Each year, the first Sunday of October marks the beginning of the Respect Life Program highlighted in liturgies and special events. This year’s theme is “Each of us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation.”
The annual Diocesan Respect Life Mass was celebrated at Saint Mary Mother of the Church in Garner on October 5. The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge was the principal celebrant and homilist, and Rev. David M. Chiantella, Pastor of Saint Mary, concelebrated.
Of the Respect Life Month theme, Bishop Burbidge said in his homily, “How true: we are created in the very image and likeness of God, and His Holy Spirit lives and dwells within us. We are his very own from the moment of conception until natural death: God’s very own sons and daughters!”
Reflecting on the Gospel image of the vineyard of the Lord, Bishop said, “We live in a society in which the vineyard of the Lord is not cared for and protected as God intended. It is a vineyard that legalizes the killing of the unborn and seriously compromises the teachings of the Gospel of Life, to the detriment of the poor, elderly, the sick, the immigrants, inmates and the most vulnerable. In doing so, the vineyard is no longer what God wants for his people.
“And it is to this vineyard that God sends us: to be the ones, the instruments who plant good seeds, nurture them, care for them and protect them at all times, especially as our prayers, advocacy, witness and good deeds proclaim the sacredness of all human life and the dignity of each and every human person.”
A necessary component in the Diocese’s pro-life efforts is financial support, and an important source of that support is the annual Benefit for Life Gala. This year’s Benefit was held on Friday evening, October 3.
Four organizations benefit from the Gala: Birthchoice, Family Honor, the Gabriel Project and Project Rachel. Birthchoice provides ultrasounds for expecting parents. Family Honor helps young people realize through Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body that they are temples of the Holy Spirit. The Gabriel Project supports single mothers, and Project Rachel reaches out to those who are suffering from having chosen abortion.
On Friday, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge delivered opening remarks and blessed the meal at the Gala. He was followed by keynote speaker Gayle Felizarta, who told a compelling story to some 450 people in attendance. Twelve years ago, Ms. Felizarta learned of a genetic defect in her unborn son, Jayon, now 12. The doctors suggested an abortion, but she responded from her deep faith that she would have her child. “God made us ever so lovingly in His image,” she said. “God not only shapes us with loving precision to his divine image, He tries to form a special relationship with us early on, even at the moment of conception.”
When Jayon was born, he was not only perfectly healthy, but turned out to be gifted. At age 10, he became the concert grandmaster of Duke University String School Intermediate Orchestra for their Spring concert season. At age 11, he became the concert grandmaster of Davis Drive Middle School Orchestra. He is also a member of the Triangle Youth Symphony. On Friday night, he held the audience spellbound as he played two intricate, classical pieces on his violin.
Those at the event also saw videos about the work of the four ministries that benefit from the donations received during the Gala. Two women featured on the video about Birthchoice and the Gabriel Project, young mothers who chose life for their babies, were present and received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Msgr. David D. Brockman, Vicar General of the Diocese, closed the evening with a prayer.