By Mary Stadnyk | News Editor
The chilled temperatures, drizzling rain and hovering cloudy skies did not deter the throng of 680 hearts of all ages who came out in force to peacefully demonstrate their unwavering support for life during the annual New Jersey Rally for Life held Jan. 23 in front of the New Jersey State House.
The two-hour rally that drew a panel of speakers including pro-life legislators from around the state, leaders of pro-life groups and ministries, clergy from various faith traditions and representatives from the offices of U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4) and Scott Garrett (NJ-5).
“I think this (event) is really important” because it gives us more knowledge on a subject that impacts our country,” said Teresa Holl, an eighth grader of St. Veronica School, Howell.
As she surveyed the many people around her who conveyed their support for life through their words and peaceful presence, Holl said she was once again reminded of “how important each life is.”
“I was reminded of how each life is a gift from God to all of us,” she said.
Linda Groh, seventh and eighth grade teacher in St. Veronica School, said she thought it was important to have the school’s two upper grades attend the Rally for Life, especially since the students are preparing to enter high school, and at some point may be faced with certain moral “obstacles” or having to make difficult decisions or choices in the years to come.
In their homes and at schools, the students are given certain moral “foundations” to guide them, said Groh.
“I think the students need to see those foundations being reinforced through other people’s eyes, such as those who are here at the Rally for Life,” she added.
The Rally for Life, organized by New Jersey Right to Life and held each year to mark the anniversary of the Jan. 22 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, provides a local opportunity for those who wish to voice their support for human life but are unable to make the trip to Washington for the National March for Life.
Father Stanley Krzyston, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Yardville, led the rally with an opening prayer.
“We acknowledge this is a day of tragedy, but also a day of hope,” said Father Krzyston. “We see young people among us and we pray that they will be changing agents for a better future, a future where we will return to respect for life and respect for matrimony.
“We also pray for the unborn babies this day who will lose their lives legally in America,” continued Father Krzyston. “We pray that evil law will change one day. We also pray for our politicians that they will find the courage to do the right thing especially for unborn babies and their mothers…”
The introductory remarks given by Marie Tasy, director of New Jersey Right to Life, referenced last year’s rally when Governor Chris Christie shared the riveting story of his own conversion to the pro-life cause. Tasy recounted how the governor had a change of heart and mind after hearing the heartbeat of his unborn daughter while she was still in the womb 16 years ago.
“We thank Gov. Christie for sharing his experience with us and hope that it will prompt those who support abortion to rethink their position as well,” said Tasy.
“Today we come together once again on this anniversary to be a voice for our unborn brothers and sisters, to plead for their lives, to reach out to women in crisis and tell them you deserve better than abortion, let us help you, and finally to declare that Roe v. Wade is wrong.”
“We are here because we believe in the sanctity of human life, that human life has value and should be protected by our laws,” Tasy said. “We reaffirm on this day as we have for the last 39 years that we will persevere until Roe v. Wade has been assigned to the trash bins of history.”
Before the rally, the Catholic faithful from around the diocese were invited to begin their day in prayer by participating in the first-ever State House Rally Mass for Life in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. The Mass, which was celebrated by Father Joseph Roldan, cathedral rector, drew some 300 people, including members of various area Knights of Columbus councils, families with young children and contingents from diocesan Catholic schools including St. Veronica, the eighth grade class from Pope John Paul II Regional School, Willingboro, and Our Lady of Sorrows School, Hamilton.
In his homily, Father Roldan acknowledged the challenges that people of faith encounter in light of living in a society that devalues human life and family life.
“Our job as faithful Christians, as faithful Catholics, is to see through the falsehood and lies we are being fed through the media, in the programs we watch, in our work places and in our daily world,” said Father Roldan.
Father Roldan admonished the 39-year history that abortion has been legal in the United States and how “hundreds of millions of our innocent children have had this gift of life taken from them.”
“Let’s not sugar coat, let’s not turn a blind eye to this important fact,’ said Father Roldan. “Abortion kills the human life within the mother’s womb…Abortion corrupts our society from what is sacred…”
Father Roldan exhorted those gathered to accept the awesome responsibility of taking a stand in support of all human life.
“Our nation has judged it to be OK to reject the gift of life, but we must continue to stand firmly in our faith and by our moral principles,” said Father Roldan.
“We must take a stand! We need to, and we must show our support for the sanctity of life. We need to and must show our disgust, our pain; we must stop this offense which is a slap in God’s face.”
“We are called to change our culture of death into a culture of life,” Father Roldan continued.
“Life is sacred and we are called to protect everything that is sacred.”