by JEFF DILLON
A congregation of some 50 people attended a special Mass on a Monday evening at 7pm recently at St Joseph’s church, Brockville, which is part of the Little Sisters of the Poor Sacred Heart Home facility in Dunedin.

The Vigil for Life Mass was organised through the efforts of two Dunedin Family Life International volunteers — Phillippa O’Neil and Ann-Maree Taylor. Both women
counsel and work with pregnant mothers and provide support before and after the birth.

The special event was to mark the beginning of the Lenten Prayer for Life action, in which people are asked to register online at fli.org.nz/lentenprayerforlife and make a prayer and fasting commitment to seek change in four key areas.

The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Michael Dooley with concelebrants Emeritus Bishop Colin Campbell, Msgr Vincent Walker, Fr Mervyn McGettigan and Fr Mervyn
Hanifin.

In his homily, Bishop Dooley noted that the evening’s Gospel
had a man running in eagerness to ask Jesus a question about how to obtain eternal life. Christ asks him about obeying the commandments, and the man says he has done so, but when it comes to getting rid of the burden of his possessions that is holding him back from a full life, he is unable to do so and walks sadly away.

Bishop Dooley commented that “the key message from Jesus is that he affirms life” and that “he wants people to have a full and free life”.

He went on to observe, “there is an energy that is present in our world and . . . has always been present that is the very opposite of this . . . and it is an energy that is a downward
spiral to death and oblivion”. Its presence could be seen in examples of war, torture, abuse, exploitation, abortion or euthanasia throughout the world.

He noted that, as Catholics, we have wished to express that key message of Christ of affirming “life”, but our message has been undermined by the sexual abuse crisis affecting
the Church. While the Church had been preaching one message, serious wrongdoing had been going on within the institution and attempts to protect the image of the Church
by hiding the wrongdoings have only created further harm.

So the claim of hypocrisy can be justly levelled at the Church. In a reference to a Gospel reading in recent weeks,
Bishop Dooley said that, as a Church, we need to remove the log from our own eye so that we are not blind and
deal honestly with the mistakes of past decades. He considered that it is essential to deal with the issues so that the Church could be credible again so that its message to
the world of affirming life is taken seriously.

At the end of Mass, Mrs Taylor spoke briefly about some of the aspects of the Lenten Prayer for Life initiative, before the invitation was made to the congregation to move through to a dining room for a light supper and the second part of the evening’s programme.

The second part involved the playing of a DVD movie called “un- Planned”. This dealt with the life story of American woman, Abby Johnston, who had two abortions herself
before becoming a director of a large Planned Parenthood abortion centre in the US. The story reveals her road
to Damascus moment and struggle as she rethought her attitudes and recognised that she could no longer support her previous views and decided to switch sides. She is now
a strong pro-life advocate.

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