Bishop urges students, veteran pro-lifers to find their strength in the Lord

Eighth-graders Bella Pinter and Kristina Penaverde of Peru Catholic School sing "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" as the Mass for the Unborn draws to a close Jan. 24. Joining them for the liturgy at St. Mary's Cathedral was their pastor, Msgr. Richard Soseman, who concelebrated. The Cathollic Post/Jennifer Willems

As students from Catholic high schools and Newman Centers around the Diocese of Peoria were preparing for the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and their classmates joined them in spirit and prayer during a Mass for the Unborn on Jan. 24.

The annual liturgy took place at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria and was sponsored by the diocese’s Respect Life Ministry and Office of Catholic Schools. More than 280 students were expected for the Mass, but weather concerns kept a few of them at school as a safety precaution.

The second-graders from St. Mark School in Peoria toured St. Mary’s Cathedral after the Mass for the Unborn on Jan. 24. They will receive their First Communion this spring and Terry Mischler, director of religious education, used the visit to teach them more about the saints, such as St. Therese of Lisieux. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Bishop Jenky said that with the Catholic Church’s teaching on the communion of saints, it was all good because the prayers of those present and not present would still work together to support life.

He reminded the students and respect life advocates that Jesus was not shy about doing his Father’s will and urged his followers to “get out there and fight, no matter what anyone else thought.”

“They faced a hostile culture, pagan Rome, that hated everything Christianity was all about, but they did not surrender,” Bishop Jenky said. “I think that Gospel message is rather important for all of you and for me that say we are pro-life.”

“NEVER GIVE UP”

The mainstream media and legislators make the case for taking innocent life in the womb, even saying that babies who survive abortion may still be allowed to die.

“All our science, all our facts point in the other direction of what our culture bangs away at,” Bishop Jenky said. “For us, who are people of faith, that child was created in the image and likeness of God. The face of God is reflected in their little faces.”

For that reason, we can never get tired of being pro-life and must join people of good will to march. That witness may also include supporting those who need help to support life, he said.

“I can’t tell you what it means to me to see a cathedral with a lot of young people. Our kids and our schools are pro-life,” Bishop Jenky said as he looked out over those assembled before him. “You are called by Jesus Christ by name, just like those first 12 apostles, to be his messengers, his witnesses.”

Taking the advice of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, students from Blessed Sacrament School in Morton visited the tomb of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen after the Mass for the Unborn at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Jan. 24. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

He encouraged them to get to know Jesus in the Eucharist and follow the Holy Spirit’s call. Leaning on both would help them not to become discouraged.

“Never give up. Keep on fighting,” Bishop Jenky said. “Find in the Lord the strength you need.”

He also encouraged them to visit the tomb of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen before they left the cathedral. Not only was he a Catholic school student like them, but he served Mass and was ordained at St. Mary’s Cathedral, the bishop said.

The students took his advice, lining up to pray in front of the tomb in the Lady Chapel or respectfully lay their hands on its marble surface. Some schools also visited the Diocesan Museum at the nearby Spalding Pastoral Center to learn more about the El Paso native.

Many of the teachers and principals led their students on tours of the cathedral, including the St. Thomas More Chapel, which houses the relics of saints and what is thought to be a piece of the true cross. Every group paused on the steps of the sanctuary for a photo.

Lending their voices to the liturgy were students from Peoria Notre Dame High School, under the direction of Wendy Strauss. The first reading was proclaimed by Carrington Gray, a freshman at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington.

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