Bishop Edwin Conway (1934 -2004): A True Helper of God’s Precious Infants

This article was written by former League staffer Julie McCreevy

Bishop Edwin M. Conway, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Chicago, died on August 9, 2004.The outpouring of love for the late Bishop has been an inspiration; he was a friend and advocate for people from all walks of life.

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Bishop Conway with baby Maria, who was saved from abortion [Photo by Luis Reyes]

The Helpers of God’s Precious Infants knew Bishop Conway as one who loved the least of our brothers, as a true friend of the unborn. Just ask a little girl named Maria, now four years old. Maria’s mother, Estrella, was two month’s pregnant with Maria when she arrived with Maria’s father at the Planned Parenthood at LaSalle and Division Streets on a sunny Saturday in September, 1999.

Estrella planned to abort Maria, but she hadn’t planned on seeing 400 faithful praying the rosary with Bishops Conway and Raymond Goedert. Nor had Estrella planned on the life-size image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which stopped her in her tracks, and of whom her boyfriend Jose later said, “When I saw Our Lady, I knew what we were about to do was wrong.”

Speaking only Spanish, Estrella and Jose were counseled by Linda, one of the Helpers’ Spanish speaking counselors. Estrella and her boyfriend listened closely, and changed their minds about aborting their baby. With Linda’s ongoing support and encouragement, they were married in the Church and have since had two more children. Bishop Conway was there that day, leading, supporting and praying, because he was a true friend of the unborn.

Bishop Conway Meets Baby Maria

On June 10, 2000, while celebrating Mass for the Helpers at St. Cornelius, Bishop Conway again saw Estrella and Jose, this time with their newborn daughter, Maria. The Bishop gave a special blessing to the family; he was thrilled to be holding a baby that was saved from abortion at a prayer vigil at which he was personally present.

Following the Mass and blessing of Maria, Bishop Conway processed to the abortion mill with five hundred faithful as the temperature climbed into the nineties. He led the prayer and singing, and expressed concern for those for whom the heat might be bothersome. He also expressed delight that while he was praying with the faithful, the Helpers’ sidewalk counselors had saved two more babies from abortion.

Bishop Conway returned to St. Cornelius and Albany late-term abortion center a year later, in June of 2001, this time accompanied by seven hundred faithful. More unborn children were saved that day, and Bishop Conway, successor to the apostles, played an important role in those victories, although he would never have thought so himself. One always found him quiet, humble and gentlemanly — a man who well knew who he was and “Whose” he was.

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Inspiring Bishop

Celia Ramirez, director of music for the Helpers’ vigils at the abortion clinics said of Bishop Conway, “I admired him; his enthusiasm was contagious. You could tell he loved the singing and the prayers and he inspired everyone around him. I just loved singing with him. You couldn’t help but love him.”

When the Helpers held a dinner at Monastero’s Restaurant on Chicago’s northwest side, honoring our volunteers and the Helpers founder, Monsignor Philip Reilly from Brooklyn, NY, Bishop Conway attended with warm words of encouragement. His presence made us feel special and stronger, and increased our zeal to continue “fighting the good fight.”

Good Shepherd Even in Illness

The Helpers were saddened when Bishop Conway was diagnosed with cancer, and asked for prayers for him in The Vineyard. But even as he grew weaker, Bishop Conway was there for his Lord and his flock.

Father Bob Goedert, O.P., a frequent homilist at Helpers’ Masses which his brother, Bishop Raymond Goedert celebrates, said, “The last time I saw Bishop Conway was the Feast of Corpus Christi. Ill as he was, he still put himself out to celebrate the Mass and lead the outdoor Corpus Christi procession.”

The Helpers of God’s Precious Infants will miss Bishop Edwin Conway very much. We feel in our hearts, though, that when his hour came, those little ones who never made it to birth were there to lead, support and pray for him, because the least of our brothers knew that he was a true friend of the unborn.

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