A current student at Christ the King Seminary is taking an opportunity to serve at the Office of Pro-Life Activities to help prepare for the day he becomes a priest.
Michael LaMarca, a West Seneca native and a graduate of Medaille College in Buffalo, is assisting Cheryl Calire, director of the Office for Pro Life Activities, as part of his field education. This is the second field education assignment for LaMarca, who previously served at the Franciscan Center in South Buffalo. After having completed his pastoral year, he said he chose the Office of Pro-Life Activities for several reasons. One reason is because he called it a "boots to the ground" ministry that includes a wide range of issues on which the Catholic Church currently focuses in society.
"The focus covers all across the board, from issues dealing with life in the womb to end-of-life issues," LaMarca said. "Cheryl and the entire office have great enthusiasm for their ministry, so I wanted to be a part of something that was fast-acting, involved and challenging. You certainly find yourself in challenging situations when you're standing up for life. I know it will present a challenge for me."
LaMarca said it can be difficult at times to stand up for what he believes in, but he takes some cues from Calire and other staff.
"When you see Cheryl and the others who work in the Pro-Life office, when you see them so courageous, you want to learn how they do it, and that's a main motivator for me in coming here."
In the past, LaMarca has participated in the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and also assisted at the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center of the diocesan Pro-Life office.
"The most rewarding thing about a field education experience is when you know you have done the work you were called to do, the sense of fulfillment," LaMarca said. "In a way, it's a sense of accomplishment, but also a sense of personal growth, and so, having had previous field education experience, I'm confident that there will be plenty of those here in the Pro-Life office."
Before entering Christ the King Seminary, LaMarca graduated from West Seneca East High School and attended St. Bonaventure University for one year before transferring to Medaille College, where he received a bachelor's degree in sport management. He worked for the Buffalo Bisons for two seasons, as an intern and as a game day promotions employee, before choosing to pursue the priesthood.
LaMarca called the current political climate in the United States and in New York "definitely not a pro-life type of atmosphere" and a "very death-filled atmosphere."
"We're a very wasteful society," he said. "We tend to treat things as if everything is disposable, and certainly not everything is disposable. Life is certainly not disposable, no matter what stage of life it is at. Politically, it's important that we let our representatives know that we need to change the culture in our county, in our state and in our country if we're going to continue to move forward as a moral leader in the world."
In discussing the recent situation in Ferguson, Mo., in which a police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, LaMarca felt the situation needs to be addressed carefully.
"A focus that a life was taken needs to be the center of the conversations taking place," LaMarca reflected. "It can't turn into a political argument between politicians or civil rights leaders. We need to focus on a life taken, for whatever reason, tragically, and we can't use the loss of life as a political stepping stone."
LaMarca believes that conversation needs to take place in the Pro Life arena. He said the Pro-Life Office is very open to dialogue.
"We can't be yelling at each other when we sit down to talk, he said. "We have to understand each others' sides, while remaining firm in our beliefs, and that's where we can learn from each other and work toward a culture of life."
LaMarca is currently taking a full load of five courses, including the field education. He also participates in various formation programs for the priesthood with the other seminarians. He has two more years, and will graduate from the seminary in 2016.
Calire first met LaMarca a few years ago at the March for Life in Washington D.C., as he was just beginning in the seminary.
"I just found him to be very energetic, very faith-filled and someone I thought of as a great candidate for the priesthood," Calire said.
"Our faith is so rich in all of its teachings that it's really difficult, sometimes, to really wrap our head around all of the different things that our faith touches, but in the life issues, it seems that time and time again, we have found that many things that happen in the world end up falling back into the dignity of the human person, which is the Office of Pro-Life," Calire said. "With that said, I think it's a really great place for somebody who is a seminarian to do some of their field ministry, because they get a real first-hand view of the wide variety of topics and things that happen, on a day-to-day basis, in our office."
After his ordination, LaMarca hopes to stay an active supporter of the pro-life office of the parish he will serve, as well as of Calire and the rest of the diocesan Pro-Life office. He also hopes to keep parishioners educated and provide resources for those who would like to foster respect for life.
"When I'm able to talk to them, I always encourage people who are pro-choice to be appreciative of their own life, that they do have life, and to be open to the fact that the opportunities they have been given should be given to all life," LaMarca said.