A couple hundred residents of LeRoy braved the elements to show their support of unborn human life on Saturday, Jan. 25. The church communities of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, Calvary Baptist and Living Waters sponsored a regional Rally for Life in solidarity with the national March for Life in Washington, D.C.
The rally included messages from Daniel Tomlinson, advancement manager of Compass Care Rochester; Darlene Mieney, former director of All Babies Cherished; and abortion survivor Alexandra Andrews.
Tomlinson thanked everybody for showing up on the rainy, 37-degree morning. He called New York state the abortion capital of the United States, having more abortions per capita than any other state - 29.6 abortions per 1,000 women. The District of Columbia is slightly higher.
"We believe the reason that God has placed you and the churches that you belong to in your state for a reason, to bear witness to the truth that every single human being is fully and deeply human from the moment of conception to natural death. And you are standing in a very dark state that does not understand the value of each and every human being," Tomlinson said.
Compass Care, founded in 1980, serves women who are considering abortion with ethical compassionate medical services, helping to transform their fear into confidence. "No woman should be afraid to have her own child," he said.
Tomlinson did offer some good news. Monroe County had seen a 50 percent decrease in abortion in the past decade. Nowhere else in the U.S. has this happened. He would like to see a 50 percent decrease in Buffalo over the next five years as well.
Mieney told the packed parish hall to be a "messenger of hope. Be a messenger of love. Be a messenger of forgiveness."
This is just the start she added, explaining how to begin the process of forgiving someone who has had an abortion. "We need every single one of us to go and say, 'I love you. I don't understand. I don't need to understand. But, I can love you, and I can help you, and I can bring to a place that can really help you.'"
Andrews, a parishioner of Our Lady of Mercy and a teacher of Natural Family Planning, gave her own message of forgiveness. Born in Moscow after seven months of gestation due to an unsuccessful abortion, she was sent to Moscow Children's Home shortly after. Although she grew up in America with loving adoptive parents, she struggled with depression and a sense of rejection knowing her birth mother tried to abort her and gave her up for adoption.
"I would continually ask God to be with me and help me through these times of anxiety and depression. ... I would ask God to free me from my hurt and anxiety, to give me strength, to help me to see a purpose for me. God upholds his promises. He was attentive to my prayers. He heard my cries and stayed along my side, leading me to peace and healing," she explained.
Andrews re-evaluated her life after the birth of her children and death of her mother. She no longer has the deep pain of rejection. She now sees it as the work of the devil, not her birth mother, who cause her pain.
"One lie I carried my whole life was that my mother's rejection was to blame for all my feelings," Andrews said. "The truth was Satan had taken her unfortunate decision and used it against me, causing more destruction in my life than I'm sure my mother ever intended."
During the mile-long march through the center of LeRoy, residents stood in their doorways to watch. One driver held out a Bible to show support.
"I took part because I grew up in the Catholic Church always realizing that abortion is wrong and that women have a choice," said Veronica Dodge, a parishioner of Our Lady of Mercy. "To be out with the community to see such an outpouring of love and so much unity in the different churches for one cause."
Her husband joined her to respect the value of life. "It says in the book of Psalms 139 that God knew us when we were knit in our mothers' womb and that's where life begins, and people need to know that," said Lloyd Dodge.
This was the first time the LeRoy churchs joined together for a march. "We'll see if it becomes annual," said Father Matthew Phelan, O.de.M., pastor of Our Lady of Mercy. "Of course, even at the national march, we pray for the day it's not necessary. But if it's necessary, I think we'll probably do it again."