Diocesan News

Local Catholics Pray During Latest, and Peaceful, Witness for Life Event

  • Nearly 50 Catholics proceed peacefully to the nearest Planned Parenthood center for the third Witness for Life event in Brooklyn. (Photos: Erin DeGregorio)
  • Some Catholic participants called last month’s procession “intense” and “chaotic,” but were not deterred from attending in July.
  • It took nearly 45 minutes to walk three blocks and cross Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.
  • Father Michael W. Panicali, the local chaplain of Rosary for Life and parochial vicar for St. Mark-St. Margaret Mary Parish in Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach, holds up his pair of rosary beads while praying.
  • Omar Castro, a parishioner of St. Mark’s in Sheepshead Bay, wants to continue attending the Witness for Life events in both Brooklyn and other boroughs every month.
  • A few Catholics who participated in this month’s Witness for Life wore t-shirts that speak to the sanctity of life, including this one above quoting Scripture.
  • Catholics spend a final two minutes in silence outside the clinic — praying for expectant mothers and those considering abortion — before walking back to St. Paul’s with police once again in the middle.

COBBLE HILL — The latest Brooklyn Witness for Life event, held July 10, took more than two hours to complete as members from the NYC for Abortion Rights coalition tried to block local Catholics from praying in a rosary procession.

The seven-block walk to Planned Parenthood’s Joan Malin Brooklyn Health Center in Brooklyn Heights, which normally would have taken just nine minutes, was slowed by the abortion rights advocates’ protest and ended up lasting more than 100 minutes. A cordon of police officers walked between the two groups to keep them apart and head off any physical contact.

More than two dozen individuals from the NYC for Abortion Rights coalition chanted such phrases as “Get up, get down, New York is a pro-choice town,” “This church harasses patients,” “Shame, shame, shame,” and “Thank God for abortion,” while nearly 50 Catholics prayed aloud the Hail Mary and “Have mercy on us and the whole world.”  Those in opposition also held up handmade signs that stated “The word ‘abortion’ never appears in the Bible” and “Abortion is a human right.”

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This event followed the second Brooklyn Witness for Life event (held on June 12) during which about 30 pro-abortion individuals chanted outside St. Paul’s Church and tried blocking 15 Catholics from proceeding to the nearby Planned Parenthood center. 

A smaller police presence was there that day as some officers moved in between the two groups both to and from Brooklyn Borough Hall. 

“It was intense,” recalled sidewalk counselor Brianna Mangat. “The protesters are God’s children, made in the image of God. I pray for them every day.”

Omar Castro, a parishioner of St. Mark’s in Sheepshead Bay and member of the Rosary For Life prayer association, commuted to Cobble Hill for both the June and July events. He said it was “frightening” to see how participating clergy members were confronted last month.

“Part of our group did not suffer as much as the clergy did because of their obvious appearance, and so we weren’t aware of what had happened until after we saw the photos and videos,” Castro explained. “It was frightening and we were apprehensive, but we knew we had to go through this and were optimistic.”

During his July 10 homily, Father Conrad Osterhout, CFR (of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal order in the South Bronx), spoke of relinquishing fears and placing trust in God. 

“Every day our hearts are challenged, but we keep our eyes fixed towards Jesus,” Father Osterhout said. “We are strengthened through the glory of God [and] our Lady is interceding for us.”

“We will be not simply exercising our constitutional right of free assembly, free speech, [and] freedom of religion,” added Father Fidelis Moscinski, CFR, who participated in the June and July Witness for Life events. “More importantly, we will be exercising our right and duty as Catholics to proclaim Christ the King, the law of God, and the sanctity and dignity of human life from the moment of conception.”

Once on the block where the center is located, the group of Catholics gathered behind barriers in the street, continuing to pray outside the clinic for expectant mothers and those considering abortion. After about 20 minutes, the two groups walked back to St. Paul’s with police once again in the middle.

Maria Cardenas, another St. Mark’s parishioner who also attended both the June and July events, said she was not afraid to participate in the latest procession. “I had no fear because I was witnessing to Jesus,” Cardenas said. “I know that He was with us there.”

“Even though it took two hours to walk seven blocks [in both directions], I think every step was worth it,” said Deborah Sucich, who helps organize the monthly Witness for Life in Brooklyn. “We really are establishing a presence here, which I think is maybe why we’re getting so much pushback.”

The next Witness For Life in Brooklyn will be held on Saturday, August 14, beginning with an 8 a.m. Mass at St. Paul’s.

“We thank Father Fidelis and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal,” Sucich said, “and we want to thank the Diocese of Brooklyn for their support especially Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Father Paul Anel, pastor at St. Paul’s.”