Archbishop on Divine Mercy Sunday: Respect Life contestants “an inspiring witness” of love

By Valerie Schmalz

The world continues to be torn by war in Ukraine and other horrors, but on Divine Mercy Sunday San Francisco’s Archbishop told those gathered at St. Mary’s Cathedral, “it is more important than ever to be aware of the many acts of compassionate love in our midst that defend the dignity of every human person and teach us how to face the crises of our time.”

“St. John Paul II’s native Poland is certainly a leading example, with the gracious and generous welcome they are giving to refugees from neighboring Ukraine,” Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone declared in his homily.

 “But we also have shining examples here in church with us today: the young students who are the contestants in the annual Archdiocesan Respect Life Essay contest,” said the Archbishop.

“My dear young people: you are an inspiring witness to your peers, and to us, of the compassionate love so needed in the world today, love which affirms the value of every human being but often comes at the cost of being disparaged by some in the elite sectors of society,” said Archbishop Cordileone. “By this witness of yours, you are setting out on the path of living the authentic Christian life.”

A family at the Respect Life Awards Contest Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday. (Photo by Dennis Callahan/Archdiocese of San Francisco

About 400 people, children and families and friends, gathered at the 11 a.m. Mass and then attended an awards ceremony where students K-12 received their awards.

“It was exciting to see the cathedral full and the faces of the little and big children alike, when they came up to the podium to take their pictures, in their Sunday’s best outfits,” said Maria Martinez-Mont, respect life coordinator for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. 

This year’s theme was “Our Lady of Guadalupe – Patroness of the Americas and of the Unborn.”  More than 700 entries were received from throughout the archdiocese for the contest, which was open to students in kindergarten through high school. A team of staff and volunteers reviewed them to choose entries that responded to the prompts well and showed creativity and understanding of the key concepts.

Jillian Yujuico with Archbishop Cordileone

A first place for each county and grade was awarded and a grand prize for each grade level K-8. A grand prize award was given to a high school contestant. The contest was sponsored by United For Life of San Francisco. This year the high school grand prize winner was Jillian Yujuico of St. Timothy Parish in San Mateo, who attends St. Francis High School in Mountain View.

In  her winning essay, Yujuico wrote, “We can apply the message, story, and image of Our Lady of Guadalupe today by praying and taking care of the unborn, and their mothers in ‘action rather than in words that might antagonize’ (Sons of Holy Mary Immaculate). Finally, we must give ourselves totally to Mary, as she will polish and refine all our actions, deeds, goodwill, soul, and heart. Like Saint Pope John Paul the II we must say wholeheartedly to her, ‘Totus tuus’, strive to build the Culture of Life, seek to understand as to be understood, and live in simplicity and humility in the Light of God so that others might be brought to the Light as well.”

Gathered for the Respect Life Awards Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday. (Photo by Dennis Callahan/Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Noting that Divine Mercy Sunday was instituted on the Sunday after Easter in the year 2000 at the same time as Pope St. John Paul II canonized the Christ’s messenger of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina Kowalska, the Archbishop drew together the strands of respect for human life, and our need for God’s mercy concluding his homily: “The answer, now and always, is Divine Mercy: God’s mercy to us, which we then translate into compassionate love for others.”

(Photos by Dennis Callahan/Archdiocese of San Francisco)

Some of those who received honorable mention awards with Archbishop Cordileone. (Photo by Dennis Callahan/Archdiocese of San Francisco)