Bishop James P. Powers proclaims the doxology during Mass for the Diocese of Superior’s Gathering for Life at St. Joseph Church in Rice Lake. The bishop was assisted for the celebration by, from left, Fr. Adam Laski, Dcn. Tim Mika, Fr. Ed Anderson and Fr. Dennis Mullen. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

During his homily for the Jan. 22 Gathering for Life at St. Joseph, Rice Lake, Bishop James P. Powers acknowledged the more solemn occasion for the gathering, in contrast to more joyful celebrations of Mass around the diocese.

He shared his desire for the day to give strength, courage and deeper commitment to the culture of life.

“No human law has the power or the right to take a life,” the bishop affirmed. “That right belongs to our God and God alone.”

He cited Scripture passages reminding of life’s preciousness – a name written on the palm of his hand; even if a mother forgets her child, he will never forget.
“Unquestionably, the most powerful, the most beautiful Scripture passage about the dignity and humanity of the unborn … is John the Baptist leaping for joy” in Elizabeth’s womb during Mary’s visitation to her cousin, Bishop Powers stated.

The bishop conceded how easy it is to become overwhelmed and discouraged, saying, “There’s nothing that Satan would want any more than for us to do that, because when we do that, that’s when Satan wins.

“My friends, I beg you to stay strong,” he encouraged. “To stay dedicated, stay committed to the gospel of life. We can’t ever become silent – we need to continue to be that voice of the voiceless.”

Admonishing those who belittle the power of prayer, Bishop Powers affirmed that prayer is in fact an irreplaceable gift.

“In prayer, we need to remember that it’s not in our time but in God’s time,” he clarified. “Jesus speaks of the need of persevering in prayer, but how often do we underestimate that power of prayer?”

Addressing more specific resources and initiatives, the bishop spoke of the USCCB’s Walking with Moms in Need program, a parish program designed to engage with local pregnant and parenting women in need. He challenged them to start something if the project was not underway in their home parishes.

“We need to give women in crisis pregnancy an option to the lie of abortion that tells them it’s an easy way out. We also need to be open to comforting those who have fallen to that lie – the men and women who carry the scars of abortion,” he preached, noting his intentional inclusion of men as affected persons.
Assuring there is no place for judgment and condemnation – rather love, compassion and forgiveness – Bishop Powers said, “Our God’s love is total, absolute, free – just as his forgiveness is, so long as we’re sorry … so long as we open ourselves to his love and mercy … so long as we accept it.”

The bishop recalled the truth that God has won the war of good versus evil. While there are battles yet to be fought, he called on those present to pray, fast and give alms “that our hearts might be strengthened and that we might be able to be a source of change.”

Dcn. Mika speaks

Following a brief break, Chris Hurtubise, director of the Diocese of Superior’s Office of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship, introduced the event’s first speaker, Dcn. Tim Mika, of Ashland.

The deacon, a husband and father of five, shared some personal photos as an introduction.

“I am a firm believer of the way, the truth and the life, Jesus Christ that sets us free,” he stated. “So truth will set us free if we allow it to.”
Dcn. Mika granted that resistance to that truth is also a possibility.

He opened up about he and wife Becky’s multiple miscarriages as a witness to their understanding of the precious value of every life from the moment of conception.

“I remember holding some of our babies in the palm of my hand and just seeing their tiny little feet, their tiny little hands,” he said and added, “We know what it means to cry and be mad at God and ask why.”

His own conclusion is that surrender to God’s will, as difficult as that can be, is the path to follow but that it has to start with a fundamental understanding of when a person becomes a human.

The speaker shared quotes from the writings of popes – Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.

Reflecting on a quote of Pope Benedict XVI – that “each of us is a result of a thought of God … each of us is necessary” – Dcn. Mika said he loves to contemplate the Creator, who put the sun and the stars into place, thought of each person and cares about each individual’s past, present and future.

Dcn. Mika’s presentation touched on a wide array of pro-life topics, reaching far beyond abortion, from taking advantage of another’s body through prostitution and human trafficking to the purchase of harvested human organs.

He addressed the complicated topic of couples desiring children and the moral illicitness of in vitro fertilization, sharing the USCCB’s document “Begotten not Made” as a resource for further education.

He addressed the plague of pornography, defining it as a cycle of “pleasure, use, discard, repeat.” He asked parents and mentors to talk to young people about sexuality before the culture taints their perception.

Dcn. Mika spoke throughout of the need “to remember that we’re not against the people who disagree with us. We’re not against them. We’re against Satan and principalities that invoke evil.”

The oft-used term “cancel culture” was mentioned as another attack on human life, and not that different from abortion in principle.

“I don’t agree with you, so I’m just going to eliminate you from my life,” he said. Then referencing the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching that no creature is self-sufficient … each existing to complete each other and be in service of each other, he again quoted Pope Benedict XVI, from the encyclical “Charity in Truth”: “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is incompatible with the justification of abortion.”

“How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?”

Using the image of pulling one string from something knitted together, Dcn. Mika acknowledged that once one element is removed, “It unravels everything.”
He iterated the church’s teachings’ purpose as “for our freedom and ability to love authentically,” and invited participants to reflect on what topic they need to dive into deeper, what step they need to take next toward being more pro-life.

“How far is our openness to life willing to take us?” he asked, noting that it can be as simple as supporting a young family in church who need a meal or a babysitter for a night out.

“Being a pro-life witness is as easy as that,” Dcn. Mika affirmed. “Going to the March for Life is beautiful, but we need to stay here, too,” and be pro-life every day.