FULLERTON – St. Joseph Parish in Fullerton served as host to the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s annual Life is Beautiful Life Mass Jan. 19. Archbishop William E. Lori led a packed church in prayer ahead of Friday’s National March for Life, and Deacon William Fleming was honored by the Respect Life Committee.
Deacon Fleming, of St. Andrew by the Bay Parish in Annapolis, received the Culture of Life Medal of Honor. The former director of the archdiocese’s Office of Special Needs and Deaf Ministries, Deacon Fleming is still the director of Camp GLOW (God Loves Our World), a series of week-long camps for adults with disabilities.
His 35 years of ministry have helped integrate persons with disabilities more fully into the life of the church. Under his directorship, parishes throughout the diocese have found guidance in reaching out to special needs families, offering catechetical and sacrament materials and support.
The faithful included members with Down syndrome who have benefited from their time at Camp GLOW; people in wheelchairs; and those interpreting in American Sign Language for the hearing impaired.
Ahead of the 47th annual National March for Life in Washington, D.C., the liturgy began with a “Rose Procession.”
Ranging in age from 1 through 46, solemn rose-bearers represented those who would have been born the same year, but whose births did not come to pass since abortion was made legal in the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, explained Johanna Coughlin, director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office.
In his homily, Archbishop Lori spoke of the joy of recently celebrating his mother’s 100th birthday, and 73rd anniversary of his parent’s marriage.
“Mom was really saying to me, ‘life is beautiful,’ ” the archbishop said. “In effect, she preached a Life is Beautiful homily to me, a homily she and Dad have written with their lives. Today I thank them for teaching me that life is beautiful.”
Archbishop Lori also reflected on the day’s Gospel reading from John, and the light it sheds on the “beauty of human life.”
“Our humanity and each human life is utterly valuable in God’s eyes,” the archbishop said. “So valuable, in fact, that despite the deformity and enormity of human sinfulness, God the Father sent his eternal Son into the world to assume our human nature, to become one of us – with a human body, mind and will – and it was through our humanity – our flesh, our blood, our mind and our heart – that the incarnate Savior brought about our redemption. …”
The Life is Beautiful Award, meanwhile, was presented to Julie and Derrick Tennant. His dream of being a professional athlete was undercut by a sudden, random injury that left him paralyzed over half his body. He found inspiration from his sister Julie, a New York resident whose Down syndrome – which Derrick dubbed “The Love Chromosome” – her family had come to understand was more gift than disability.
Their story can be found at thelovechromosome.com
Coughlin was in attendance with her three-month-old son, Charlie. Asked if would be attending the National March for Life, she said, “Of course, and it will be his first one.”
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