The archdiocesan Office for Public Policy and the Young Adult Outreach Office co-sponsored a Mass and prayer vigil last week for the well-being of Alfie Evans, the toddler from the United Kingdom who suffered from a severe degenerative brain condition. The boy died two days later.
After a legal battle between the boy’s parents and courts, judges upheld the original decision that it was in the child’s best interests that he be allowed to die, which he did, at 23 months, on April 28.
Father Gerard Messier, A.A., who is in residence at Holy Family parish near the United Nations in Manhattan, was principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass April 26 at Holy Family. After the liturgy, advocates of Alfie walked to the nearby UK Mission to the United Nations, where they prayed the Rosary.
“We’re here to pray for that little boy, Alfie Evans, and for his mother and father,” Father Messier said. “I’m not sure what the outcome will be, but we’ll pray the presence, ‘I Am,’ here. And all we can do is surrender.”
Edward Mechmann, director of the Public Policy office, told CNY April 30 that the tragedy of Alfie’s death “brought a lot of attention to the tension that we have between the medical profession and parents, and ethics and morality.”
“The courts took over parental rights from the parents, who really are the ones who should be taking care of that child. The medical industry over there gave up on him, and wouldn’t even give him basic care like food and water.”
The toddler’s death “shows how vigilant we have to be about this issue,” Mechmann said.
There is an apparent “almost disgust or distaste for disabled people that just devalues their lives,” he said. “All of these things are moving in the direction of death.”
The April 26 gathering at Holy Family Church and outside the UK Mission “was a beautiful event,” Mechmann said. “To have some people come together out in the public square, literally, and pray for somebody was just very uplifting for all of us who are involved in this fight.”
“All life is so precious, and needs to be protected,” said Colin Nykaza, director of Young Adult Outreach, who led the Rosary.
“I just felt it very important for our office to be part of this prayer vigil—for Alfie, for the parents, and for all. His situation is not unique, of the culture of death that we’re living in. Any opportunity that we have to be able to stand up for the preciousness of life in all its stages, we jump on it.”
Richard Bruno, 82, of St. Catharine of Alexandria parish in Blauvelt, was also present. “We all have handicaps to a lesser or greater degree,” he said. “Who is anyone—including a judge—to decide when a life can be taken or terminated?”
Nobody is helpless in this situation who is sympathetic to it, Bruno said, noting that prayer is the most powerful tool to bring about change. “Being here, going a little bit out of your way, traveling wherever you’re traveling from, and using your time accordingly,” he said, is “sacrificial prayer.”
Also in attendance were Matthew Schmitz, 32, and Julia Yost, 34, husband and wife who are senior editors at First Things and members of St. Agnes parish in Manhattan.
“Above all, I’m just so horrified by the Alfie Evans case,” Ms. Yost said, “and the fact that this is happening again after we went through it with Charlie Gard last year.”
Schmitz said, “We live in a society that says the life of someone like Alfie Evans is futile because he doesn’t have as high of brain function as other people do. But he’s a baptized Catholic, he has an eternal soul, created by God and bound for God.”
He is as human as anyone else, Schmitz said. “And it’s our duty, as people who have more power than he does, to use that power to speak up for him.”