Gala raises awareness, funds for pro-life activities

By Burnie Cook

Correspondent

The annual diocesan Pro-Life Gala was held March 2; the theme this year was "Open Your Hearts to Life." The silent auction and dinner benefited the work of the diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities and Chaste Living.

Bishop Joe Vásquez gave the welcome and invited all to "open our hearts to life [and acknowledge] a gift of grace from our Creator." Nothing can bring greater peace and joy than opening our hearts to God, he said. However, serious threats to the protection and respect for human life, marriage and religious liberty continue to "raise unprecedented challenges to the church and to the nation," he said.

Steve Nguyen and his wife Lan of Holy Vietnamese Martyr Parish in Austin participate in their parish’s Pro-Life Organization and enjoyed attending "a night out to hear good speakers and enjoy good Catholic fellowship."

Julie Riojas, a Pro-Life Coordinator for St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, was also impressed by the amount of Catholic fellowship at the event. She said the gala and events like it "help others live their faith."

Msgr. Phillip J. Reilly gave the keynote presentation. A priest for more than 53 years, he has devoted his life to the pro-life cause. He is the executive director of Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, Inc. and works to train others on how to hold peaceful, loving prayer vigils and to offer constructive assistance to those in crisis both before and after abortion.

Texas, and the Austin Diocese in particular, have an opportunity to be a "beacon of light and hope" as we continue to support a culture of life, he said. In part, we as human beings need "new eyes and a new heart." When he visits an abortion clinic, he "does not go to save babies, but I go there to save souls!" he said.

Marie Cehovin, the diocesan director of Pro-Life Activities and Chaste Living, presented the St. Gianna Molla Scholarship to Annallysia Allison. The mother of two daughters: Jalissa who is 7 months and Jada who is 5 years old, is the first in her family to go to college.

"The choice of going to college was a must, but I was discouraged when I thought of the debt I would be in because of the cost of tuition. Walking with faith, I believed I could receive scholarships so I enrolled. I am thankful to have received the scholarship. It is a big help for my future; I am on the right track in life," she said. Allison, who is studying at Virginia College at Austin, hopes to complete her degree in sonography in a year and a half.

Allison turned to the Gabriel Project for help when she found out she was pregnant with her second child. This parish-based ministry partners trained volunteers with mothers and fathers to provide emotional, material and spiritual support.

Cehovin hopes to get more parishes involved with the Gabriel Project in the months to come.

"We need new parishes to get involved in this ministry, new volunteers and in general we’re hoping that people will learn about the awesome Catholic pro-life resources in Central Texas. We’ll be providing parishes with resources so that they can educate their parishioners on a target weekend," she said.

She said she looks forward to training more volunteers for ministries such as the Gabriel Project and Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. "There is so much to be gained in being involved in these ministries because they are relational. It stops becoming ‘us’ serving ‘them’ but rather the community of Christ building each other up," she said.

For more information on the Office of Pro-Life Activities and Chaste Living in the Diocese of Austin, visit www.CentralTexasProLife.org or call (512) 949-2486.

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