This year’s theme for the annual Respect Life Program from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is “the measure of love is to love without measure.”
This theme embodies Respect Life Ministry and comes directly from the best of all examples of love — Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus that we see what it means to make a free, total, faithful and fruitful gift of ourselves to one another.
This is what Respect Life Ministry seeks to affirm, that we have innate dignity because we are the work of God’s hands — and for no other reason. That we are created for a purpose and for one another. That we will make mistakes and misjudgments, but through our participation in the grace of the Sacraments and the forgiveness of Christ, we are redeemed. And that finally, at the end of our earthly lives, we have the hope and promise of life with God forever. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought in to the light of the Kingdom of God.” (CCC no 1691)
This is why we must be unafraid to proclaim the Church’s teachings on life issues, because these teachings, at their most basic, are so good. This is why the bishops of the U.S. offer a “Plan for Pro-Life Activities,” so that each parish in every diocese can respond to the call to stand up for the goodness of human beings — particularly at their most vulnerable stages. In the plan, the bishops define those most vulnerable as those who are about to be aborted or destroyed for research purposes, those who would be executed by the State for crimes, and those who are vulnerable due to illness, incapacitation, disability or advanced age.
The pastoral plan recommends that diocesan Respect Life Ministry leaders assist parishes in this endeavor in four ways:
1.) Public Information and Education
2.) Pastoral Care
3.) Public Policy
4.) Prayer and Worship
Diocesan leadership is to disseminate information and pass it on to pastors and parish Respect Life coordinators for implementation. This is done through e-mail alerts, the Life Line newsletter, collaboration with and support of other diocesan and community leaders and letters to the editor. We also provide the Project Rachel line, a post-abortive healing ministry and workshops regarding Pro-life issues.
We offer abstinence training and education throughout the diocese. This is done through the presentation, “Be Happy, Healthy and Holy” for grades 7-12 and “Theology of the Body for Teens” for grades 9-12 in retreat or curriculum form. Over the last 5 years, these programs have been presented to more than 10,000 youth and 2,400 adults in our diocese.
We have offered adult education regarding the beauty of our creation as male and female through several different “Theology of the Body” courses. These studies are based on the writings of Pope John Paul II, “Male and Female He Created Them — A Theology of the Body.” These writings (and the courses created from them) once again put the goodness of our creation in its proper perspective and offer answers to many of the questions regarding Catholic moral teaching.
Last, but certainly not least, we offer liturgical resources, prayer petitions and bulletin inserts and quotes to help incorporate the Pro-life message more fully in parish life.
Pope Benedict, in a customary press conference aboard his recent flight to Edinburgh said, “The Church does not work for her own ends. She does not work to increase her numbers or power.” The Church “serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths and great forces of love, reconciling love that appeared in this figure and that always comes from the presence of Jesus Christ.”
Pope Benedict then offered his first homily in Scotland on Sept. 17 saying, “I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum. Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation.”
For more information about Respect Life Ministry, please contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call (315) 470-1418. For more information, you can also visit www.usccb.org or www.nyscatholic.org.
Please support Respect Life ministry in our diocese through the Hope Appeal or the annual Respect Life collection Oct. 2 and Oct. 3. Thank you!