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Sacred Heart Major Seminary Hosts 10th Annual Dinner for Life to Benefit Pro-Life Cause

Archbishop Vigneron: God has already won the victory for the Gospel of Life

by Dan Meloy

The mission of the pro-life cause is the same today as it was yesterday, and it will be the same tomorrow as it is today: to defend the inherent dignity God instills into all His creation — the dignity to live a full life, from birth to natural death.

This creed was confirmed February 8 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary’s 10th annual Dinner for Life, a yearly fundraiser organized by seminarians in support of organizations that promote and advance the pro-life cause.

During the Mass before dinner, Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron noted the ups and downs the pro-life movement faces amidst opposition that feels unrelenting at times. But Archbishop Vigneron said the pro-life cause is rooted in the message of the Gospel of life, a message that is eternal.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow,” Archbishop Vigneron said in his homily. “In the key text and verse in today’s reading, the author says, ‘Remember your leaders and their outcomes and imitate their faith.’ It is a reminder to those who spoke the Word of God in the past, to strive as Christians, not as stoics, but strive as disciples who are confident in the victory of Christ.”

The yearly Dinner for Life recognizes leaders in the pro-life movement and awards grants to organizations in need of support.

Archbishop Vigneron further added the dinner serves as an annual spiritual boost to people who continue to be a witness to the Gospel of life.

“We can speak the word, give witness, because of our confidence in the power of the Lord’s resurrection,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Through the long set of decades, the great prophet of the Gospel of life, St. John Paul the Great, said those who give witness to the Gospel of life live in the hope in the triumph of the Gospel of life. So tonight, we come to celebrate the Eucharist, so we have the strength to become ever more the heart and mind of Jesus. And we give God thanks ahead of time for the victory of the Gospel of life.”

After Mass, donors and supporters moved to Sacred Heart’s gymnasium for the dinner, where Deacon Rodney Abasso announced the Lansing-based New Life Center, Project Rachel and a crisis pregnancy center as the recipients of this year’s fundraiser.

Soraya Nowland gave the audience a presentation on New Life Center’s work and thanked the seminarians for hosting the dinner.

Nowland chronicled the New Life Center’s history, saying its current location used to be an abortion clinic before the center’s organizers approached the engineering firm that owned the lease on the building and made a better offer to rent the space and provide a series of support and services for women in crisis pregnancies in need of an ultrasound, support for newborns and ministerial care for post-abortive women and men.

“The first thing that happened after we opened, women came in still thinking it was an abortion clinic, so we prepped to be Christ for these women,” Nowland said. “Six months later, an abortion clinic opened across town. Seventeen months later, is closed. Since we opened, we have 26 saves.”

Nowland told the dinner guests stories about the work of the New Life Center, sharing stories of support for immigrant families, women who were told they had to have an abortion, and even parents of babies who have come up to Nowland and the New Life Center staff and thanked them for changing their minds on abortion.

“There was one sidewalk protest where we were praying and a woman walked up to us. A friend of mine, a strong prayer warrior, came up to the woman, asking her if she was there for an abortion,” Nowland said. “She said yes, and I said, ‘Hey, do you want to get an ultrasound for free?’”

The woman agreed, and later met Nowland outside the New Life Center. 

“This woman for a long time looked at me, and then she gave me this big hug and said, ‘Thank you, I am glad you are here. You are the first person to tell me I could keep my baby,’” Nowland said. 

“That is what this center is about: to give care and support, when no one else will,” Nowland added to a standing ovation.

After Nowland spoke, Deacon Abasso encouraged more dinner-goers to continue putting in bids for items to be raffled off, with the proceeds going to support the New Life Center. Deacon Abasso also announced the 11th annual Dinner for Life is set for February 1, 2020.

Sr. Maria Kateri of the New York-based Sisters of Life, a contemplative active community founded in 1991 by New York Cardinal John O’Connor, gave the keynote address on the power of prayer in support of the pro-life cause.

“The Lord of life prepares us and sustains within us a culture of life,” Sr. Kateri said. “Only through a personal encounter of God can we truly be satisfied. He is the only one who knew us, formed us in the womb. Pope Benedict said, ‘Each of us is formed as a thought of God. Each of us has a purpose. And no one is a mistake.’”

Sr. Kateri relayed her own vocation story and how prayer – and silence – played a pivotal role in hearing what God wanted from her.

Wanting a career in medicine, it was through prayer and meditation that she elected to enter the Sisters of Life, where she now gives witness to the pro-life cause and adoption, testifying that she, too, was adopted as an infant.

“I invite you to thank a priest who upholds the dignity of life, because I was adopted, adopted by godparents who chose to love me as an infant,” Sr. Kateri said. “The first couple I served in ministry as a sister chose adoption. In the silence we have with God, we hear the Lord’s voice. He’s calling you to offer your unique love. It is the Lord of life who offers all of us your hope. Hope is the confirmation of life.”

Sr. Kateri closed the night by drawing the raffle winners, but before the drawing, she ended her address with these final words of encouragement:

“Whatever you have suffered in giving witness to the pro-life movement, it is all worth it,” Sr. Kateri said. “God has given us hope. He has already won the victory for life. And He will never forsake us. If all the marches, all the protests, all the care centers but save one life, He will say, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’ God bless you all. You are in our prayers.”

Dan Meloy

Dan is a staff writer for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

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Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a Christ-centered Catholic community of faith and higher learning committed to forming leaders who will proclaim the good news of Christ to the people of our time. As a leading center of the New Evangelization, Sacred Heart serves the needs of the Archdiocese of Detroit and contributes to the mission of the universal Church.