I was born in Yonkers, and I’ve lived there for most of my life. My hometown doesn’t get much attention in the larger world, and lives pretty much in the shadow of the big city that I can see from my upstairs window.
But in one important respect, Yonkers far outshines not only the big city, but pretty much every other city in New York. Its elected officials have the courage and moral fiber to publicly show their respect for human life.
Last Sunday, I had the privilege of being present at the Polish Center to witness Mayor Phil Amicone issue an official proclamation, declaring January 9 through 16 as the Fourth Annual “Respect Life Week” in Yonkers. As far as anyone can tell, my hometown is the only city in New York State to do such a thing.
The event at which the proclamation was issued was memorable. It was organized by my friend, the indefatigable Tony Felicissimo, who is the leader of “Advocates of Life”, a Yonkers group that holds prayerful witness outside of a local abortion clinic and supports the “Life Options Center”, a pregnancy support center hosted by the Kingdom Christian Cultural Center.
There were a number of distinguished interfaith speakers, including Archbishop Dolan, Fr. Thomas Berg, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (yes, there are two pro-life public officials in Westchester!), Rabbi Rigoberto Emmanuel Vinas, and Rev. James Hassel of the Kingdom Christian Center. The children’s choir from St. Casimir’s School sang, as did Rev. Hassel’s own outstanding gospel choir. The special honoree for the day was Msgr. Philip Reilly, the great hero of the pro-life movement, the founder of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. The day had a party-like atmosphere, and truly was a celebration of life.
Both Msgr. Reilly and Archbishop Dolan called the pro-life movement “this most noble cause”. How right they are — it’s the premier civil rights movement of our day. It unites people of all faiths, who are dedicated to defending the dignity of every human person.
It was a political risk for Mayor Amicone to issue this proclamation, and for County Executive Astorino to support it. But, buoyed by the courage of their convictions, they did what true public servants are supposed to do — stand for what is right, regardless of politics, and defend the common good and justice for all.
Bravo, to my hometown — Pro-Life Yonkers.