A Priestly Vocation to End Abortion
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A Priestly Vocation to End Abortion
(First of a two part series...)
When I had the chance to visit my good friend Father Frank Pavone in Priests for Life's now two-year-old headquarters in Titusville, Florida, we talked at length about his vocation -- what led him to the priesthood and who influenced him early on in his ministry.
It's a fascinating story and one I thought Catholic Online readers would enjoy.
Fr. Frank Pavone discusses his pro-life vocation with Deacon Keith Fournier.
Father Frank was a teenager in public school. He went to church on Sunday with his parents and his brother but that was the extent of his religious practice. So at the end of his junior year, his parents were quite surprised when he announced he wanted to be a priest.
It was math that led Father Frank to that decision. He was totally immersed in his studies and he especially liked mathematics. He discovered that the deeper he delved into algebra, calculus and theoretical mathematics, the more philosophical the work became. He realized that the concept of infinity was very close to the concept of eternity.
As he studied the laws and the rules that govern math, he realized there was an intelligence beyond creation. Mathematics led him to philosophy, which led him to theology.
"I got very interested in the Bible and what the Church teaches," Father Frank told me. "I began going to Mass more frequently. I would go to Mass in the morning in my parish before going to my classes in high school. And in so doing, I rediscovered the Eucharist. He who eats this bread will live forever. I was just like, what better thing could there be than to introduce people to all of that? I didn't know the terminology back then, but I was really discovering what new evangelization means and I was experiencing it again my own soul. I had been raised in the faith, but now it was like a new discovery of it."
When God first touched Father Frank and led him to think about priestly ministry, another thing was happening at the same time. He started his senior year of high school in 1975, two years after abortion was legalized through the Roe v. Wade decision. In January 1976, he went to the March for Life in D.C. with his mother and grandmother.
"When I saw the crowd and how serious they were but how joyful they were, how large and diverse that crowd was, I said to myself this is a big issue, this is a big movement" Father Frank recalled. He said that as he began paying more attention to abortion, an alarm started going off in his mind and my heart.
"These babies are being killed. This is wrong," he remembered thinking. "Somebody's got to do something about this. People are doing something about this. I need to join them."
Father Frank described his commitment to the pro-life cause as a call within his call to the priesthood.
"I got to the point where in conscience, I could not continue with my life business as usual," he said. "I had to devote myself fully to the protection of the unborn and the end of abortion."
That was the start of Father Frank's work in pro-life. Last year he celebrated 30 years since his ordination and 25 years since taking over a small organization known as Priests for Life. Started in San Francisco, its mission was to empower priests to be the most powerful advocates for life possible, and that is still at its core. But the mission has grown to include Rachel's Vineyard, a ministry of healing to mothers, fathers -- everyone, really -- who has been impacted by the loss of a child through abortion, and the Silent No More Awareness Campaign for women and men who regret their abortion experiences and are willing to say so publicly. Evangelist Alveda King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s niece, also works for Priests for Life fulltime as director of Civil Rights for the Unborn. Priests for Life also has a youth outreach and is a non-governmental organization at the United Nations. They have an office in Rome. Missionaries of the Gospel of Life is a training program in pro-life spirituality, and of course they have the ministries Deacons for Life and Seminarians for Life.
Father Frank has priests standing with him as well. Father Denis G. Wilde, OSA, an Augustinian, is the associate director of Priests for Life. He's a great holy, humble man with a great joy for life. In his travels, in addition to preaching and teaching, he shares his gift as a concert pianist, giving concerts for life.
Priests for Life had another mighty warrior for life with them, Father Walter Quinn, who also was an Augustinian. He just died recently, but in the last few months of his life he was busy trying to ensure Catholics would get into heaven, writing homilies to help show them the way. St. Augustine, I have no doubt, is proud of both of these holy priests.
With the abortion issue at an unprecedented boiling point in the United States, it seems we have entered what is truly a pro-life moment. I thank God that priests like Father Frank and his team are there to help all of us rise to the occasion through this wonderful work of Priests for Life. And to use a phrase Fr. Frank likes to quote often, they've only just begun!
(This is part one of a two part series. The second part will focus on the people who most influenced Fr. Frank's life and work, including two canonized saints.)
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