My pro-life involvement began after I had moved to Ottawa from Montreal, some twelve years ago. However modest it was, I am indebted to Mr. Bernie Langill.
I went to Ottawa to do graduate studies at the Dominican College. In my second year, I moved into the rectory of Our Lady of Perpetual Help church, in the Somerset Heights area of Ottawa. The parish was a small, welcoming, inter-city one consisting of many older families and having a strong Filipino presence, due in large part to its pastor Father Glicerio Jimenez. It was there that I met Bernie.
Despite living in the west end of Ottawa, Bernie, along with his wife Yvette, attended OLPH regularly. He was an active attendee at the weekly Wednesday night novenas to Our Lady. Also, he was present at the weekend liturgies and participated in many of the social functions held in the basement of the church.
Also, Bernie was a very active pro-lifer. At Christmas time, he set up a table in the church lobby in order to sell Trappist fruit cakes, tempting would-be clients with samples topped with his homemade lemon sauce. In the Fall, he recruited people to be part of the life chain held in the numerous areas around the capital. In the Summer months he occupied himself dispensing containers used for the Pennies for Life collection. Finally, in May he was on the Hill as well as at the liturgies and the Rose dinner as part of the National Pro-Life March events. Inevitably, by contact with Bernie, I was awaken out of my pro-life slumber.
On one occasion he invited me to participate in a life chain. With some discomfort, I accepted his offer. Yes, I believed in the cause yet manifesting myself publicly is another matter. Spineless? Yes. I prefer to get along with others rather than ruffle feathers. So, with difficulty, I stepped out of my comfort zone to express a not so popular opinion, one that runs counter to our society; namely, the death of the innocent, unborn is wrong. Yet, doesn't Christ call us to life and to die to self?
So, with some trepidation, on the appointed day I went the Bank street rendez-vous spot, met other pro-lifers, gathered a not too offensive sign, and posted myself along the street some five meters from the next pro-lifer. I felt mortified. I remained there for an hour and half in quiet vigil, embarrassed much of the time, praying silently and enduring occasional slurs from passers-by. So, it was difficult.
Over the years, expressing myself publicly hasn't gotten any easier. Yes, at heart, I am a people-pleaser. Yet, this trait hasn't controlled me and I have endured the scorn of many by participating in other life-chains, not only in Ottawa but also in Mount Kisco, NY, and in the Bronx. Our Lord said that to follow him is not easy and there would be a cross for us to carry. He was not people-pleaser.
Next time: My meeting with Msgr. Trainor, pastor at Shrine Church of St. Ann, Bronx, NY.