Annual Respect Life Mass congregation urged to continue praying and working to end abortion

Joan Kurkowski-Gillen


North Texas Catholic

February 8, 2013

Diocesan Administrator Monsignor Stephen Berg (far right) is joined by other priests and deacons of the diocese at St. Patrick Cathedral to honor the unborn at the diocese's annual Respect Life Mass. (Photo by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen/NTC) 

When Salvatore Tuzzolino, Jr., wanted to share an opinion about abortion with his peers, he did what most teenagers do. He bought a T-shirt with a provocative message then wore it to school.

His thought-provoking fashion statement featured the image of a developing fetus surrounded by the words, “She smiles, hears, kicks, and feels pain. Abortion kills kids.”

“A lot of people asked why I had an ugly baby on my shirt. I told them that’s what they looked like at one time,” explained the Keller High School sophomore whose personal protest coincided with the 40th anniversary of legalized abortion in the U.S. “It reminds people abortion is not a good thing.”

The 16-year-old was still wearing the T-shirt when he arrived at St. Patrick Cathedral later that evening to attend the annual Respect Life Mass with this parents Karen and Salvatore Tuzzolino. Monsignor Stephen Berg, diocesan administrator, concelebrated the Jan. 23 liturgy with Father Joe Pemberton, the cathedral’s rector, and several other diocesan priests.

“We believe life is sacred and tried to instill that in our kids,” said Salvatore’s mother who feared the controversial T-shirt might spark problems at school. “He gets comments whenever he wears it. We’re very proud his pro-life beliefs are so strong.”

One of 53 candles -- representing the 53 million babies lost to abortion in the U.S. since 1973 -- is placed on the altar of St. Patrick Cathedral by a Mass participant.

The teen was one of several worshippers asked to carry Respect Life program banners down the center aisle of the cathedral before the Mass. Volunteers involved in pro-life ministries also participated in the procession by placing red candles beneath the altar. Each flickering votive represented the 53 million lives terminated by abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized the procedure on Jan. 22, 1973. After the last candle was set down, Betsy Kopor, coordinator of Rachel Ministries, a post-abortive ministry, positioned The Book of Innocents in front of the display. The ledger contains the names of children lost to abortion in the Diocese of Fort Worth.

“Interest in our pro-life ministries continues to grow,” said Kopor as a steady stream of people filed into the pews. “When he was here, Bishop Vann supported our work and we continue to benefit from that.”

In his homily, Msgr. Berg said the 20th century evils of communism, fascism, and social engineering led to the violent deaths of millions of people, “and those deaths are recorded in the history books because they are sad and tragic.”

But there are no history book entries documenting the equally tragic loss of life due to abortion in the U.S.

“We live in a culture that solves social problems by killing people,” he continued calling the hidden violence of abortion insidious. “The ability to pursue happiness is understood to include the right to eliminate the unwanted, the vulnerable, and the unprotected.”

Evil and suffering will always exist on earth, Msgr. Berg admitted.

“It’s our task to continue to confront it,” he added encouragingly. “We may become discouraged but the work of God is the work of life.”

Msgr. Berg urged the congregation to pray and work to change the world and abortion law.

“As the repercussions of 40 years of killing continue to infect the society we live in, so will your sacrifice and dedication to the cause of life bear fruit in ways we do not know,” he promised. “This is God’s work. This is our work.”

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Abelino and Gimarie Manchaca and their six young children were part of the large, diverse crowd that turned out for the annual Respect Life Mass. The St. Ann parishioners also took their youngsters to the Dallas March for Life earlier in the week. Exposing them to pro-life activities is important, explained the young father.

“They need to understand we’re trying to protect unborn babies,” he said. “Even at their age we believe that’s the right thing to do.”

When Salvatore Tuzzolino, Jr., wanted to share an opinion about abortion with his peers, he did what most teenagers do. He bought a T-shirt with a provocative message then wore it to school.

Published (until 12/31/2031)