October is Respect Life Month, a time in which Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and around the nation highlight their witness to the dignity of every human life.
Parishes will begin their observation with Respect Life Sunday at Masses the weekend of Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. While the month of October is typically filled with events that promote the sacredness of human life, including the annual Respect Life Conference, it’s also a reminder of the importance of promoting a culture of life throughout the year.
The U.S. bishops have said that Respect Life Month is a time to consider more deeply why every human life is valuable and to reflect on how to build a culture that protects life from conception to natural death.
The Church’s social doctrine is guided by the fundamental principle that every human life has innate dignity and incomparable value. “Every human being is the object of God’s infinite tenderness, and he himself is present in their lives,” Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”).
As disciples of Christ, we are called to make a sacrificial gift of ourselves for the sake of our neighbor, for “to love someone is to desire that person’s good and to take effective steps to secure it,” wrote Pope Benedict XVI in “Caritas in veritate” (“Charity in Truth”).
The Archdiocese of St. Louis has a long history in the pro-life movement, including being the first diocese in the nation to have an office dedicated to life issues. Founded by Cardinal John J. Carberry shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, the apostolate provides programs to educate Catholics on the Gospel of Life through four primary areas: pastoral care, education, spiritual support and public policy. The Respect Life Apostolate also collaborates with other offices and organizations to support other life issues, including the death penalty, adoption, refugees, human trafficking and violence, following what Pope Francis has described as as “consistent life ethic.”
Abortion ballot initiative
A proposed ballot initiative in Missouri seeks to reverse the state’s ban on abortion.
Several proposals have been made to amend Missouri’s constitution to allow abortions. If the ballot summary is approved, signatures will need to be collected from 8% of legal voters in six of the state’s eight congressional districts by May 5, 2024. If the group collects enough signatures, the measure will appear on the November 2024 ballot.
Missouri became the first state in 2019 to enact a “trigger ban” outlawing most abortions (with an exception for medical emergencies) with an overturn of Roe v. Wade, which happened in June 2022 with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.
In preparation for the ballot initiative and potential 2024 vote, the four Catholic dioceses of Missouri have formed a coalition with other pro-life leaders and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a national advocacy group.
The Respect Life Apostolate will host a panel discussion on the ballot initiative as part of its annual Respect Life Conference on Sunday, Oct. 15. The event is “a day of education, prayer and fellowship for the people that we minister to,” director Cynthia Haehnel said. “We want people to come, embrace the pro-life message and get informed on the ballot initiative.”
In approaching abortion legislation, there needs to be a focus on the mother and child, Haehnel said. The ballot initiative “is bad for women. (Abortion) harms you and your children,” she said. “It’s not going to be good for the family, and it’s not good for the unborn child. We need to continue to focus on the services we can provide to the mom and help her embrace being a mom.”
There are numerous resources in the St. Louis area for women and men experiencing an unexpected pregnancy. A guide of organizations that offer financial, housing, emotional and/or spiritual support is available at walkingwithmomsstl.com.
Rachel’s Healing Garden
Cindy Kveton was about to complete her certification to become a master gardener when she learned about the Laudato Si’ Garden Club. The archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate formed the volunteer crew several years ago to help maintain Rachel’s Healing Garden.
Located in a small space within Resurrection Cemetery in Affton, the garden was established by the Respect Life Apostolate in the 1990s as a quiet place for women and men who have experienced an abortion to find comfort and healing.
The garden is named for Rachel, the matriarchal figure in Old Testament who wept for her children: “Rachel mourns for her children, she refuses to be consoled for her children — they are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15).
Kveton and other volunteers have been sprucing up the garden for the last few years, cutting out honeysuckle around the border of the garden, planting perennials, shrubs and small trees, mulching and adding new benches and statues.
Volunteering for the project and bringing a renewed beauty to the garden “represents the glory of God in a wonderful way,” said Kveton, a member of St. Stephen Protomartyr Parish in south St. Louis. “Sometimes a few of us will stop by to quickly do something, and people will stop us and say that it looks so good.”
A pathway through the garden features five small monuments with Scripture passages, which begin with a theme of despair and move into a message of hope, ending with the Lord’s resurrection. There are several benches along the pathway, where visitors may pray or reflect. A metal box on a wooden post offers a place to leave notes. The area is surrounded by trees, and a rippling creek at the foot of a small drop-off behind the trees provides a tranquil sound.
“We hope that this is a place for women and men who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy — especially an abortion — to find love, hope, peace, healing and to experience God’s mercy here,” Madeleine Appelbaum, program manager with the Respect Life Apostolate, said. “They can find through the quietness that God still loves them, and that there’s hope and healing.”
A prayer service and rededication of Rachel’s Healing Garden will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, at Resurrection Cemetery, 6901 Mackenzie Road in Affton. To view a map of the garden’s location in the cemetery, scan the QR code:
The archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate’s Abortion Healing Ministry provides hope, healing and forgiveness for women, men, couples and families wounded by abortion. To learn more, call or text (314) 406-0815, email hopeheal[email protected] or visit www.archstl.org/hope-healing.
Respect Life Conference and Celebration of Life Mass
The archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate will host its 50th Anniversary Conference from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15, at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury. The conference will begin with Mass at 9 a.m. in the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel, followed by light refreshments.
Topics and speakers include best practices in pro-life messaging and conversations, with Nikolas Nikas of the Bioethics Defense Fund; “Pro-Life Successes in Missouri and the U.S.” with Michael New of the Charlotte Lozier Institute and Catholic University of America; and a panel discussion on the abortion ballot initiative in Missouri, featuring Kathy Forck of 40 Days for Life and the Midwest March for Life, pro-life lobbyist Deacon Sam Lee of Campaign Life Missouri and Sue Liebel of the Susan B. Anthony List.
The afternoon will include lunch, a ministry partner fair, networking and fellowship. To register, visit stlreview.com/3Lxzv2t.
A Celebration of Life Mass will be celebrated at 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. There also will be exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a Rosary and Benediction. A reception will follow in Boland Hall.
Life Chain will take place on Respect Life Sunday, Oct. 1, at locations throughout the greater St. Louis area. The ecumenical pro-life event, which started in 1987, unites thousands each year in peaceful prayer and witness throughout the United States and Canada.
Assumption, New Haven: 2-3 p.m., along Highway 100 in New Haven. Meet at Casey’s General Store toward Memorial Baptist Church.
Assumption, O’Fallon/St. Paul, St. Paul: 2-3 p.m., 403 N. Main St. in O’Fallon. The chain will be at the corner of Main and Third streets near Assumption.
Christ Prince of Peace, Manchester: 2-3 p.m., 415 Weidman Road in Manchester
First Baptist Church, O’Fallon: 2-3 p.m., 8750 Veterans Memorial Parkway in O’Fallon
Grace Community Chapel, St. Peters/Immaculate Conception Dardenne Prairie/St. Joseph, Cottleville: 2-3 p.m., 7661 Mexico Road in St. Peters. The chain will be in front of Grace Community Chapel.
Immaculate Conception, Union: 2-3 p.m., along Highway 50 from Highway 47 to Independence Drive
Incarnate Word, Chesterfield: 2-3 p.m., 13416 Olive Blvd. in Chesterfield
Mary Mother of the Church/Abiding Savior Lutheran: 2-3 p.m., 4355 Butler Hill Road in south St. Louis County. The chain will take place along Butler Hill Road in front of Abiding Savior.
Sacred Heart Church, Troy/Immaculate Conception, Old Monroe/St. Alphonsus, Millwood/St. Mary’s, Hawk Point: 2-3 p.m., 100 Thompson Dr. in Troy. The chain will take place along Highway 61 on the east side of Sacred Heart Church and at the end of Business Park Drive on the west side of Highway 61.
Sacred Heart, Florissant: 2-3 p.m. at the intersection of N. Lindbergh Blvd. and New Halls Ferry Road
St. Anselm, Creve Coeur: 12-1 p.m., 530 S. Mason Road in Creve Coeur
St. Clare of Assisi, Ellisville: 2-3 p.m., 15642 Clayton Road in Ellisville
St. Francis of Assisi/St. Margaret Mary Alacoque/Queen of All Saints/Peace Lutheran: 2-3 p.m., 4556 Telegraph Road in Oakville. The chain will take place along Telegraph Road in front of St. Francis of Assisi and on the opposite side of Telegraph from Crestline/Yaeger Road to Cathedral Drive. An outdoor Rosary near the St. Francis of Assisi pro-life memorial will follow the Life Chain.
St. Francis Borgia/Our Lady of Lourdes/East Central Area Missouri Right to Life, Washington: 2:30-3:30 p.m.. The chain will take place along Highway 47 in front of the former Aldi and along Highway 100 in front of McDonald’s.
St. Gabriel/St. Raphael/St. Ambrose, south St. Louis: 2-3 p.m., 6759 Chippewa St. at Jamieson, across from Ted Drewes. Park and meet at Catholic Supply.
St. Gerald Mission, Gerald: 2-3 p.m., 124 E. Fitzgerald in Gerald
St. Joseph, Farmington: 2:30-3:30 p.m.. The chain will take place along Karsch Boulevard in Farmington. Parking and sign pick-up will be on the south side of Karsch Boulevard.
St. Mark, Lemay: 1:30-2:30 p.m., 4220 Ripa Ave. in Lemay
St. Monica, Creve Coeur: 2-3 p.m., 12136 Olive Blvd. in Creve Coeur
St. Patrick, Wentzville: 2-3 p.m. 405 S. Church St. in Wentzville. The chain will be along Church Street.
St. Paul, Fenton: 2-3 p.m., 15 Forest Knoll Dr. in Fenton
St. Robert Bellarmine/St. Charles Borromeo/St. Elizabeth Ann Seton/St. Peter, St. Charles: 2-3 p.m., meet at 1424 First Capitol Drive South in St. Charles at 1:45 p.m. for opening prayer and signs. The chain will take place along Highway 94 at St. Robert Bellarmine.
For an up-to-date list of participating locations, visit stlreview.com/3EO3IXe