January is a busy month in the Respect Life Office! The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops designates Jan. 22 each year as a day of penance and prayer. The bishops state, “In all dioceses of the United States of America, Jan. 22 (or Jan. 23 when Jan. 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.” General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 373
To this end, please join Bishop Cunningham at a Mass for Life on Jan. 22, 9 a.m., at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Syracuse. It’s our opportunity to come together, to pray, and to celebrate God’s presence in the Eucharist. It’s our opportunity to know, once again, that though the world has places of darkness, we are a people of light.
This leads me to some questions. Do we convey the message that we are a people of light? Do we convey it effectively? Compassionately? Joyfully?
Oftentimes, the average pro-life person is portrayed as an angry, intolerant, ultra-conservative male. It’s up to us as pro-life people to dispel this image.
The Diocesan Respect Life Office recently offered a presentation to all regions of our diocese entitled, “The 7 P’s of Powerful Persuasion.” It’s a power point developed by Kathleen Gallagher at the NYS Catholic Conference.
The 7 P’s are as follows:
1. Preparation — Preparation entails two things:
A. Plan and polish your message
Pick the message you wish to convey and stick to it. Know your message well.
B. Know your audience
Depending on your audience, your message may need to vary. The truth of the message does not vary, but the facts used to persuade might. Choose the facts most likely to persuade. We have the truth on our side!
2. Positive — Any time it’s possible, say what we stand for, not what we’re against. We support the preservation of life, parents’ rights to protect their children, ethics and integrity in health care and scientific research, the rights of the sick and disabled. These are positive things to stand for!
3. Pictures/Parables — We now have an incredible window to the womb through 3 and 4 dimensional ultrasound. Use these pictures to help people see the miracle of human life. Parables are also a wonderful tool. Jesus was a master with parables. Stories about the successes of adult stem research, for example, are an excellent way to educate people about adult stem cell vs. embryonic stem cell research. For information on adult stem cell research, go to a site named, “Do No Harm” at www.stemcellresearch.org.
4. Personal — Whenever possible, use your own personal stories to make your point. People remember stories long after facts fade away.
5. Particulars — Be factual to be credible. Don’t believe everything you read on an Internet website. Do your homework or contact another source such as the Respect Life Office to assist you. Know your facts and document them.
6. Professional — This includes dressing neatly and being calm, cool, and collected.
SMILE! People will remember 70% of HOW you communicate and only 30% of WHAT you communicate.
7. Pastoral — We are called to be disciples and make disciples. We need to bring
Christ’s heart of compassion to all we do. We will not effectively persuade others to respect life if we don’t model it first.
Over all these things is prayer. It’s the first thing we do that will enrich all the others. Before you speak to someone about life issues, ask God to give you His words and His merciful presence. Ask Him to help you be a bridge builder and healer.
This will draw people closer to us — and through us, closer to Christ. We can’t do everything, but each of us can do something. If each of us does our part, the culture of life will be built.
If you’d like to have the “7 P’s of Powerful Persuasion” offered at your parish or Pastoral Care Area, please contact my office at (315) 470-1418 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The presentation is well suited to many age groups — from youth to adults — and is perfect for parish Respect Life Committees or those wishing to get a committee started.
You may also view the presentation at: http://www.viddler.com/explore/oilpaintingdvd/videos/116/ or on the Respect Life page under “Offices” on the diocesan web site, www.syracusediocese.org This presentation was offered on Jan. 5, 2011, at Most Holy Rosary Church, Maine, N.Y. May God bless you so that you will be a blessing for others!
Lisa Hall is the director of the Respect Life Office for the Syracuse Diocese.