By Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life
It was the Spring of 1992 and I was sitting with my Archbishop, John Cardinal O’Connor of New York, telling him that I had come to the point where I could not go on with my life “business as usual” without devoting myself full-time to the defense of the unborn against abortion.
It was a matter of weeks later that he granted me permission to become the first full-time director of Priests for Life. “I know of no effort more noble, more timely, or more important than the recruitment of our clergy in the cause for life,” he wrote to me. I have been doing it ever since.
In that initial conversation, I explained to him that I wanted Priests for Life to avoid a big pitfall which, frankly, many institutions in the Church fall into. My exact words to him were, “Your Eminence, I don’t want to create new structures, but rather to infuse the structures we already have with new enthusiasm, vigor, and effectiveness.”
And that’s just what Priests for Life has been doing. There has not been a day that I have looked back. There has not been a day that I have not felt the enthusiasm of the very first day of this mission.
I am convinced at the present moment that the pro-life movement is entering a new chapter of this battle. We are closer to victory than ever before, and now is the time to redouble every effort and to push over the finish line. Now is the time to cut off any “dead wood,” any projects that aren’t bearing fruit, any expenditures and efforts that are not actually moving us toward the goal of ending abortion, and any bureaucracy in our structures that is hindering rather than advancing the mission.
There is a new thirst for unity in our movement, and I have been committed to promoting that unity in various ways since 1993. Gathering leaders for retreats and strategy sessions, and building bridges of communication and collaboration that didn’t exist before, continues to be one of the most important things in which I am involved. These efforts for unity are bearing fruit, and many leaders have approached me about how we can harvest that fruit and begin more joint efforts, rather than just pursuing, on parallel paths, the work of our individual organizations. More leaders than ever are ready to do this.
Moreover, people who want to support the pro-life movement financially are looking for that kind of active unity and collaboration. They are looking for convincing plans that have a promise of success and that meet the varied needs of the movement rather than the vision of just one organization. Various leaders on the national level, including myself, have been formulating such plans and it is time to invest even greater effort and attention to bringing them to fruition.
My team and I have therefore enacted a number of changes, in order to best use your resources and ours to hasten the day of victory, and to stay faithful to the vision I articulated to Cardinal O’Connor sixteen years ago.
For one thing, Priests for Life is not going to have its own seminarians. We started down that road a couple of years ago, convinced that we had to leave no stone unturned in looking for ways to advance the pro-life cause within the Church. We tried it, but it began to divert too much time, energy, and resources away from the primary purpose of our organization. Experience has proven that it’s best to stay with the original design of Priests for Life, namely, that the dioceses, seminaries, and religious communities take care of training men for the priesthood, and that we take care of specialized training in the pro-life cause, both for priests who want to work with us full-time, and for all the priests, deacons, seminarians, and laity in the Church (and outside the Church).
We are also going to vastly scale down the building projects that we have in the works. After all, we are a missionary organization. My suitcase and those of our whole pastoral team are never unpacked. Moreover, we come into people’s homes and cars through television, radio, and internet on a daily basis. Both of those dynamics suggest that a big central headquarters isn’t necessary. A small one suffices.
Again, our current approach is working, so I don’t want to divert all kinds of attention and resources to building anything that may prove superfluous. We are not here to build new structures, but to renew the existing ones. The Church has massive structures to gather and communicate with people. Priests for Life is present to those structures, challenging everyone in the Church to put ending abortion higher on the priority list.
We’re closer to victory than ever before. The focus now needs to be getting the job done, not setting up more structures for plans to get it done in the next generation. The time is now.Now is the time to stop all the cautious dancing with language and plainly challenge our citizens to elect pro-life candidates.
Now is the time to stop lamenting that we’re not reaching abortion-minded women and instead, simply go to the places where they obviously are – the abortion clinics – and be present at those killing centers twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, until the killing stops.
Now is the time to stop worrying about those who aren’t doing their job, and partnering more closely with those who are. It doesn’t take a majority to get the job done; it takes a minority who risk everything and stop at nothing.
We have entered a new phase of the pro-life movement. Come with us. It’s time for victory.