DETROIT — The 13th annual Dinner for Life, hosted by the seminarians at Sacred Heart Major Seminary on Feb. 3, looked the same as past years: Mass, followed by a dinner prepared and served by the seminarians and a presentation regarding the pro-life movement.
But on the heels of the most significant year since the 1970s for the pro-life movement in Michigan — the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June, followed by the passage of Proposal 3 at the state level in November, which enshrined abortion in the state's constitution — this year's dinner took on a sense of deep importance for the seminary community.
“We have been through highs and lows recently. There are people gathered here tonight who maybe never thought they would see the end of Roe v. Wade," Fr. Stephen Burr, rector of the seminary, said in his homily. "So much of our past plea to the Lord has been just for that to be brought to an end."
But as the passage of Proposal 3 showed, the fight for life is not over, Fr. Burr said. And despite the setback, God has not abandoned the pro-life movement, he added.
"There are many times in life when we feel like we stand alone or that no one hears our pleas, that God has not yet responded," Fr. Burr said. "Be reassured, brothers and sisters, that we stand here as people of faith and gather here as one. We gather here in His name."
This year's Dinner for Life — the first in-person dinner since the pandemic in 2020 — was hosted with this backdrop in mind, said Jim Musgrave, a first-year theology seminarian from Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth and co-chair for this year's dinner.
“Archbishop (Allen H.) Vigneron’s letter (after the passage of Proposal 3) called for a doubling down on efforts to really promote the culture of life and really claim the victory that Jesus won over death through his cross and resurrection,” Musgrave told Detroit Catholic. “The archbishop charged everyone in the Archdiocese of Detroit to really help mothers, especially mothers who are dealing with difficult or challenging pregnancies or unwanted pregnancies.”
Given the new reality facing the pro-life movement in Michigan, seminarians saw this as an opportunity to reimagine the Dinner for Life, said the other co-chairman, Daniel Hackenjos, who is currently in formation for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
“It’s important to keep having these conversations,” Hackenjos told Detroit Catholic. “People say, 'Why do you have a pro-life dinner in February (as opposed to other months more known for pro-life advocacy)?' It kind of helps remind us that pro-life work is something we've got to do every day. We have to take it up year-round. It's not just during Respect Life month in October or in January around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. But it's a constant daily work and a daily prayer we have to do."
Instead of inviting one keynote speaker, the seminarians opted for a panel of speakers representing different pro-life organizations and crisis pregnancy centers in the archdiocese, who participated in a Q&A-style discussion.
The speakers included Peggy and Mike O’Dea, founders of Mother and Unborn Baby Care crisis pregnancy center in Southfield; Louis Brown, executive director of the Christ Medicus Foundation in Troy; Katie Montes, executive director of Mary’s Mantle in Troy; and Kathleen Wilson, coordinator of the Respect Life Ministry for the Archdiocese of Detroit.
While the passing of Proposal 3 likely means there will be an uptick in abortions in the state of Michigan, the people of God now have a greater opportunity to extend God’s mercy to those who are hurting from abortions and to offer resources, Wilson said.
Each of the speakers emphasized the importance of continuing to meet the needs of mothers and families with the love of Christ, especially in light of political setbacks.
“The morning after Proposal 3, I was feeling overwhelmed and down, and someone said to me, ‘We keep doing what we’ve always done,’” Montes said during the panel discussion. “I showed up that day and went to work, and my coworkers, who are amazing women of God, showed up to work, and we loved the four moms who were there with us that day.
"That’s our response," Montes said. "There were many pro-life places that did the same exact thing on Wednesday morning: We showed up and did our jobs. And for me, that’s what matters most.”
This article was originally published by Detroit Catholic.