Defense of life linked to defense of all other rights, says Msgr. Berg at annual Respect Life Mass

Story and Photos by

Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

February 3, 2014

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A mother guides her young daughter in carrying a votive candle to the altar.

The Catholic Church teaches that all life is precious and valuable.

Dawn and Vincent Booth, along with their five children, personified that belief for the 500 worshippers who turned out for the 2014 diocesan Respect Life Mass Jan. 24 at St. Patrick Cathedral. Seated in one of the front pews, Dawn Booth cradled the couple’s youngest child, John Patrick, in her arms. The four-year-old was born with Pallister-Killian Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects physical and mental development. Much smaller than other children his age, John Patrick can still rest comfortably inside a baby carrier.

“Most people would find out they were having a baby like this and have an abortion,” said Booth, who became a Catholic in her early 20s. “We knew there was something wrong with him when I was pregnant. He had markers for Down Syndrome, but when John Patrick was born, we found out it was something else.”

The caring mom has learned to ignore the looks of pity that come her way, choosing instead to focus on her son’s sweet disposition.

“A nurse once told us, ‘you take what God gives you and you love what you get,’ and it’s true,” she added.

The Booth family watched as 55 red votives, representing the 55 million babies killed since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, were carried up to the altar by pro-life supporters. Betsy Kopor, Rachel Ministries coordinator, placed the Book of Innocents in front of the tiers of illuminated candles. Many mothers seeking emotional and spiritual healing after an abortion name their babies and memorialize them in the ledger during Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries retreats.

Many young people participated in the ceremony. Fourteen-year-old Melissa Northcutt came to the Mass with her mother, Lila, and sisters Allison, 11, and Amanda, 10.

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Monsignor Stephen Berg delivered the homily at the Jan. 24 Respect Life Mass. It was his last public liturgical funciton as Diocesan Administrator before the ordination of Bishop Michal Olson Jan. 29.

“This is an opportunity to stand up for what is right,” said the Grapevine High School freshman. “The subject of abortion comes up occasionally with my friends. I give my opinion and back it up with facts.”

The pro-life movement continues to gain momentum — a fact supported by the record-breaking crowd that turned out on a chilly Friday night for the liturgy, according to Michael Demma, director of the diocesan Respect Life Office.

“We are exceeding our involvement from prior years, but there is much more to be done,” he said. “Evangelization of God’s word needs people to be involved and volunteer to reach out to the youth and the moms and dads affected by life issues.”

Demma would like more volunteers to help plan events like the Respect Life Mass. His office hosts a meeting on the first Saturday of each month inside St. Patrick’s parish hall for people interested in culture of life issues.

“We provide education through guest speakers and information about what is going on in the respect life arena,” he explained.

Monsignor Stephen Berg, recently named Bishop-elect of Pueblo, Colorado, concelebrated the Mass with several other priests from the diocese. His ordination is set for Feb. 27 in Pueblo.

During his homily, the bishop-elect thanked the congregation for nurturing and supporting his priesthood.

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A pyramid sitting in front of the altar at St. Patrick Cathedral holds 55 candles, representing the 55 million unborn children killed through abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973..

“The work, support sacrifice and prayers of this particular group has been an inspiration to both Bishop Michael (Olson) and myself,” he said, referring to the scheduled ordination of Fort Worth’s new bishop. “Our cause tonight — respect for life from the moment of conception to natural death — is not something particular to our religion. It’s fundamental to the Gospel.

Referencing Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gadium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), the bishop-elect said defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of every other human right. You can’t solve problems by eliminating human life.

“Life is given and meant for God. We are made to be loved, to love, and to do the work of love,” he explained. “That is what we celebrate this evening.”

The monsignor’s words resonated with Dawn and Vincent Booth. Their son is physically challenged in many ways, but his life still has value and meaning.

“He’s taught our children to love for the sake of love without getting anything back,” said Vincent Booth. “Little John can’t give anything but love.”

Respect-Life-Mass-'14-Button.jpgThe Catholic Church teaches that all life is precious and valuable. Dawn and Vincent Booth, along with their five children, personified that belief for the 500 worshippers who turned out for the 2014 diocesan Respect Life Mass Jan. 24 at St. Patrick Cathedral. Seated in one of the front pews, Dawn Booth cradled the couple’s youngest child, John Patrick, in her arms. The four-year-old was born with Pallister-Killian Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects physical and mental development. Much smaller than other children his age, John Patrick can still rest comfortably inside a baby carrier.

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