N.Y. priest comes home to keynote pro-life event

McAllen Pregnancy Center gala set for May 12 in Mission 

By ROSE YBARRA
The Valley Catholic

Father Agustino “Tino” Torres of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal has established himself as an international chastity and pro-life speaker.

“In my community, pro-life is one of our areas of focus,” said Father Torres, a native of Alamo. “(The late) Father Benedict Groeschel (one of the founders of the community) was my teacher and he used to rally the troops for the pro-life cause. It’s a part of us.”

Father Torres is one of the founders of the Corazón Puro apostolate, which is dedicated to bringing about a culture of life through the teachings of Theology of the Body, and its offshoot organization Latinos Por La Vida (Latinos for Life) which is active in the pro-life movement.

“I’ve kind of been on the pro-life circuit for the last couple of years and I’ve seen some amazing people do some amazing work … Catholic, Protestant, you name it,” Father Torres said in a telephone interview as he prepared to speak at an event in Miami.

When he was asked to deliver the keynote address at the McAllen Pregnancy Center’s Eighth Annual Fiesta de la Vida on Friday, May 12, Father Torres, who currently lives in the Bronx, N.Y., “was honored.”

“To be able to do this back home is a joy,” Father Torres said. “I’m so happy to promote the pro-life cause for anyone, anywhere, so imagine how happy I am to do this for my own people.”

The festivities on May 12 will begin at 5 p.m. with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Daniel E. Flores and Father Torres at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 620 N. Dunlap St., in Mission followed by the gala at the Corinthian Event Center, 1516 E. Expressway 83, also in Mission.

Though his résumé includes the titles of “founder” and “keynote speaker,” it was his work at the grassroots level that inspired Yolanda Chapa, founder of the Catholic, pro-life McAllen Pregnancy Center to invite Father Torres to speak at the gala.

The friars are known for their ministry as sidewalk counselors in Gotham. Wearing grey habits and sandals, they pray, hand out rosaries and pro-life literature and speak in gentle tones to those entering the abortion clinics.

Father Torres additionally is known for what he carries.

“He prays on the sidewalk outside the abortion clinics in New York carrying a huge cross,” Chapa said.
And while Father Torres believes a peaceful, prayerful presence on the sidewalk is vital to saving babies, his goal is start the conversation much earlier.

“Part of the whole genesis of Corazón Puro was to try to speak to couples — not just five minutes before — but five years before they would ever approach an abortion clinic,” said Father Torres, who turned 41 on April 30. “I think everyone can agree that abortion is a devastating thing, no matter what side of the debate you’re on. It’s something we are trying to remedy with love and forgiveness and mercy.”

Father Torres said many well-meaning Catholics don’t know where to begin in promoting a culture of life in their communities. He offered some advice.

Pray: “We can pray, there’s power in prayer. We will be talking about Fatima in the coming days. I believe the praying of the Rosary brought down the steel curtain.”

Volunteer at a pregnancy center: “I do strongly think, even if tomorrow abortion was abolished, there are still going to be unplanned pregnancies and so we need to be the answer. We need to be the caring face of the Church that says, ‘you know we’re here with you. We know that things happen and we’re going to walk with you.’”

Volunteer in your parish with youth ministry: “Kids have questions and things have changed. We need to bring the beauty of the Lord’s message to young people.”

Pray for families: “My family certainly wasn’t would you would call a model family. I grew up as a campesino, working in the fields, but we can all be witnesses for life. The apostles walked with Jesus for years and even they weren’t perfect, but they were chosen.”

“I do think the Lord is going to ask us, ‘You were alive when this (abortion) was going on. What did you do?’” Father Torres said. “I really do hope to have a clear conscious when I answer that question and answer that question well.”

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Publisher: Bishop Daniel E. Flores
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