The Gospel of Life is more than just recognizing the evil of abortion; it’s understanding that our Creator is so good that He immersed Himself in our human condition through His son Christ, so that we can be in communion with him, and ultimately share in eternal life.
As the nation stands at the gate of a legal decision that could reverse the effects of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the pro-life movement must remain focused on being relational in all its efforts to promote a culture of life, said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann keynote speaker at the 45th annual archdiocesan Respect Life Convention Oct. 17 at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis.
A native St. Louisan, Archbishop Naumann serves as leader of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Pro-Life Committee. During his time in St. Louis, the archbishop also served from 1984-95 as coordinator of the archdiocesan Pro-Life Committee, now known as the Respect Life Apostolate.
Archbishop Naumann said that the Supreme Court usurped the rights of the American people through their elected representatives to determine public policy on life and death issues that still deeply divide our nation.
Respect for life ranges from the smallest embryo to the hospice patient at the end of life. It also includes the convicted murderer on death row, those with different cognitive abilities, refugees and immigrants, and the wealthy and those who are without a home. “Every human life is sacred, because it was created in the Divine image,” he said. “Every life is of such worth that Jesus gave His life on Calvary for us.”
The pro-life movement must not be intimidated by the forces of darkness, but continue to proclaim the truth of God’s amazing love with boldness and tenderness. “We have to be creative in searching for words and images that can spark a curiosity and enlighten minds, as well as transform the hearts of those who have been seduced by the culture of death,” he said. Archbishop Naumann in particular highlighted the creativity of the Vitae Foundation
, which through its research helps connect individuals to life-affirming resources as an alternative to abortion.
Archbishop Naumann said the U.S. bishops’ reaffirmation two years ago that the protection of unborn children and their mothers “is the pre-eminent public policy issue of our time.” The bishops in their message said abortion attacks life at a stage that is at its most defenseless. It also damages the family and pits the welfare of the mother against her child. With more than 61 million lives lost since 1973, abortion is the most “catastrophic abuse of human rights,” he said.
While public policy is important, Archbishop Naumann said, none of it matters if we don’t work on changing the hearts and minds of others. “Whether the Supreme Court reverses or rolls back Roe vs. Wade, the need to surround with love those considering abortion remains of paramount importance.”
He noted the work of the bishops’ Walking with Moms in Need
initiative, which has helped parishes to communicate the support services available to women who are thinking about whether to carry their child to term
“We need to shine the light of Christ in our community by surrounding every mother in the midst of an untimely pregnancy, with a community of support, love, joy and of hope.”
Other speakers at the convention included Mary McCluskey of the USCCB’s Pro-Life Secretariat, who gave a video presentation; and Catherine Glenn Foster of Americans United for Life.
Molly Corcoran Kertz received the Cardinal Carberry Award, which is presented annually to an individual(s) who have made a significant contribution to the pro-life movement. The award is named after the late Cardinal Carberry, who started the archdiocesan Pro-Life Committee in St. Louis — the first in the nation — after the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973.
Kertz was honored for her past role as director of the St. Louis committee, now known as the Respect Life Apostolate, and her ongoing behind-the-scenes work in the pro-life movement. Kertz has used her talents for efforts including the Right START Program, which teaches eighth-graders about the realities of abortion and chastity; the Creative Writing scholarship program; and was instrumental in developing a trip for high school teens to the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Several people also were recognized as Friend of Life Award
recipients, which is given to individuals who are doing extraordinary work in their pro-life ministries, most often at the parish level.
— Marisol Pfaff for her involvement with post-abortion healing, including the Project Rachel for more than 25 years, and more recently with Rachel’s Vineyard. She is a parishioner at St. Mary Magdalen in St. Louis;
— Chuck Raymond for his involvement with Project Joseph, a ministry for men affected by abortion. Raymond is a parishioner at Holy Infant in Ballwin;
— Mary Dyer for her role as respect life coordinator at St. Paul Parish in St. Paul;
— and Joan Atkins for her work with St. Ann Parish in Clover Bottom and East Central Missouri Right to Life.
— Biking for Babies was announced as the winner of the Respect Life Apostolate's Pro-Life Video Challenge. The nonprofit organization raises funding and awareness for crisis pregnancy centers.