By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

Bishop Douglas J. Lucia honored Respect Life Month both indoors and outdoors Oct. 24.

In the morning, he concelebrated the Mass for Life; high school students filled the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse.

In the afternoon, the bishop said the rosary with more than 50 people in front of Planned Parenthood in Syracuse.

“We’re being invited to see, from the tiniest child in the womb to the most elderly person, God’s gift,” Bishop Lucia told the students.

He cited the gift of his own mother: “My mom was 91 this week. And yet, when I go home now, my mom is a little different. My mom has Alzheimer’s. … We can’t have a conversation. Sometimes I only can just sit with her. And yet, just sitting with her, it reminds me how special she is.”

The bishop also told the story of an unpopular office worker to whom only one person showed a little bit of kindness each day. One night the kind woman died, and it was the unpopular worker who cried and said aloud: “She was the only Christ I ever knew.”

“Brothers and sisters,” the bishop said, “never, never forget that you and I might be the only Christ that someone might know.”

The Mass’ petitions expressed the wish that lawmakers at all levels of government have the courage to uphold the sanctity of life.

After the Mass, William Crist, superintendent of the diocesan schools, announced the winners of a scholarship contest that posed this to the more than 30 applicants: “Why are you pro-life, and how will you help build a culture of life?”

The winners are high school seniors Maura Kate Davidson ($1,000 scholarship), of Fayetteville-Manlius High School; Anthony Falgiatano ($1,000), of Bishop Grimes; and Nguyen Nguyen ($500), of Bishop Ludden.

Superintendent Crist noted that Falgiatano’s aspiration, which he included in his essay, “is that he will be the president of the United States.” That drew even more whooping and applause.

Falgiatano is already the student body president at Grimes.

Grimes junior Alex Williams said he knew Falgiatano was going to win the scholarship.

“He stands by what he believes,” Williams said, “and I wouldn’t have anyone else as our class president — as our class president and the REAL president!”

“I’m pro-life,” Falgiatano said, “because I believe everyone should deserve a chance to live, no matter what the situation is, no matter what. …

“The parent may not want the child, but the child could turn out to be a great person and do great things with their life.”

He feels that “abortion is not talked about enough. It’s just pushed under the rug. Someone high up needs to talk about it and it needs to be addressed — why so many people are just freely killing babies that are in week 24 that can still feel, and their heart’s beating, and they just get torn out of the mother’s womb; it’s not right.”

If one day he is elected president of the United States, he said, “one thing I’m certainly going to do is address Roe vs. Wade. I’m sure that there’s a lot of people will be mad at me and it may be the reason why I lose an election, but it needs to be addressed. It’s a problem that needs to be solved, and people deserve the right to live.”

Falgiatano will use his $1,000 scholarship to attend Le Moyne College: “Major in history, so later that’ll help me in politics.”

Also addressing the students was Kitty Spinelli, co-founder of Joseph’s House, a home for mothers facing unplanned pregnancies and also for moms with tots. The home offers physical, emotional, and spiritual support.

“I want you to understand that your life is a miracle,” Spinelli told the students. She cited statistics and explained, for example, that the odds of “being you” and not a sibling are astronomical. All of the students, she said, are going to be approached by someone at some point who is considering abortion.

She said: “Please remember those statistics. … Your life is a miracle. God has a plan for you.”

Spinelli introduced a woman who lives at Joseph’s House, Octavia Evans, 21, who said she faced her fear and had her baby.

“It wasn’t in me to kill my baby,” she said.

“That’s courage, young lady; God bless you,” Spinelli said.

Evans lives at Joseph’s House with her happy, healthy son, Javier, who will turn two years old in May.

“They help me a lot,” Evans said of Joseph’s House.

Sue Plemons, the home’s director of operations and the Exodus program, which helps moms transition out, said the home has taught Evans cooking, menu planning, and parenting.

“She can cook very well. … She’s a good mom,” said Joseph’s House case manager Rebecca Degeilh.

Joseph’s House was also helping Evans prepare for interviews; she wants to be a fashion-sales supervisor and to own her own home.

Later, Bishop Lucia prayed the Five Luminous Mysteries of the rosary at Planned Parenthood. Participants included Shannon Guy and Jeanie Owens, co-coordinators of the Syracuse 40 Days for Life effort.

“We pray, fast, do community outreach, and hold a constant vigil to end abortion in our community for 40 days two times a year,” Guy said.

It is part of an international campaign that runs this year Sept. 25-Nov. 3; the website says it “aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a peaceful all-day vigil in front of abortion businesses.”

Guy and Owens said that since 2007 in the international campaign, 16,004 lives have been spared, 191 abortion workers have converted, and 104 abortion centers have closed.

“Here in Syracuse,” Guy said, “we’ve had over 72 children saved since 2009 when we started.”

“We have sidewalk counselors” that talk to people who come to Planned Parenthood, she said.

If the women decide to keep their baby and report that fact (saying, for example, “You helped me, I AM going to keep my baby”), the Syracuse group sends that information along to the national headquarters.

Owens said: “Most women don’t know that there’s help and support when they’re on their own in a difficult pregnancy; or couples — they don’t realize that people will come around them with love and support and resources  — everything they need to have their baby.”

Anyone thinking about an abortion or anyone in a difficult pregnancy situation can call Guy (315-664-5067) or Owens (315-956-7772). They also invite anyone to come out and pray with them. And information is available at

“I’m extremely happy that the bishop has come out to be with us today,” Guy said. “It shows that he understands the gravity of the situation here in Syracuse, and he wants to pray and fast alongside us to overcome the evil of abortion in our community.”

Guy and Owens presented Bishop Lucia with a 40 Days for Life book, a copy of the movie “Unplanned,” and a photo of “one of the babies that we saved here on the sidewalk.”

Also attending was Diane Cima, the director of Birthright in Syracuse, and her husband, Al; granddaughter Chloe Arcidino, 2, presented the bishop with a “Syracuse Loves Life” hat from Upward Graphics.

“Oh, thank you very much!” the bishop told Chloe.

Hank Donahue, of Christ the King Church in Liverpool, leads a group praying outside Planned Parenthood at 10:30 a.m. every Saturday — “rain, shine, doesn’t matter.” He has prayed there since the mid-1980s.

“I love to see the bishop here,” he said. “I think we need to see some priests down here.”

“We believe in this,” said Hank’s wife, Louise.

She explained: “Just doing what the Lord seems to want.”

Guy and Owens give out cards that list the organizations, phone numbers, and websites that can help women who are pregnant and need someone to talk to. On the reverse side is information for hope and healing after abortion.

Some people accept their cards, but they have also been spat on and yelled at.

“It’s OK,” Owens said, “don’t take it personally.”

Guy and Owens stayed after the rosary recitation had ended.

Owens was calling out to people who were going into Planned Parenthood.

“We’d love to help you today — we’re praying for you!” she pleaded.

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