Part of the Respect Life team, from left: program coordinator Jennifer Brown, director Lisa Hall and program coordinator Kristin Dievendorf.

By Dc. Tom Cuskey, Editor

2022 will go down in history as the year that Roe v. Wade was overturned, and the renewal of a legislative challenge at the state level to protect the lives of the unborn. That challenge takes on a laser-like focus during October, when we are called to consider more deeply why every human life is valuable as well as create a culture that protects life from conception to natural death. The Office of Family and Respect Life takes active responsibility for this effort in the Diocese of Syracuse.

“Through our Respect Life program, through the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), we offer information and resources such as prayers and ways to advocate for the unborn, the elderly,” according to office Director Lisa Hall. She says this information is shared with pastors, deacons, respect life coordinators and other parish staff members throughout the diocese.

“Every child is a precious gift,” says Hall, who lays out the basic process of education and formation in that “the home is where we need to start and focus. I believe it’s then up to our parishes to continue to support and instill those values of the love of life, love of creation, of God and of neighbor.”

It’s the job of Hall and her team to equip and train parish staff members and teachers for this effort to inform all about the effort to protect life. 

“I truly believe that parents are the primary educators of their children,“ she says. “Our lens is predominantly shaped by our home life, by family life. It’s a great lesson and a great challenge.” Raising the awareness level of parents as to the significance of life is a prime objective as a result. “Every human being is an indispensable, irreplaceable, unrepeatable gift. It causes us to look at one another differently and treat each other differently, with the respect and dignity we are each entitled to because of our creation.”

The Catholic Sun asked Hall if, in the aftermath of the Roe v. Wade decision, there is a different atmosphere to this year’s respect life observance. “I’m grateful that we are seeing that it is not a right to take the life of an unborn in the Constitution,” she responded, “and I’m grateful that it’s opening actual conversations about what this really means.”

She adds, “By the same token, conversations are creating a lot of confusion, misinformation, fear … and it’s understandable.” Hall says that over the past 50 years, woman have been conditioned to think that their freedom hinges on the right to have an abortion. “I want to challenge that assertion wholeheartedly and say ‘no.’ And if our freedom hinges on that, then the cost is too high.” 

Of course, protection of the unborn is just one facet of the Respect Life Month. “I have been working with Father (Charles) Vavonese and we are talking about end-of-life issues as well. Another important facet of the office is Project Rachel, a ministry that provides support, comfort and healing to women, couples and families that have experienced a loss by abortion. “I never want to talk about abortion without talking about the love and mercy that the Church holds out to those who have been involved in abortion.” 

Bishop Douglas J. Lucia has recently asked parishes to comply with a request that Hall says has been in effect for a number of years, for each parish to have a respect life coordinator on its ministry team. “We want to make a concerted effort for each parish to have a coordinator. We want to walk with these people so they can help others in their parishes recognize how good God is, how incredibly precious the gift of life is and how we can love our families and neighbors better.”

She is not alone in her efforts. “Our staff here in this office works so hard; they are on fire for the Lord. It’s in them.”

Hall brings an energy to the Office of Family and Respect Life that is borne out of deep personal experience and compassion for the efforts to protect and respect life. “I have personally experienced God’s mercy and his love. It calls me to share it. I know how good God is and that’s the desire of my heart, to see and know how good God is.”


Resources for Respect Life Month

Here are some of the resources and events planned for Respect Life Month:

  • Digital and print resources are available to help parishes celebrate Respect Life Month. 
  • Each diocesan Catholic high school is engaged in a program of “Radical Love”. Bishop Douglas J. Lucia visit each of the diocesan Catholic high schools to offer a Mass for Life. The Generation Life group will speak to a school assembly following each Mass. Generation Life is a spiritual movement of young people who dedicate a year or more of their lives to talking about being pro-life and being a person who follows God’s plan for love in their life, about chastity and healthy, holy sexuality.
  • Colin Nykaza, director of young adult ministry in the Archdiocese of New York, will talk at high schools about mental health concerns, divine mercy, and the value of life.
  • “The Bishop (James) Moynihan ProVita Scholarship competition has begun. It is open to any Catholic high school senior, public or private, in the Diocese of Syracuse. Two $1000 and one $500 award toward college expenses will be awarded. Submissions must answer these two questions: Why are you Pro-Life and how will you help build a culture of life? Submissions may be video, essay, dance, song, music, pictures, or art (limited to two minutes or 500 words.) Work must be submitted by e-mail to familyrespectlife@syrdio.org by October 11, 2022.
  • NYS Catholic Conference has information to clarify some of the myths surrounding Catholic pro-life teachings. Visit nyscatholic.org for resources and answers to frequently asked questions.
  • For more information on events and programs during Respect Life Month, visit the diocesan web page at https://syracusediocese.org/offices/familyrespect-life/.
  • Also visit https://www.respectlife.org/called-to-serve

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