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“My people perish for lack of knowledge.” That’s Hosea 4:6, the Scripture Hispanics for Life have taken as their tagline — and their marching orders. By Joseph Pronechen.
BY Joseph Pronechen
It was in the Book of Hosea, verse
4:6, that Hispanics for Life discovered the perfect Scripture to propel their
mission and to post prominently on their website: “My people perish for lack of
Educating Hispanics about the evils
of abortion as well as contraception, and talking about chastity — “these three
things are what are dearest to us in our mission,” says Astrid Bennett
Gutierrez, coordinator for this dynamic pro-life organization.
Hispanics for Life has been reaching
out with education since it was formed by Catholics in 1989 and opened to
non-Catholics as well. It formally became a part of the Archdiocese of Los
Angeles’ Commission for Catholic Life Issues two years ago.
Msgr. Timothy O’Connell, the
commission’s director, calls Hispanics for Life “a vital group” in the
“In East L.A. they are involved in
up to 30 parishes, where they have somebody in the parish working on respect
life issues,” says Msgr. O’Connell, giving one example. “They draw people
together for a day, updating and educating them on these issues.”
That includes informing many
immigrants from countries where abortion is not legal who are confused by the
“Their method is hard-hitting; they
don’t pull any punches,” says Msgr. O’Connell of Hispanics for Life’s video
presentation and powerful testimonies from some who’ve had an abortion and now
volunteer with Hispanics for Life.
Gutierrez points out, “One thing key
to opening the eyes of Hispanics is the 17-minute video Dura Realidad.
Translated, it means Hard Truth.”
“A Hispanic has to see what you’re
talking about to understand,” she says, explaining the reason for this video.
“We always say to them, Remember our culture has this popular saying: ‘If the
eye is not allowed to view reality the heart cannot be touched.’”
Armed with knowledge, the Hispanic
culture has shown itself quick to embrace the ethic that la vida es hermosa
— life is beautiful.
Gutierrez says the video is graphic
but prudent. It’s introduced with compassion by first speaking of God’s mercy.
A 1994 Spanish version of Gregg Cunningham’s video of the same title, it shows
what an abortion is, highlights how Hispanics are being targeted and calls them
Gutierrez points out the importance
of seeing these graphic images in the same way we look at Holocaust images —
because they’re the truth.
for Life co-founder Anna Madrid finds the reach of Dura
Realidad as an educational tool
greater than first imagined. “We never expected when we made it that it would
go farther than California,” she says.
But calls for the video have come
from several states, and it’s been shown at many pro-life conferences in Mexico
and broadcast by request on national TV in Nicaragua and Peru. Madrid says the
video changed minds in the Dominican Republic about decriminalizing abortion
once shown there.
to home, in her area, nuns called the Misioneros
Servidores de la Palabra
(Missionary Servants of the Word) tell her stories of people converted after
they’ve taken the video door-to-door or shown it many times in Bible studies. A
Protestant minister ordered 100 copies after a man in his congregation viewing
it fell to his knees and converted because he had been guilty of the abortion
of two of his children.
“It has saved babies and it has
saved souls because of the conversions,” Madrid says. “This is why this video
is so powerful.”
Powerful, too, is the way Hispanics
for Life highlights a second main message: Hispanics are targeted by the
“In one L.A. neighborhood where we
put a crisis-pregnancy center,” says Gutierrez, “within a one-mile radius there
are seven abortion businesses in walking distance.”
Abortion is no longer a voter
non-issue. “Before, they were more interested in economy and schools. Now
they’re demanding to know where their politicians stand on abortions.”
has seen good people wake up dramatically, like a woman from Holy Name of Jesus
Church in Los Angeles, now widely quoted. Gutierrez heard her proclaim, after
learning the facts from Hispanics for Life: “Politicians are offering economic
benefits, but I prefer riding a bicycle and begging in the streets rather than
voting for a politician who supports the shedding of innocent blood.”
Hispanics for Life is making much
progress with another major group. “Once the Hispanic youth see the video,”
says Gutierrez, “they are some of the most zealous.”
Like 20-year-old Jennifer Ayon. She
was already active in her parish as a lector and a catechist since eighth grade
and, with her entire family, was always pro-life.
when I saw that movie,” says Ayon, “I thought it was really important a lot of
people should know about it and fight for the rights of the baby. I’m incorporating
this with youth and in catechesis.” And in talking with friends and co-workers.
At meetings she’s hosted, she’s seen the changes of attitude reflected in
youth’s eyes and reactions.
finds many young people calling for materials for school presentations and
reports; for confirmation classes; for helping friends in crisis pregnancies.
They want to distribute pro-life flyers and participate in prayer pilgrimages
to help crisis-pregnancy places like the Los Angeles Pregnancy Services (lapsforlife.org),
then continue to all seven abortion businesses surrounding it to pray the
Rosary and carry pro-life signs picturing Our Lord and Our Lady.
was at the root of starting Hispanics for Life. Anna Madrid and her husband
Louis were no newcomers to the pro-life scene when they started this
organization. They had been involved in catechesis, Marriage Encounter and a
40-member prayer group with Rosary and Bible study.
The stepping stones began when they
were asked for prayer support for Operation Rescue in California. “It was an
eye-opener,” says Anna. “It was so clear, the good versus the evil.” Her son
and two sisters spent months in jail from helping with Operation Rescue.
came help with pro-life displays at a major Catholic charismatic conference,
then rallies where they first held signs proclaiming: Hispanics for Life. The
rest, as the saying goes, is history.
“They’ve made a major difference,”
says Msgr. O’Connell. “Hispanics across the country could try this same thing.”
Staff writer Joseph
Pronechen writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.