Mass, rally pray for and defend all human life

Young men carry a statue of Mary through the streets of Austin during the annual March for Life on Jan. 28. Prior to the rally, Bishop Daniel Garcia celebrated the annual diocesan Pro-Life Mass at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Austin. (Photo by Enedelia J. Obregón)

By Enedelia J. Obregón
Senior Correspondent

The faithful filled the pews at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Austin for the Mass of Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life, with many of them marching later in the day to the Capitol at the Texas Rally for Life.
Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Garcia was the main celebrant and homilist for the Mass on Jan. 28. Bishop Joe Vásquez concelebrated.
In his homily, Bishop Garcia said people must continue to defend the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death regardless of rhetoric and protests.
“It’s easy to be disillusioned with what we see and experience,” he said. “I urge us all not to lose heart, not to lose faith.”
He noted the Gospel of the day from Mark 4:35-41, in which Jesus calms a storm as he crosses the sea with his disciples.
“We need to hear Jesus’ words as the boat was tossed about,” Bishop Garcia said. “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” 
He said that it is unrealistic to think that those who defend human life will not be tested.
“We will feel our boat being tossed,” he said.
Bishop Garcia also noted that the first reading from Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19, dealt with faith.
“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen,” he said. “That is what enabled Abraham to obey God and walk into an unknown land and give birth to a nation.
“You and I are being called to defend life in all its forms,” he continued. “Life is fragile. It’s not expendable. We know it when we pick up a newborn and look into their eyes; we know it when we hold the hand of an elderly man or woman as they struggle to find meaning as their own bodies fail them.”
Bishop Garcia said the fragility of human life invites us all to do all we can to sustain and nurture it and protect it “as God does us.”
“We must never lose sight of the interconnectedness to one another,” he said. That means caring about the reality of poverty, hunger, the naked and the lonely, those who live in violence in our community as well as immigrants and refugees.
“No life is of inferior value,” he said. This includes the unborn, the homeless, immigrants and refugees who seek to be seen as persons.
At the March for Life, people of different denominations walked through the streets of downtown Austin to the south steps of the State Capitol for a rally.
Veronica Castillo from St. Mary Cathedral in Austin said she wanted to stand up for her faith.
“I believe in life,” she said.
Claudia Balleck of St. Theresa Parish in Austin wanted to be around others who also support life.
Marti Robertson of Liberty Hill who attends Northwest Fellowship in Austin but grew up Catholic, was there for a personal reason. She carried a sign that read, “I regret my abortion.” One woman asked to use her sign as a friend photographed her.
“That’s me at 17,” Robertson said. “I’m first generation Italian-American. I was sure my father would kill me in 1977. I don’t think he would have. But I made my choice.”
Robertson said she locked away that knowledge in a box way deep in her memory and got on with her life.
“But you just don’t get to go on,” she said.
In 1984, she started attending a church that supported a crisis pregnancy center. She started volunteer training, and one day they read from the book of Romans, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
“I thought, ‘not this,’” she said. “But yes, even that.”
Robertson said that women often have a harder time forgiving themselves than forgiving others who have done the same.
She is now a sidewalk counselor and prays at abortion centers.
 “How great is his compassion,” Robertson said. “His thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. But he forgives and heals.”
Project Rachel is a compassionate and confidential diocesan ministry for anyone affected by abortion at project-rachel@austindiocese.org or 1-877-WeCare2.
For more information about all Pro-Life Activities in the Diocese of Austin, contact Luisa de Poo at (512) 949-2487 or luisa-depoo@austindiocese.org.