MARKHAM, Ontario (LifeSiteNews) –– Jim Hughes, Campaign Life Coalition’s former national president, shared a public-speaking lesson from a great friend and pro-life hero at LifeSiteNews’ Canadian gala this July.
“The late Father Ted Colleton … said ‘Jim, you have to be serious about the issue [of abortion] because it’s so serious,’” Hughes recalled. “‘But you also have to lighten everybody up because if you lighten everybody up first, you’ve got a chance of getting through to them’.”
Hughes took the priest’s advice when delivering his own talk, convulsing his audience with three rapid-fire jokes about his physiotherapist, Canada’s unusual name, and its national airline, before sharing the history of both the Interim newspaper and LifeSiteNews. He continued to interject jokes between more serious themes.
“Forty years ago, we decided we needed an alternative to regular media because it was mainstream,” he deadpanned. “You know what that means: in the middle it’s really shallow.”
The Interim, now edited by Paul Tuns, was established, and fifteen years after that, the late Carl Scharfe, Campaign Life Coalition’s media man, told Hughes that CLC needed to get on the internet. Hughes claimed he didn’t know what that was, but that John-Henry Westen did, so the young man and Steve Jalsevac decided they would “pioneer this thing for us.” They continued to work for CLC as full-time employees during the first decade of LifeSiteNews’ existence.
Hughes stressed the importance, in pro-life work, of remembering that every human being — no matter how unlikeable — was created in the image and likeness of God. He declared that anyone who came to CLC declaring their hatred for Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Canada’s most notorious abortionist, would not find a job there. The veteran pro-life leader recalled exchanging friendly remarks with the now-deceased physician at a restaurant and how Morgentaler had smiled when Hughes said he’d pray for him. In fact, CLC had for years prayed an annual novena for Morgantaler. It always led up to his birthday, which coincided with the Feast of St. Joseph. And before he died, the abortionist stated publicly that late-term abortions were “tantamount to baby-killing.”
Another figure Hughes mentioned as having surprised him was the late Archbishop Philip Pocock, who served as archbishop of Toronto from 1971 to 1978. Pocock had been so soft on the contraceptive pill, Hughes said, that he was known as “Phil the Pill.” Nevertheless, Pocock announced that he was removing Catholic Charities from the United Way because of the latter’s inclusion of Planned Parenthood, a decision Hughes called “a gutsy, gutsy move.”
“And so we have to thank God for that terrific, courageous statement 50 years ago that withdrew Catholic Charities from the United Way,” he stated.
Having already acknowledged the clergy in the room, Hughes gave a shout-out to the spouses of people “in the frontlines” of the pro-life movement, particularly Bonnie Jalsevac, Diane Westen, and Ginny Hughes. Jim Hughes credited his wife for having got him involved in the pro-life movement, first by showing him an exhibit about unborn babies at the Canadian National Exhibition, and then by suggesting he spend two years working full-time for the pro-life movement. (These two years, of course, expanded to the rest of his life so far.)
Hughes then praised LifeSiteNews writers, staff, and board members and finally paid tribute to his entire audience, saying that they represented “thousands of people across this country [Canada] who have faith in us, who trusted us, and who continue to trust us.”
The veteran pro-life leader ended his address by emphasizing the importance of prayer and the necessity of telling the truth.
“LifeSite prospers only because they rely totally on Almighty God for everything they do,” he declared. “They don’t take anything for granted, and they tell the truth.”
Hughes cited Jordan Peterson’s dictum that the one thing you must do is tell the truth.
“And that’s what all of us in this room do, or try to do, all the time,” he said. “That’s [what] the courageous doctors and lawyers and teachers do all the time. So we thank God for all of you. And we [ask]… that He will give us the strength to continue to do His work.”