“Pope Francis, together with bishops throughout the world, has recognized that families, particularly today, are not without their flaws and struggles (“Amoris Laetitia,” 57). Family members get sick, grow old, make mistakes, and so on. Yet, our culture and society present their view of what the perfect family should look like. Sadly, their vision of the modern family is often in conflict with God’s plan for marriage and the family, a plan revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Tradition of the Church. Moreover, when we as a Church propose this plan and call others to live according to it, as Christ did, we are ignored, ridiculed, and even attacked.”

— From “Enriching the Church: The Role of the Family in the Life of the Church of Syracuse and Beyond”

With the publication of his pastoral letter, “Enriching the Church: The Role of the Family in the Life of the Church of Syracuse and Beyond,” Bishop Robert J. Cunningham announced a special Year of the Family, which began in the diocese on Dec. 3.

In his letter, Bishop Cunningham reflects on the mission of the modern family — evangelization — and how it can be accomplished by forming an “ecclesia domestica,” a “domestic church,” through prayer and worship, formation, community, and service. Throughout the Year of the Family, the Diocese of Syracuse and its ministries will focus on each of these pillars and provide resources families can use to strengthen their domestic churches.

This week, as thousands of Catholics from across the country gather in Washington, D.C., to participate in the annual March for Life, here are some ways families can promote a culture of life.

• Educate yourself and your children about the Church’s teachings on the dignity and sanctity of life from conception to natural death. Visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website at usccb.org and explore the wide range of human life and dignity issues explained there, including abortion, capital punishment, immigration, healthcare, and war and peace.

• Offer your support to those in need. Volunteer at or support a pregnancy center, such as New Life Pregnancy Center in Mexico (nlpregnancy.org(315) 963-2273); a home for expecting or new mothers, such as Joseph’s House for Women in Syracuse (jhfw.org(315) 701-4981); or a home for those who are dying, such as Francis House in Syracuse (francishouseny.org(315) 475-5422) or Mercy House in Endicott (mercyhousesoutherntier.com(607) 321-1857).

• Pray for life. Sign up for Pray for Life, an extension of the USCCB’s 9 Days for Life, and receive monthly messages via email or text with prayer intentions, reflections, and suggestions for action. Visit usccb.org to sign up. While you’re there, check out the Family Prayers from Birth to Death page, which offers prayers for families in times of sickness, health, sorrow, and thanksgiving.

• Take action. Join a peaceful prayer vigil for life; visit 40daysforlife.com to locate a 40 Days for Life vigil close to you. Lobby your civic officials to support legislation that supports life. Offer prayers at abortion facilities. Join the Catholic Action Network through the New York State Catholic Conference at nyscatholic.org. Visit the New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide at NoSuicideNY.org.

• Learn how to respond with compassion to someone facing an unplanned or difficult pregnancy. “If someone shared with you she was pregnant and hadn’t ruled out having an abortion, would you know how to respond? The answer can be summed up in an old adage: We have two ears and one mouth, and should use them in that proportion.”

• Understand the Church’s teaching on death and dying, and know what your loved ones’ wishes are. “For Catholics, death is a doorway to eternal life. In the face of illness, suffering, and death, our faith assures us that we are created for eternal life.” ** As debates about physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia continue in our state and country, it’s important to understand what our faith teaches us about the end of life. The Bishops of New York State have published a guide, “Now and at the Hour of Our Death: A Catholic Guide to End-of-Life Decision-Making” that explains “the moral principles of Catholic teaching with regard to end-of-life decision-making” and “outline[s] the options that exist in New York State for advance care planning.” Read more at nyscatholic.org.

Visit the diocesan Office of Family/Respect Life Ministry’s pages at syrdio.org and radical-love.org to connect with local pro-life resources and groups and to learn how you and your family can build a culture of life.

* Excerpted from Respect Life Program, copyright © 2017, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved.

** Now and at the Hour of Our Death: A Catholic Guide to End-of-Life Decision-Making by the Catholic Bishops of New York State.

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