October 12, 2016 // Local

Right to Life dinner celebrates 45 years of standing for life

By Antonio Marchi

Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor, addressed attendees of the 25th annual dinner in South Bend.

Forty-five years ago, 11 individuals gathered around a kitchen table in anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling that would legalize abortion. Fueled by humble passion and a desire to defend innocent human life, they began St. Joseph County Right to Life. As one of the oldest pro-life groups in the nation, SJCRTL has flourished into a community of nearly 7,500 strong, 850 of whom gathered together for the 25th Annual Right to Life Dinner in South Bend on Oct. 6.

Those in attendance reflected upon both the grave losses and pivotal victories experienced alongside one another. Although nothing but the Blood of Christ can heal the wounds left from 35,000 innocent human lives lost to abortion in St. Joseph County, the faithfulness of the pro-life community in standing up for truth and cooperating with the Lord’s will has worked miracles.

As Bishop Kevin Rhoades proclaimed in his acceptance of the Pillar of Life Award at the dinner, it is because of this faithfulness that the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend is now without an active abortion clinic in any of its 14 counties. With this award, SJCRTL recognized Bishop Rhoades’ critical role in building a culture of life, thanked him for his pro-life leadership, and affirmed his strong willingness to speak truth in charity regardless of the circumstances.

In addition, Governor Mike Pence was also recognized for his service to the pro-life cause with the Annette M. Macknick Courage Award, completely independent of his affiliation with any particular political party or individuals. Pence’s resolve in enforcing pro-life policy as sitting Governor of Indiana has been critical in closing three abortion clinics in the state and revoking the medical license of a former abortionist who is responsible for over 50,000 deaths.

SJCRTL encouraged those who attended the dinner to follow in the footsteps of these leaders by living out faith in practice and continuing to stand firm for the rights of the most vulnerable. In doing so, they were urged to take a step back and really consider the question, why are you pro-life?

The dinner’s keynote speaker, Gianna Jessen, put the answer to this question into perspective not only through her very existence, but also in the voice she used to share her story — a voice which was intended to be voiceless. Jessen is a living, breathing, witness to the fact that each individual has been uniquely fashioned, ordained with a purpose, and called to be intimately known and loved by God.

As with all gifts received through the Lord’s grace, the gift of life begs to be returned back unto its Creator as a humble self-offering. Jessen was well aware of this, as she readily began, “My name is Gianna Jessen, and I have been given the gift of cerebral palsy,” a gift of life that was intended to be cut short by saline abortion.

In spite of her mother’s choice to abort her at a Planned Parenthood, Jessen fought through hours of being burned by saline solution in utero, finally overcoming it and entering the world. Although she was told she would never walk, she ran two marathons with cerebral palsy. And although her birth mother never intended for her to speak, Jessen became a voice for the voiceless, making of herself a true gift to this world.

This voice struck a chord in the hearts of all who attended the event, countless of whom followed her lead in making a gift of self by offering support to SJCRTL’s continued mission to reach out, educate, advocate and pray for life. This support will be especially directed toward a three-part comprehensive media campaign strategy and a variety of programming which seeks to keep abortion out of St. Joseph County and cultivate pro-life leaders in the community.

Forty-five years ago, the founding members of SJCRTL envisioned a culture of life. The support of those at the Right to Life dinner is a testament to the fact that that culture is here. It is now up to the community to ignite and spread the passion, continuing to work toward a day when all human life will be recognized as a beloved gift.






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