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Youth rally on Respect Life Sunday

Catholic youth listen to Father Stan Fortuna as he speaks at the rally at Cathedral High School preceding the Respect Life Mass, Oct. 5. Pilot photo/ Courtesy Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults

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SOUTH END -- Hundreds of Catholic youth attended the Archdiocese of Boston’s first rally for young people on Respect Life Sunday, Oct. 5.

Youth from several schools and parishes in the archdiocese clapped and moved along to the music provided by the choir from Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton. Then they cheered for Father Stan Fortuna, CFR, a rap and jazz musician.

The event was organized by the archdiocese’s Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults in conjunction with the Vocations Office.

The director of the Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults, Father Matt Williams, thanked the young people for participating to “bear witness to the gift of life.”

The rally began this year because Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley wanted young people to be represented at the Massachusetts Citizens for Life’s annual Respect Life Walk to Aid Mothers and Children, held later that day, he said.

The walk provides much-needed funds to organizations that help young mothers who want to choose an alternative to abortion, he added.

Father Williams said that through their participation at the rally and walk, the youth were heeding the words of Pope Benedict XVI. During his pastoral visit to the United States earlier this year, the pope called upon American youth to be “heralds of truth” who stand up for the unborn.

“He is my new hero. He is the man,” said Father Williams about the pope.

Father Fortuna also expressed his affection for the Roman pontiff, saying that he calls Pope Benedict “GG,” short for “German Genius.”

The pope rightly pointed out that the Church needs young Catholics to be engaged in their faith now, not just in the future, he added.

“Y’all are the foundation of the Church,” Father Fortuna said.

Father Fortuna encouraged the young people to treat their bodies as gifts from God, to “abstain and be free” and choose to have a “vision of life where love endures.”

Then, he rapped his song “Never Been Born,” which gives a voice to the millions of unborn children who have been silenced in their mother’s wombs, he said.

Cardinal O’Malley and Daniel Flatley, son of the late Thomas Flatley, also spoke at the rally. This year’s Respect Life Walk was dedicated to the memory of Thomas Flatley, a major supporter of the archdiocese and the pro-life movement, who passed away in May.

Flatley told the young people at the rally that standing for life is the “hard road” but also the right thing to do.

Kathy Stebbins, archdiocesan coordinator of youth ministry, said the plan is to make the rally an annual event and hopefully attract twice as many participants next year.

The rally was followed by Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross where Cardinal O’Malley told the crowd that life is sacred and belongs to God.

“When we forget that we are not the owners of life, then all kinds of atrocities begin to take place,” he said.

Cardinal O’Malley said that more than 90 percent of children diagnosed with Down syndrome in prenatal testing are aborted by their parents.

“Children with Down Syndrome learn slowly but love greatly,” he said.

Parents of children with the syndrome learn that their children are “beautiful and complex blessings” whose lives deserve to be protected, he added.

After the Mass, Catholics traveled from the cathedral to Boston Common, joining with others throughout the state for the Respect Life Walk.

Helen Cross, member of the MCFL board and chair of this year’s walk, said the focus of the 2008 event was on the crisis pregnancy centers, sheltering homes and other organizations that work hard yearlong to provide services to pregnant mothers.

Before the walk, members of those organizations spoke about the work they do. Among them was Marianne Luthin, director of the archdiocesan Pro-Life Office, who spoke about Project Rachel, a healing ministry for women who have had an abortion.

Later, Boston Herald columnist and sportswriter Joe Fitzgerald gave the keynote address. Cross said Fitzgerald’s talk about the duty of every democratic citizen to stand up for what they believe in had the chance to change minds and hearts of protesters.

Cross added that the walk attracted the largest crowd since 2005 and that although the final tally has not yet been completed, MCFL expects the event raised more money than last year.

In addition to providing funds, the Respect Life Walk provides hope for those who face crisis pregnancies, she said.

“The culture of death feeds on desperation,” she said. “This event shows that there is someone there to help you if you’re in need.”

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