THE ALBANY DIOCESE'S ANNUAL Respect Life Mass, celebrated Oct. 21 by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, included a commissioning ceremony for 18 new parish respect life representatives. Here, the Bishop and Renee Morgiewicz, diocesan coordinator of parish services and respect life ministry, present certificates to the new representatives. (Nate Whitchurch photo)
THE ALBANY DIOCESE'S ANNUAL Respect Life Mass, celebrated Oct. 21 by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, included a commissioning ceremony for 18 new parish respect life representatives. Here, the Bishop and Renee Morgiewicz, diocesan coordinator of parish services and respect life ministry, present certificates to the new representatives. (Nate Whitchurch photo)
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On Oct. 21, Catholics gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany for a Respect Life Mass in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary and Respect Life Month.

The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, who called the Albany Diocese to celebrate and give witness to the value and equality of every human life.

“Bringing about the sense of dignity to everybody regardless of status, regardless of stage, regardless of wealth, regardless of power, regardless of honor: that’s really what pro-life stands for,” the Bishop said in his homily.

The Church observes Respect Life Month during October. At the Mass, those in attendance prayed for guidance and for blessings on the efforts of those defending the most vulnerable.

“Those who are ill are often treated as less because they are vulnerable,” said Bishop Scharfenberger, comparing it to “the law of the jungle: Somebody is better or more valuable because they’re more powerful. Unfortunately, sometimes custom and even law...reinforces that lie that a person is less because they are weaker or in womb.”

At the Respect Life Mass, 18 people were commissioned by the Bishop as parish respect life representatives. Each person represented a parish in the Diocese, where he or she will work to implement pro-life initiatives and educate the public on the pro-life agenda.

Linda LeClair is a respect life representative for St. Patrick’s parish in Ravena. She said she hopes “to bring awareness to people” about the importance of each person’s life. Mrs. LeClair noted that her pastor, Rev. Scott VanDerveer, uses the oft-quoted adage that respecting life is about bringing awareness to “from the womb to the tomb.”

Mrs. LeClair said her parish is currently collecting socks for homeless veterans and planning other pro-life events that will focus on a spectrum of issues.

“We’re really trying to get active beyond just putting something in the bulletin about events,” she explained.

In his homily, Bishop Scharfenberger addressed the 18 individuals being commissioned at the Mass, saying that they were taking on “an important title” in their parish.

The Bishop also noted that power and status can obscure the way society views others and that, in the end, it is not a person’s status or title that matters, but one’s love for God.

“It’s very important in spiritual life that we might understand that it is not our works that make God pleased with us; it is God’s love for us, personally, that gives us the grace to move. We do the work in response to our love for God — not to bribe God, not to make ourselves feel better, not to put ourselves in some position of status that makes us feel better.”

Bishop Scharfenberger called the 18 respect life representatives to the altar to receive certificates and make a public commitment to their roles.

“The gift of life is sacred and to be cherished at all times,” said the Bishop during the ceremony. “So, too, is the dignity of all persons, created in the image and likeness of God the Father.

“Bless our brothers and sisters who dedicate themselves to be a voice for the voiceless, a defense for the defenseless and a welcoming person for all who live in faith. By their example, enable all of us to proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life,” Bishop Scharfenberger prayed.

After the Mass, refreshments were offered and family and friends congratulated the new representatives. Also commissioned were Steve and Betsy Acciani of Holy Trinity parish in Hudson/ Germantown; Sheila Blasch of St. Made¬≠leine Sophie in Schenectady; Philip and Laura Crandall of St. Patrick’s in Ravena; Raymond, Erin and MaryGrace Dansereau and John and Betty Higgins of Mater Christi in Albany; Steve and Chris Golden of Our Lady of Victory in Troy; Lenora LeMay of St. Ambrose in Latham; Kerry McGrath of St. Mary’s in Coxsackie; Gail McNeil of St. Paul’s in Schenectady; Bryan Purtell of St. Anthony’s in Troy; and Colleen Reynolds of St. Jude in Wynantskill.

“It’s a huge honor for me, said Ms. Reynolds. “Especially given the social and political climate, it means a lot.”