Building a culture of life – one person at a time

By Lisa Hall
Sun contributing writer

Each year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) offers a Respect Life Program to assist Catholics in learning about and implementing Church teaching regarding the dignity of human life.

This year’s theme is based on John 10:10b, “I came so that all might have life and have it to the full.” Time and again, Jesus tells us not to be afraid to treat one another with generosity and love. To stand with one another in good times and bad – most especially in marriage – till death parts us temporarily.

How does the Diocesan Respect Life Office seek to help with this?

First, we provide a copy of the USCCB Respect Life Program to each pastor in each parish. The program is full of wonderful information. It includes a Liturgy Guide with homily suggestions and prayer petitions for Respect Life Sunday and the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, as well as excellent teaching pamphlets specifically designed for parish reading racks. There’s also a poster that can be hung in your parish vestibule as a reminder to all of us about the importance of respecting human life at every stage.

Second, we invite each pastor to appoint a respect life coordinator for the parish. This person will receive training from our office and respect life materials or e-mail action alerts about current legislative issues. The coordinator will share this information with the pastor and parish staff for wider distribution to the parish family. They will also ideally offer one or two activities each year to raise awareness for respect life issues or to provide hands-on services or goods to people in need.  Some examples of this would include an annual baby shower for women facing unplanned pregnancies or an in-service regarding end-of-life planning based on the statement released earlier this year by our NYS Bishops entitled, “Now and at the Hour of Our Death.” The role of the respect life coordinator, in collaboration with the parish priest, is vitally important for the education of the parish family about respecting human life!

Third, the Respect Life Office places a great emphasis on working with youth.  We collaborate with the Offices of Youth/Young Adult Ministry, Faith Formation, and Catholic Schools to present the Abstinence Program, “Be Happy, Healthy & Holy” to numerous youth groups, schools and faith formation programs. We have made our presentations to thousands of young people and their parents across our diocese. Last April, we co-hosted an Evening of Respect for Life with the confirmation students at St. Margaret’s in Mattydale.  Each student and one of his or her parents came together, prayed, and attended a variety of workshops with topics ranging from bullying, to respecting yourself and your body, dating and domestic violence, respecting the unborn, respecting the elderly and the caregiver and respecting the disabled. It was a wonderful evening where more than 200 people shared stories and learned about the beautiful teaching of the church regarding human life.

This November, we will host Brian Butler, co-author of Theology of the Body for Teens. Brian will be offering two events. The first will be for middle school students (grades 6-8). It will be Friday, Nov. 4, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Immaculate Conception Church, Fayetteville. Butler’s talk is called The Fire Within. He’ll offer a compelling mix of fun, personal stories and healthy understanding that will unmistakably invite our young people into a new or deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. On Saturday, Nov. 5, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Butler will walk adults step by step through the Middle School edition of Theology of the Body for Teens. He’ll offer valuable insights on Pope John Paul II’s beautiful reflections about the human person and how to teach that information to middle school youth using the established DVD curriculum.

We are also pleased to welcome Joan Nolan, the diocesan fertility education and care specialist, to the Respect Life Office. Joan is available to meet with couples who are interested in following church teaching about family planning or  in recognizing natural signs of fertility. Joan is also able to provide instruction to marriage preparation groups in a parish setting.

These are just some of the ways the Respect Life Office is here to serve our pastors and parishes to help build a culture of life — one person at a time.

If you’re interested in bringing any of these programs to your parish, please contact me at (315) 470-1418 or lhall@syracusediocese.org.

Please give generously to the Respect Life Collection on Sunday, Oct. 2 and to the Hope Appeal. It is through these collections that Respect Life Ministry is able to bring the church’s teaching about human dignity to life!

Lisa Hall is the Diocesan Director of the Respect Life Office.

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