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Jennifer Brinker is a reporter for the St. Louis Review and Catholic St. Louis.
Beats: Life issues, Young adult and youth ministries, liturgies and devotions
Geographic areas covered: Parishes and schools in the North City, North County, West County and St. Charles Deaneries.
That was the key message delivered by Ryan Bomberger at the 42nd annual Respect Life Convention Oct. 28 at the St. Charles Convention Center. Bomberger, an author, speaker, and self-described “factivist,” was the keynote speaker at a luncheon of 600 people, a sell out. The daylong convention also included breakout sessions on other life issues as well as an exhibitors’ area.
Bomberger and his wife, Bethany, started The Radiance Foundation, a non-profit educational, faith-based organization “to help people understand and embrace their God-given purpose.” The organization has created numerous multimedia campaigns on life issues including fatherhood, abortion in the black community, adoption and purity.
We live in a broken society that so desperately wants to share the truth about life, Bomberger said. Our society faces what he described as “factophobia,” a fear of the truth. “Truth ain’t hate — let love illuminate,” he said. “It’s radical to think that all life has purpose.”
He shared how his parents’ adoption of 10 of their 13 children is proof that the gift of adoption “unleashes purpose. I am who I am because of my mom’s courage, strength and passion to be with those who are broken.”
With so many lives at stake, our culture no longer has the luxury of staying silent about life issues, Bomberger said. “We don’t have the luxury of feeling too uncomfortable to engage in conversation. We don’t have the luxury of feeling like, well it’s really none of my business. Saving human lives should be everybody’s business. Telling someone that they have worth and purpose — God-given purpose — should be every Christian’s business. And speaking that truth in love is not easy … but life has purpose.”
Respect Life Apostolate executive director Karen Nolkemper added that Catholics are called “to speak the truth with love and compassion. Like Ryan said, we are all encouraged to be ‘factivists.’ When the truth is behind you, you have nothing to fear.”
The apostolate’s four pillars of education, pastoral care, public policy and spiritual support include programs that give specific ways to address those truths with love and compassion. Some of those initiatives include praying on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood with the monthly Helpers of God’s Precious Infants gathering, supporting post-abortive women and men through Project Rachel and Project Joseph, engaging in pro-life legislative efforts or educating young people about life issues through Right START.
Reflecting on the annual convention, Nolkemper said this is a time for pro-lifers to gather and support one another through camaraderie. “This is so we don’t get discouraged,” she said. “We can overcome any obstacles. We all have a role to play — we are one Body with many parts.”
Mary Ann Hoeynck, recently retired adoption coordinator at Good Shepherd Children and Family Services, was the recipient of the Cardinal John J. Carberry Award. The award is presented annually at the Respect Life Convention to an individual or group who has made a significant contribution to the pro-life cause.
Hoeynck started at then-Catholic Charities’ Department of Children in 1973, going full time in 1974. She credited the influence of her parents, who were foster parents, which led her to her career path. “They had an influence on me because of their great love of the Church and pro-life issues,” said the member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville.
Students for Life at St. Vincent de Paul in Perryville received the annual Bishop Joseph A. McNicholas Award. The award is presented to a Catholic high school or parish youth group that exemplifies a consistent ethic of respect for all life. The newly formed Students for Life group participates in numerous pro-life activities, including 40 Days for Life, pro-life speaker nights, the March for Life and learning more about pregnancy resource centers.
Additionally, Students for Life at Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., won the Respect Life Apostolate’s Pro-Life Video Challenge. The theme of the video was “Adoption: A Choice that Changes Lives.”
Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation said that there are many ways to better understand how life has purpose and view with empathy situations that seem desperate and hopeless. Some of his specific calls to action include:
• Be a mentor. Bomberger encouraged participating with organizations such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters and others that provide mentoring opportunities. “When you pour just a little bit of yourself into a child, you radically change that desperate outlook,” he said.
• Volunteer with a pregnancy resource center or a maternity home.
• Parents need to be involved in their child’s school. Especially for those who attend public schools, find out if Planned Parenthood is a part of the curriculum and speak out about it.
• Start a Students for Life chapter at your high school or university.
• Start a support ministry at your church for women facing unplanned pregnancies or a parent mentorship program for your community.
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