By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
Deacon Alvin (Al) Clay III, 53, who is assigned to Immaculate Conception Parish in Jenkintown where he has been a parishioner for the last 18 years, will be honored Feb. 27 by Pennsylvanians for Human Life (PHL) at their annual Celebrate Life Banquet at the Springfield Country Club.
Deacon Clay will be presented with PHL’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and he has literally had a lifetime connected with the pro-life movement.
“I was in high school when Roe v. Wade happened,” he said. “They started a pro-life club at Cardinal O’Hara. My sister, Anne Barr, was also very involved and it was she who got me involved with PHL.”
Eventually he was elected president of PHL, and during his tenure the Celebrate Life Banquet, which had been discontinued, was restored.
“The primary purpose of PHL is to educate our youth on the life issues and to be true to science while giving this education,” Deacon Clay said. “If we tell the truth the pro-life message is very obvious. It’s often said we need to change hearts in order to change minds, but we also need to change minds to change hearts.”
PHL works mostly through classroom presentations by volunteer instructors. It is not always an easy task, especially if the instructors are invited to a public school where there can be hostility to the message on the part of some students, Deacon Clay said.
A graduate of St. Francis of Assisi School and Cardinal O’Hara High School, both in Springfield, he received an undergraduate degree in accounting and a master’s degree in taxation from Villanova University.
He and his wife, Kathie, whom he married in 1979, first met in the sixth grade, but “we didn’t get serious until the seventh,” he quipped. They are the parents of seven children ranging in age from 30 to 18 – Alvin, Katherine, Emily, Matthew, Andrew, Helen and Laura, “with two grandchildren on the way,” he said.
Deacon Clay, who is a certified public accountant, has spent most of his working career in wealth management and financial planning; for 18 years with Pitcairn Trust but most recently as CEO of Davidson Trust.
He cut back on his direct involvement with PHL in 1997 when he entered the diaconate program, which led to his 2002 ordination.
Although he still serves on the group’s advisory board most of his current pro-life activity is through the National Catholic Bioethics Center in the Overbrook section of the city.
“We just got back from Dallas where we gave a presentation to 140 bishops,” he said.
As a homilist Deacon Clay does at times preach on the life themes.
“When you preach you are expected to draw lessons from the readings,” he said. “Sometimes this develops into a pro-life message. I think it is important that people hear it from the pulpit.”
Whether the issue is abortion or birth control, “There is a way to deliver a message, you don’t hit people over the head with it but you tell the truth,” he said. “Truth hurts, but you still have to say it. You deliver it with kindness and respect.”
For more information on Pennsylvanians for Human Life see the web site Pennlife.org.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.