Post editor shares ‘unique perspective’ of pro-life reporting at Respect Life Dinner

Tom Dermody, editor of The Catholic Post, shared some of the memorable stories from his 38 years of covering pro-life activity in the Diocese of Peoria as keynote speaker of the annual Respect Life Dinner on Oct. 1. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

While food for thought is always served along with an excellent meal at the annual Respect Life Dinner in Peoria, guests also received helpings of praise, hope and encouragement when Tom Dermody, editor of The Catholic Post, exchanged his notebook and camera for a spot behind the microphone.

More than 150 people gathered at Barrack’s Cater Inn on Oct. 1 for the dinner, which raised more than $4,000 for the Family Resources Center. While most of the speakers over the last 36 years have come from outside the Diocese of Peoria, Dermody was asked to share his “unique perspective” of covering the pro-life movement here for nearly four decades.

“I look out and I see so many familiar faces,” he said. “If The Catholic Post hasn’t done a story on every person in this room, we could and maybe should have, and probably will in the future.”

Noting that designers from Apple and other companies are creating marvels of technology, Dermody said nothing can compare to the design of a human being.

“We have been individually designed, not mass produced, and there has never been a design like us before — and there will never be one like us after,” he said.

“We are created in the image and likeness of the Master designer who loves us beyond what we can imagine. And because of that, we all have God-given dignity and worth, from conception to natural death,” Dermody told them. “That’s our belief. That’s what we celebrate tonight, and it’s a message I’ve been privileged to hear from this podium, from other stages, from pulpits, even from sidewalks, time and time again.”

A 1979 graduate of Bradley University in Peoria, Dermody started writing for The Catholic Post 38 years ago and has been its editor for 27 years. He said he has been privileged to work in “an unabashedly pro-life diocese” led by “unabashedly pro-life bishops” like Bishop Edward W. O’Rourke, Bishop John J. Myers, and Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.

SPOTTING ‘FAKE NEWS’

Acknowledging that it wasn’t easy to condense 38 years of experience into 30 minutes, Dermody managed to mention and praise a long list of respect life people, organizations and programs in the Diocese of Peoria.

“We have seen you brave subzero temperatures here, in Chicago, and Washington, D.C., to stand up and witness for the sanctity of human life,” he said. “We’ve seen you Walk for Life, March for Life, Rally for Life, Run for Life, give Pennies for Life, repeatedly fast and pray for 40 Days for Life, Bike for Babies, and today, again, form Life Chains.”

Catholic Post cameras have been present when thousands of crosses have been erected on church grounds and in town squares and farm fields to memorialize the unborn, and pro-life outreaches — including the Women’s Choice Center in the Quad Cities and the Women’s Care Center in Peoria — opened next to abortion facilities, Dermody added.

Among the groups and organizations he cited for helping to meet the needs of women and families in desperate situations was the Christ Child Society. “How many layettes has that group assembled to help mothers of newborns,” he asked.

The growth of the Family Resources Center, located at 415 N.E. Monroe St. in Peoria, also has been documented in the pages of The Post. Started in 1980, the center grew out of a concern for the unborn and families shared by Father John Dietzen, longtime chair of the Diocesan Respect Life Board, and Jan and Pete Smith of Morton.

“And yet, for decades I — and you — have heard from those who disagree with us that ‘Pro-lifers only care about unborn lives, not about women,’” he said. “Take it from this witness — that statement is the very definition of fake news. You know it. And our friends on the other side of the issue know it.”

NEW CHALLENGES

The latest challenge comes in the form of taxpayer-funded abortion, which was signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Sept. 28.

“Not my money, governor,” Dermody said. “This cannot stand.” (See related story.)

Peoria Notre Dame High School Teens for Life co-presidents Olivia Hishon and Alexis Fady. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

More than making us sad, this ought to wake us up and remind us there is hard work to be done, he said, and some of it may take us out of our comfort zones.

“Maybe we’re not used to writing letters to our politicians. It’s time. Maybe we’ve never prayed outside an abortion facility. It’s time,” Dermody said. “Maybe we didn’t think to invite a friend to this dinner this evening. Maybe next year we should.”

Dermody closed his presentation by singing a pro-life anthem he composed called “Life Begins at the Beginning.”

Joining the longtime respect life advocates at the dinner were representatives of the Students for Life at Galesburg High School and the Teens for Life at Peoria Notre Dame High School. Both groups support their local women’s pregnancy center and attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Jacinta Boynton, president of the Galesburg group, said it’s amazing to have a club like this in a public school. “But we need more. We need more students to stand up for our missing generations in both public and private schools.”

A club of 250 students, Teens for Life at Peoria Notre Dame does more than talk about being pro-life, according to co-president Alexis Fady.

“We try to live pro-life lives every day,” she said. “Through our acts of loving kindness we aim to lead by example, so that other students and families are inspired to join the pro-life movement.”

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