By: Tina Whittington, SFLA Assistant Director and Victor Bermudez, President of Franciscan Students for Life
This past Friday, May 4th, our friend and fellow defender of Life, Neal Rylatt, passed away surrounded by his family. In some ways that is where his story ends but for those who he has left behind, it is where his story begins in their lives. Neal has left behind a legacy of affirming life at school, outside of abortion facilities, and through offering up his sufferings for the pre-born and their mothers.
Diagnosed with Leukemia, Neal finished his first round of chemo in May of 2011, just as he was getting set to graduate from high school. After spending a summer enjoying his returning health, he started classes at Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS) last August. Since 7th grade, when he had requested pro-life t-shirts as a birthday gift, Neal had a deep passion for protecting the most innocent among us, the pre-born. Never one to back down from his beliefs, Neal wore his pro-life shirts to school even when the school questioned him about offending others with the message. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that when he began classes at FUS, he became actively engaged with the Students for Life group on campus. Neal was an active member of the SFL group, always interested in helping in any way he could, and never missing an opportunity to go and pray outside of the abortion facilities.
Then in October of 2011 he was diagnosed with a relapse of his Leukemia and had to leave school to move back home. This time his condition did not get better. His health slowly deteriorated and he became very weak and endured constant pain. Neal even suffered from headaches, which brought such piercing pain, that he would be kept awake for up to three days at a time. Yet it was through this pain and suffering, which he accepted with an open heart, that Neal showed us all how truly vital our fight against this culture of death is. Neal had never hesitated at an opportunity to take up his sufferings, and offer them up for the preborn children. And this is exactly what he did during his relapse with Leukemia.
President of FUS Students for Life, Victor Bermudez recounts:
Although Neal has left this earth, his life will always continue to speak to people all around the world. Neal understood the dignity of life on a deeper level than many of us will ever know. He showed its importance by making it a priority even as he faced his death. Neal was a light in this dark culture we live in. He gives us hope and an example of how to combat the evils of abortion. I’m never going to forget the impact he has had on everyone he encountered, and I pray that I may one day be half the man he is. I pray that everyone may remember Neal when they don’t feel like waking up early to go pray at the abortion facilities, or when they are nervous about speaking out against over 1.2 million abortions performed per year. I pray that they will decide to give just a little more effort to defend life, when they look at a man, who has given everything he has.
Neal’s mother has said that when he was in high school, Neal always used to talk about how he wanted to have 10 children. People would laugh at him, call him crazy, but he never would let it bother him. Neal may not have had an opportunity to have those ten children but through his prayers outside of abortion clinics, his suffering offered up for the pre-born, and the legacy he has left behind that has impassioned others to stand for Life, those ten children will instead become hundreds of children saved from abortion. That is why Neal Rylatt’s story did not end last week when he departed this Earth – his life’s mission and passion for the pre-born will continue to be carried by those whose lives he touched.
The Visitation For Neal Rylatt will be on:
Thursday May 17, 5 pm – 8 pm at Fitzgerald Funeral Home 1860 South Mulford Road, Rockford, IL. The Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet will be said at 5 pm.
There will be a Second visitation:
Friday May 18 9:30-11 am at St. Peter’s Cathedral, 1243 North Church Street, Rockford, IL. As per Neal’s request, there will be confessions offered at this time, so that those Catholics who will be receiving communion at the funeral Mass may do so worthily.
The Funeral Mass will be on:
Friday May 18 at 11AM at St. Peter’s Cathedral
After Mass, at Calvary Catholic Cemetery, 8616 West State Street, Winnebago, IL
Following the burial a luncheon will be served at St Peter’s Cathedral Fellowship Hall.