Father Arthur Rojas was driving south on Route 9W in Esopus to celebrate morning Mass at Sacred Heart Church when he noticed the Ulster Deanery Respect Life Committee’s pro-life billboard was defaced in the overnight hours of June 20-21.
Father Rojas, administrator of Presentation-Sacred Heart parish in Ulster County, later learned from someone attending Mass that the pro-life billboard across the street on northbound 9W also was vandalized.
Someone attempted to patch the damaged billboard leased by Ulster Deanery Respect Life Committee from Clear Channel, which owns both billboards.
The Ulster Deanery Respect Life Committee owned additional posters so Clear Channel was able to replace the defaced one.
“It’s mixed emotions,” Father Rojas, the moderator for the Ulster Deanery Respect Life Committee, told CNY. “In one sense, it’s disconcerting. On the other hand, it must be effective if our billboard has been targeted. We will pray and persevere in our pro-life message.”
Father Rojas learned that ProLife Across America was leasing the northbound billboard from Clear Channel, which was waiting for a new leasee for the billboard before replacing the poster.
Father Rojas said the Ulster County Sheriff's Department is investigating the incidents, and added this was not the first incident in Ulster County as the Bravo Center, a pregnancy support center in Kingston, was vandalized weeks earlier.
The incidents came as people were waiting for a Supreme Court decision, which came June 24 to overturn Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion in the United States and now hands the decision over to the states to legalize, limit or ban abortion.
“Certainly the tensions of our country have exacerbated. Unfortunately, Ulster County is no exception,” Father Rojas said.
Father Rojas said the Ulster Deanery Respect Life Committee meets once a month and had 33 delegates representing nine of the 14 parishes in Ulster County at a meeting June 21.
“We’re pressing forward with the message of the Gospel of Life,” he said.
The Ulster Deanery Respect Life Committee has been leasing the billboard for about a year. The billboard is paid for and is part of the committee’s budget.
“What it’s showing is there is a Catholic pro-life pulse in the upper counties,” said Father Rojas. “We’re trying to rejuvenate the Catholic pro-life movement.”