the vigil included four Little Sisters of the Poor. This religious order operates St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in Catonsville which serves 64 elderly and poor residents.
“It is important for us to bear witness to life at all its stages,” said Sister Mary John Brushe, who is provincial secretary for the Little Sisters Baltimore province.
After the vigil, Kathryn Yanik, director of life issues for the Archdiocese of Washington, noted, “Our faith calls us to both prayer and action. You can’t have one without the other. She added, “Some of the most important work we do in the pro-life movement is meeting these women and supporting them through sometimes the most difficult times in their lives.”
Yanik said proposed legislation in Maryland that would expand access to abortion and could enshrine abortion in the state Constitution is dangerous, and she noted that this latest measure could “prevent any bill pro-life bills to be passed in the future, even bills that would protect children.” with a disability. »
She added that “these bills are a good reminder of the work we are doing that needs to happen on many levels. We must support pro-life legislation, but we must also walk with women and support them in prayer.
Among those who joined the prayer vigil was Deacon Darryl A. Kelley of St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Camp Springs.
“I know that prayer changes things. We should not take prayer for granted,” he said.
From 2003 to 2007, the future deacon served as state delegate for District 26 in Prince George’s County.
“I know the odds are looking against us. I was a Democratic lawmaker when I had the opportunity to vote for life. I did it despite the trends of the time and as they are today,” he said.
Recalling his time serving in the Maryland House of Delegates, he said, “I was asked by MCC, and that led to a focus on the issue of life and the reality of that issue, and the importance of recognizing the dignity of the human person in all people.”
He said that experience when he was a legislator and a member of the Baptist Church prompted him to become a Catholic in 2009. He later felt called to become a deacon and was ordained a deacon in 2019.
Changing “one heart at a time” became a reality for Deacon Kelley.
“It makes a difference. That’s why we have to keep trying and talking to lawmakers. … I witness these efforts working,” he said.
For more information about the MCC Catholic Action Network, visit https://www.mdcatholic.org/joincan.
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