February 16, 2024 // Diocese

Around the Diocese: February 18, 2024

Pro-Life Breakfast Brings African American Community Together

SOUTH BEND – On Saturday, February 10, officials with Right to Life Michiana hosted the organization’s annual African Americans for Life Breakfast in South Bend. The event, held during Black History Month as a way for the community to come together and honor the dignity of all human life, sought to seek collaboration and raise awareness of how abortion uniquely affects the African American community.

“We came together Saturday united in Christ’s desire for us all: that we might have life and have it abundantly,” said Antonio Marchi, Executive Director of Right to Life Michiana. “We were greatly encouraged by the opportunity to come together with nearly 150 African Americans in our community to build bridges in support of life from the womb to the tomb and everywhere in between.”

Provided by Right to Life Michiana
Attendees gather at the African Americans for Life Breakfast in South Bend on Saturday, February 10. The event, sponsored by Right to Life Michiana, drew 150 people to celebrate the dignity of all human life.

At the event, Deacon Mel Tardy of St. Augustine Parish in South Bend offered the opening prayer.

“It was heartwarming to witness this ecumenical gathering of African Americans in support of life,” Deacon Tardy told Today’s Catholic.

The event’s keynote speaker, Belinda Guyton, discussed her own experience with abortion, how she came to have a change of heart, and her work with pro-life causes. Guyton has spent nearly 30 years working with women experiencing crisis pregnancies in Chicago.

Marchi said the breakfast, and the preparation for it, “opened the door to countless opportunities for heartfelt conversations in search of mutual understanding.”

Moved by these conversations, Marchi said he and officials with Right to Life Michiana look to continue the larger conversation and learn more about building a culture of life by better understanding how abortion impacts the African American community.

“My heart has certainly been moved as I am learning the unique challenges faced by African Americans in our community, and I look forward to soaking in more wisdom and insights from the experiences of African American brothers and sisters here in Michiana,” he said. – Claire Kenney

Longtime St. Casimir Organist Given Spirit of Holy Cross Award

By Genevieve Wojciechowski

For 48 years as an organist and choir director – most recently at St. Casimir Parish – Richard Wojtasik has provided the Catholic community in parishes in and around South Bend with beautiful sacred music. For his service to the Body of Christ, Wojtasik was presented the 2023 Spirit of Holy Cross Award on January 26 by Holy Cross Father Ryan Pietrocarlo, Pastor at St. Casimir and St. Adalbert’s Church in South Bend.

The Spirit of Holy Cross Award is given annually to lay collaborators who faithfully serve Congregation of Holy Cross, United States Province of Priests and Brothers, in the U.S. and abroad. The award acknowledges the critical role lay collaborators play in living out the vision and mission of Holy Cross Founder Blessed Basil Moreau: to make God known, loved, and served through education, parish, and mission settings.

Wojtasik was born and raised in South Bend. After high school, he entered the novitiate of the Franciscan Order in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which is where he learned to play the organ. After attending college at St. Mary’s Seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan, he returned to South Bend in 1975. His love of music led him to be a choir director and organist at St. Jude Church in South Bend, as well as St. Stephen Parish until it was closed and merged with St. Adalbert. That led to his current and longest role at St. Casimir.

Photos by Genevieve Wojciechowski
Richard Wojtasik, organist and choir director at St. Casimir Parish in South Bend, poses with the Spirit of Holy Cross Award he received from Father Ryan Pietrocarlo during Mass on Sunday, January 26.

Being of Polish descent and speaking the language in his home, he learned to appreciate the beautiful Polish hymns, which he sang at the well-attended Polish-language Masses at St. Casimir and St. Adalbert. Throughout his career as a musician and choir director, Wojtasik has played at countless weddings, funerals, and other religious ceremonies.

At the end of the January 26 Mass, during which he was presented with the Spirit of the Holy Cross Award, many people came up to congratulate him and share that he had played for their wedding, one as far back as 1988.

“I was very surprised and humbled when I was told I was chosen to receive the award,” Wojtasik told Today’s Catholic. “My faith is very important to me, and to be able to continue singing these hymns and keeping the Polish tradition alive is something I am so glad to be able to do.” 

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