Our Founder John Stanton passed away three years ago today. The following article ran in the Bucks County Courier Times at the time of his death, and we are sharing some of the tributes received at that time along with a great article which ran in the Bucks County Courier Times and our newsletter.
Pro-life, before there was pro-life
From the Bucks County Courier Times: By J.D. Mullane
Before there was a pro-life movement in Pennsylvania, there was John Stanton, who launched it here in 1971. That was two years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.
For more than 40 years, he fought for the unborn, enduring assaults, ridicule and prison. His fight ended on Jan. 31, when he died after heart surgery in Philadelphia. He was 86. The son of Irish Catholic immigrants, the father of 12, the grandfather of 46, and the great-grandfather of 16, he lived in Jenkintown with his wife, Harriet, to whom he was married for 63 years. He was a reader of this column, and my uncle.
He told me at a family gathering last summer that he knew in the late 1960s what legalized abortion would bring to America, and he could not stand by. He founded an organization known today as the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia. Over all these years, he stood outside abortion clinics and hospitals and prayed, sometimes alone, for the mothers and the children lost. Counter demonstrators mocked and insulted him. He was slapped, shoved and punched.
Forty years before Pope Francis spoke of wanting a Catholic Church “that is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out in the streets,” John Stanton was bruised, hurting and dirty in the streets, witnessing the faith.
Once, he took on members of the Warlocks, the outlaw motorcycle club. Outside an abortion clinic in Center City, a trio of Warlocks kept kicking down his “Choose Life” sign. He went up to them and warned them not to do it again. He was a slight man, but had a powerful presence. The Warlocks rode off, leaving the sign intact.
After organizing Catholics to pray the rosary outside clinics throughout the area, and after pleading with women entering the clinics not to abort their children, he was indicted under federal RICO anti-racketeering statutes. In court, the judge gave him a choice. Admit guilt, pay a fine and walk free, or go to prison. He chose prison. Given these batterings, it would be natural to become bitter, but Uncle John never did.
When a counter-demonstrator lobbed a can of Mace at him, the demonstrator was arrested and charged with assault. In court, Uncle John dropped the charges against him. His faith commanded him to a difficult standard. Mercy is shown to those who are merciful.
Long before anyone had heard of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, Uncle John had stood outside Gosnell’s clinic in West Philadelphia for 11 years, praying. Last year, when Gosnell was convicted and sent to prison for murdering three newborns and for the death of one of his abortion patients, Uncle John told me: “We pray for his soul.”
Some years ago on a winter afternoon over lunch at the Dallas Diner in Bristol Township, I asked him why he kept at it. Why did he sacrifice so much of his life for a cause that seemed a goner in a regressive culture? I’ve never forgotten his response: “Faith costs.” He paid the price, but not in vain.
The week he died, news broke that abortions are at the lowest levels in the U.S. since 1973. While there are many reasons for this, among them wider use of birth control and loss of stigma for unmarried women to have children, a Chicago Tribune editorial cites an under-reported cause, and it should give great hope to pro-lifers.
“Young people,” the Tribune reports, “are also more likely to find abortion morally troublesome. A Gallup poll last year found that Americans aged 18-34 are more likely than any other age group to say abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.” Sonograms and ultrasounds have a lot to do with this. The stunning fact that one in three Americans has been aborted since 1973 is another. But those lonely vigils outside clinics that John Stanton and people like him across the country have endured since Roe v. Wade are also the reason Americans are having a change of heart.
“For over 30 years, John Stanton was the face of the Pro – Life Movement in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He was a loyal son of God and the Church, who put his faith in action by tirelessly defending the lives of unborn children. In doing so, he never forgot to treat those who opposed him with dignity and love. John will always be warmly remembered by the Pro–Life community here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for his generosity in the service of life. May the Lord rise up to meet John in heaven and hold him in the palm of His hand for all eternity.” Archbishop Charles Chaput
“As I look back at my relatively short tenure directing Respect Life activities here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, I remember the welcome I received from John Stanton and his willingness to be of service to what I wanted to accomplish here. I relied on John to understand the history of the pro-life movement here; I relied on him for advice and guidance. I soon considered him the wise granddad that I could go to at any time to get a straight answer. I will miss John and his wisdom as all of us in the Pro Life community will. But I know that he is working with us still, in the presence of God, Whom he loved and served and in the presence of all the babies he tried to save and couldn’t. God be with him now and for all eternity.”
Steve Bozza, Director, Office of Life and Family
“Very recently, I was at a dinner during which pro-life testimonies and stories were shared and I had the honor of sitting next to John. A video of a young couple who had considered abortion, yet chose life, was shown to the room. I turned to John to comment on the video, and he had tears in his eyes. He really felt that message of the power of the Holy Spirit and the sanctity of life. And I think that is what set John apart from so many others - being pro-life was not just a cause or an advocacy opportunity for him. John was living his life to save the lives of others. He was emotionally, spiritually and intellectually pro-life. To say that he will be missed - by those of us that are pro-life and also those that he spent his life defending - would be an understatement. May God welcome this good and faithful servant into His Eternal Kingdom.”
Bob O’Hara, Executive Director, PA Catholic Conference
“The pro-life movement in Pennsylvania lost a pillar in our “community” of allies committed to defending the sanctity of human life and working against the culture of death. In fact, he was a pioneer in the pro-life movement, even before it became known as such, even before the infamous Roe v. Wade abortion decision. And his legacy is not only political and cultural, but is alive and well in three generations of his own family in Philadelphia and beyond.”
Tom Shaheen, VP for Policy, Pa Family Institute
“John Stanton was an inspiration to me in many ways. He demonstrated the deep value of persistence and faithfulness in standing up to the evil of abortion. He radiated love for the lives impacted by abortion — the baby, the mother and the father. And he rightfully bristled with indignation at the failure of government officials to carry out their most basic responsibility: to protect innocent human life. John Stanton’s life epitomized the Scripture verse from Micah 6:8 – He sought justice, embraced mercy, and walked humbly before God and man.”
Michael Geer, President of Pennsylvania Family Institute
“I’d like to express my sincere condolences on the passing of your founder. I was saddened to learn that we had lost such a great champion for life. He was a pillar for Pennsylvania’s Pro-Life Community. As founder of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, John touched the lives of countless individuals as he fought to defend the sanctity of every life. He will certainly rest in peace, knowing that, with your help, he educated countless citizens on the preciousness of life, emphasized the importance of family and promoted alternatives and support services.”
Senator Patrick Toomey
Deepest sympathy to the whole Stanton clan. He was a rock. We embrace you all with our prayer for the repose of his soul and for comfort and strength for his family.
God rest his soul, such a great man. I enjoyed all the times spent with the family, so gracious, all of you! We are keeping all of the Stanton family in our prayers, especially Mrs. Stanton.
Prayers for the entire Stanton family. Know that you are held dear and close to our hearts Maria. God’s peace.
Brenda and Sean O’Reilly
Front Royal, Virginia
John Stanton was one of my favorite people, truly both a good and great person. He will be missed by his many friends.
Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania
May he rest in peace, my prayers are with Maria and her family at this time. May God bless and console all.
Davao City, Palau
The Stanton family! John was the loving Grandpop! We will miss him! The Fiest family has been praying for all of you.
Rita and Jim Feist
Rest in peace Mr. Stanton, I know that you have gone on to see the King of Kings. God has brought home one of his strongest and faithful soldiers. Mr. Stanton I feel bad that I never told you that I loved you or thanked you for the things you have done for my family but I will always remember. You came into my family’s life and acted as if you were our own grandfather. From the time you met us you treated us as if we were apart of your family. You took my brother Nickeya and I to many masses and shared with us many lessons of Christ and lessons of life all from the kidness of your heart and although I will never be able to repay you for the things you have taught my brother and I, I will always remember how genuine you heart was. We will always love you and you will always be in our hearts. I love you Pop Stanton, with much love from your grandson Bryant.
May the God of all consolation fill you with the peace that only He can give, and may He grant eternal rest to John Stanton.
You are in our thoughts and prayers…
Holly and Mark McShurley
Our prayers and condolences go out to John Stanton’s wife and all the members of John Stanton’s family, especially Veronica and the many alumni of Christendom College. John Stanton demonstrated his love for Christ and His Church and the least of His little ones. May he receive the reward of eternal salvation.
Robert & Mary Alice Rice
Front Royal, Virginia
To our neighbor, John, strong, true to his God and responsible for many children who other than for him, would never had been born. Rest in peace, John.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Stanton family. God bless you all, and may John’s soul rest in the peace of Christ.
Front Royal, Virginia
God’s blessing and peace be with you. This is a time of grace for your family! Rest in that grace And be nourished! Prayers from Frank and Angelique O’Reilly (Class of 1983, Christendom College)
Front Royal, Virginia
Mr. Stanton made me feel welcomed in Jenkintown. He introduced me to pro-life in Warminster and showed me where I can attend mass in that area. In the short time that I have known him he has been an inspiration as a friend, neighbor and pro-life activist. I found him extremely humble. He is truely in the highest place in heaven and will do us all good there. Stanton Family, I am so sorry for your loss.
Lacey and the McCrossin family
You have been my best friend for 70 years. How can I go on without you? I guess I will, my friend, you were and are the best!!! See you later…I love you for ever!!!
Our thoughts & prayers are with the entire Stanton family. The world is a better place because of John Stanton. We will miss him as he was an inspiration to us all.
Matt Regan & Family
Our Thoughts and prayers are with the entire Stanton Family. We will miss your Father who was an inspiration to us all.
Charles, Elaine, and Chip Huntoon
Our sincere condolences to the Stanton family! Mr. Stanton truly was an inspiration to so many. His tireless work to preserve the dignity of all human life will never be forgotten. Rest in peace Mr. Stanton!
Jerry & Kathleen Gibboni
Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania
John Stanton was truly the most amazing Human Rights leader I every had the privilege to meet. His untiring efforts to fight for the rights of the unborn inspired, educated and heightened awareness that change must occur. To the Stanton family, I am truly sorry for your loss and know that you are all in my prayers. God rest your fathers amazing soul.
Kitty and I send our heartfelt sorrow at the death of John.. What a man! He was the leader of the S.S. Pa. Pro-Life movement. A comparison for us in the Pro-Life movement would be the Catholic Church losing the Pope so suddenly. I’ve had so many people tell me how much they loved, admired, and respected John. I’ve read many of the entry’s in this book and agree with all of them. He is an irreplaceable person, but I’m sure God will select someone to step in and continue to build on John’s legacy. He was certainly anointed by God Himself to protect the innocent unborn. We are sure he is resting in the bosom of Jesus and His mother Mary. God Bless the Stanton family.
William J. Miller
Dear Harriet, Pat and Wendy, and the entire Stanton family: John’s witness to Rob and I and our family has been profound. He walked the talk! , literally, and was never ashamed, only proud of the gospel of Christ. Living it in a way that brought other’s to The Lord, with his gentle, loving, but persistent ways. His life has affected generations , and as sad as we are to say goodbye to his earthly life, we can only rejoice in the amazing life he had and led, always pointing the way to The Lord. His impact on our community will last for always, through his own family and the children and grandchildren he’s raised up, but also through the lives he’s touched and the way In which he lived his life. We will miss his hearty wave from across the street and the good news he always had to share with us. We are praying for peace for you all, the same peace John now knows , in heaven.
Peace and love,
Rob and June Hudson and family
Dear Stanton Family: All of us at Alpha Pregnancy Services would like you to know that we are praying for you as you grieve the loss of Mr. Stanton. His legacy and memory will stay alive via the babies born as a result of his faithful prayers, sidewalk counseling, and provision of safe housing for pregnant moms. Would that more people would have his dedication to the pro-life cause. He will be greatly missed. May the richly bless each of you!
John was a true gentleman and will be missed.
The O’Gara Family
Mr. Stanton was a extremely strong, dynamic, passionate man full of the Holy Spirit. He was truly a loving servant of Christ. The number of people he has inspired is countless. He will be greatly missed. Many prayers to the Stanton family. Knowing he is no doubt home with Jesus gives comfort but doesn’t stop you from missing his physical presence. My sincere condolences. John Stanton, a soldier for the unborn, and in my opinion is the patron saint of mothers and their babies.
Connie Marchetti (Pulli)
To the Stanton Family: Mr. Stanton was a “Gentle Man” and it was my privilege to know him and the entire Stanton Family. R.i.P. , Mr. Stanton. The Stanton Family is in my thoughts and prayers.
Mr. Stanton was one of my heroes and I am blessed to have known him and worked with him. Requiescat in pace.
Pennsauken, New Jersey
God bless John Stanton, a truly Christ-like person and a great Irishman. He was a wonderful man and his impact will be felt for generations.
The Heritage Foundation
My recollections of Mr. Stanton are those of a man with keen, yet tempered perception. When conversing with him I always had the impression that he saw right through my pseudo spirituality, yet without judgement or condemnation on his part. His life was a testament in itself and a challenge to live a just and good life, a lesson I am yet still learning.
S. Porr, Canada
Stanton Family, we feel privileged to have known Mr Stanton. An amazing catholic man. He will be missed. The Fricker family will keep you in our thoughts and prayers. Take care.
Stanton Family, You have to be proud of John who was the ideal combination of a real man and a true Catholic. He was a leader, a motivator and a strong role model. He will be sorely missed but we must step up and fill the void. God Bless the Stanton Family!
Barry and Terry Kirsch
West Chester Pa.
He will always be remembered for his exemplary work to help the unborn children. I am praying for him and his family. Peace to all of you!
Dear Harriet, Patrick and Joseph: John was the finest person I ever met. He is my hero, teacher and above all, beloved friend. Be assured of my prayers for the Stanton family.
Dear Stanton Family, Mr Stanton was an inspirational and beloved man. He will be greatly missed.
It was such a privilege to know John and see all the good he did for the unborn. He should be canonized. God bless his family for sharing him with us.
I was blessed to have entered your family. Love and care and unity runs throughout. Love you all. Sad to see him pass. He is in heaven next to our father. He’s truly blessed. God toke before us enjoying our fathers presence. It hurts us as humans but knowing that if we do our fathers work we shall see him one blessed day. My sympathy for the family.
Leadership and Humility, thy name is John Stanton.
Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania
John was one of those rare men who did the work of God humbly and compassionately. The whole Pro Life community will greatly miss their founder and mentor. What a reception in Heaven. God bless you one and all.
Mary and Phil Altomare
I am so very sorry for your loss.
What an wonderful example of a quiet, dutiful man of God. His pro-life mission will be carried on by all his wonderful family, friends and supporters. Well done, my good and faithful servant!
Willow Grove, Pennsylvania
Mary and Joe, and the rest of the Stanton’s it came as a shock when I learned of your fathers death Mary, He was a great man and always one to say hello to me whenever I would see him. I will miss him. I will see you either Tuesday night or in the morning before the mass. Love to all of you,
I will never forget you. Every time I saw you, you were so very nice to me. I will always remember that wonderful smile. May God Bless you and your family. You will be missed.
May the soul of Mr. Stanton, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.
Dear Stanton Family, I taught many of you at McDevitt – Pat and Dennis – I am so sorry for your loss. Your family is a true inspiration! I will keep your dad in my prayers.
Former English teacher at McDevitt
Dear Harriet and Family: I thank God for giving me the gift of knowing John, a compassionate man, and a gentleman who stood strong in strengthening families and in protecting mothers and children. I pray that during this difficult time of separation, you will keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:1&2) who knows and understands your sorrow far better than anyone.
I had the honor of meeting John at a Stand Up for Life dinner a few years ago and talking with him on the phone a couple of times. He was a blessing to my grandfather decades ago. John was, without a doubt, a hero. John’s passing is sad news for the earth but joyous news for heaven. I have no doubt that John is with the angels which brings to mind this quote from the late U.S. Representative Henry Hyde:
“When the time comes as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought, as Fulton Sheen wrote, that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates, you are there alone standing before God – and a terror will rip through your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement will not be alone. I think there will be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but are heard beautifully and clearly in the next world – and they will plead for everyone who has been in this movement. They will say to God, ‘Spare him because he loved us,’ – and God will look at you and say not, ‘Did you succeed?’ but ‘Did you try?'” God bless all of John’s family.
John Jennings’ granddaughter,
Terri Jennings Rohr
John is a role model to so many in their efforts to regain the culture of life in our great land and throughout the world. I will remember you fondly Lad. Now rest in peace in the company of all the angels and saints with our BELOVED LORD!!!
A finer man I have never met. Rest in peace dear friend.
May you find peace in your passing, Mr. Stanton. For your restlessness, which inspired courage in uncertain mothers and countless others who followed your lead in defending the right to life, saved helpless babies’ lives. And, may your family members and friends find comfort in knowing firsthand of your humble heroics.
Rose Valley, Pennsylvania
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
I’m glad that I had the pleasure to meet such a good man.