The Catholic Church is consistent in what it means to be pro-life — protecting life from the womb until natural death, and everything that’s included in between, said Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski.
A month-and-a-half into his episcopate in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Archbishop Rozanski spoke on the topic of life issues, including some of what he’s learned about the pro-life movement in the archdiocese since his arrival.
“Unfortunately, in our society today, it seems as though everything is geared toward expediency and convenience,” he said. “When the mindset of society becomes that, then as Pope Francis says, we have a ‘throwaway culture.’” We make abortion unthinkable with a conversion of heart, he added, looking at life with a sense of self-sacrificing love.
“When we realize that the greatest gift we have from God is the gift of life, and life is to be held as sacred in all its forms, but only with the conversion of heart can a person truly see that,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do in bringing the Gospel into our society. Jesus told His followers that being His witnesses would not be expedient or convenient, but that it would demand much from us.”
Archbishop Rozanski said that despite being constrained in meeting the faithful of the archdiocese because of the current health pandemic, he’s already heard from some about their involvement in pro-life activities here. “I already have met people who told me of their witness in praying at abortion clinics, in doing sidewalk counseling,” he said. “To hear of that witness has been very impressive to me.” He hasn’t yet visited the sidewalk in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis or the nearby Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent, but looks forward to doing so in the future, he said. He also wants to learn more about parish and archdiocesan efforts in the realm of life issues.
He’s said he’s heard much about the work of Catholics in providing alternatives to abortion, through organizations such as Our Lady’s Inn and Birthright, and in post-abortion healing, including Project Rachel and Project Joseph, and the recent addition of Rachel’s Vineyard. The archdiocese will host its first Rachel’s Vineyard retreat in November.
One of the most powerful witnesses to pro-life issues is the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Archbishop Rozanski said. He has been a participant in the march from the time he was a seminarian attending the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in the 1970s and ’80s. Likewise, he has been impressed by the growth in attendance over the years, including participation by a growing number of young people.
The U.S. bishops’ campaign, “Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service,” was launched in March to help parishes communicate the support services available to women who are thinking about whether to carry their child to term. The year of service also marks the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”). In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Respect Life Apostolate sent to all pastors a letter that included guidance for parishes to create an inventory of available resources for mothers in need and their families and to recognize potential gaps that may need to be addressed. Parishes also received a guide to assist in achieving each phase of the initiative.
While the pandemic has slowed activity at parishes, Archbishop Rozanski said there are many ways in which Catholics can become involved in the campaign, such as collecting supplies for pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes — “anything that could be supportive to women who have chosen the courageous path to have their child and to bring their child into the world,” he said.
>> Pro-Life resources
Archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate: stlrespectlife.org
USCCB Respect Life: www.usccb.org/prolife
Walking With Moms In Need: www.walkingwithmoms.com
Evangelium Vitae: bit.ly/33Wy3kS