My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Sunday, Sept. 11, marks the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. Most people remember exactly where they were when hearing of this dreadful news. I was pastor of St. Constance Parish in Chicago at the time, and had just finished celebrating the 8 o'clock morning Mass. I came back to the rectory for some breakfast, turned on the television, and watched the shocking events unfold on live television. People came to church to pray throughout the day as they did not know what was happening and were turning to God in this time of crisis. Our parish was just under a landing pattern for O'Hare Airport, so the silent skies were eerie as all flights were canceled for about 10 days.
Our world changed forever on that day, but some aspects of life remained the same. The increased number of people coming to church unfortunately did not last; in fact in some places church attendance declined as some people blamed religion or were angry with God for permitting the evil of these lethal terrorist attacks. Air travel changed, as we continue to wrestle with balancing the tension between ensuring security and respecting rights to privacy. What did not change were the essential character of the American people and the commitment of our nation to make this a better world.
The heroes of 9/11 gave their lives seeking to save others. Since then, more heroes continue to make personal sacrifices to help others by serving in the military or by contributing to the betterment of the world in a variety of ways. But more efforts are needed to counter a worldwide culture of death and to promote a culture of life.
The wanton destruction of human life in the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 was horrific, but we need to remember other attacks on human life that are even more numerous. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 resulted in 2,996 deaths, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. Meanwhile, an estimated 42 million abortions are performed globally each year. In the United States alone, over 50 million babies have been aborted since 1973.
I plan to take a small step to promote the culture of life next month. Actually I will take quite a few steps running 26.2 miles in the Kansas City Marathon on Saturday, Oct. 15. I will be running with a group called LIFE Runners (LIFE stands for Living In Faith Exchange). The group's core values are, "Keep the faith, respect life from conception to natural death, run so as to win." LIFE Runners seek to "raise funds, awareness, and prayers for pro-life activities, while training for and racing in marathons." On the runners' shirts, there is a simple line: "REMEMBER The Unborn Jer 1:5." (From the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.")
As I've done with other worthwhile causes in the past, I am dedicating my running of the Kansas City Marathon this Oct. 15th to raise money for charity, including various pro-life causes. The LIFE Runners are helping the Sioux Falls Alpha Pregnancy Center to purchase a pregnancy-help bus that will provide free sonograms in rural areas. They will also help the Wyandotte Pregnancy Clinic in Kansas City. While I will contribute to the causes designated by LIFE Runners, most of the funds raised in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois will help support pro-life causes right here in our own diocese. Specifically, donations for my running of the Kansas City Marathon on Oct. 15 will support: 1) scholarships to assist deserving youth from our diocese going to the January March for Life in Washington, D.C.; 2) multi-media educational resources for diocesan youth in schools and parishes; and 3) Internet publicity about post-abortion assistance and healing.
The way it works is that I ask people to pledge or pay whatever they are willing to donate per mile for the 26.2 miles that make up the distance of every marathon. My sacrifice is doing the training and running the race. Your sacrifice is making a pledge and contributing your donation. I have already been getting up early in the morning for the past few months to get in my training runs. I hope you will do your part as well. Below is a form for your pledge or contribution. You can also make your pledge or donation online at www.dio.org/marathon.
As Sacred Scripture says, "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). Your generosity will be greatly appreciated.
May God give us this grace. Amen.