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Respect Life Apostolate shifts focus from memorializing Roe to a celebration of life

Respect Life Apostolate to host Mass Jan. 14 at Cathedral Basilica

For a half century, Catholics have not forgotten the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand in the United States.

This year, that observation has shifted to a celebration of life in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe with the Dobbs v. Whole Woman’s Health decision last June, which returned all abortion restrictions to the states.

The archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate, too, is marking a 50th anniversary. Within months after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 1973, the late Cardinal John J. Carberry formed the first diocesan Pro-Life Committee here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Cardinal Carberry was committed to carrying out the priorities of the bishops in responding to this life issue through four pillars: pastoral care, education, spiritual support and public policy.

To mark the occasion, the Respect Life Apostolate is hosting a Celebration of Life Mass at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Auxiliary Bishop Mark S. Rivituso will be the main celebrant at the Mass, which replaces the long-standing Roe v. Wade memorial Mass. There will be a collection to support the LifeLine Coalition, formed in 1986 by Archbishop John L. May to raise awareness of pregnancy assistance services. Donations go toward a coalition of local Catholic and pro-life social services that help women facing unplanned pregnancies.

“We will thank God for ending abortion in Missouri, honor those lost to abortion, pray for those wounded by abortion and commit to build a ‘culture of life and love,’” Cynthia Haehnel, director of the Respect Life Apostolate, wrote in a letter promoting the Mass.

“Now that (abortion) is illegal in Missouri and we’re technically an abortion-free state for now, we thought this was a good opportunity for everybody to celebrate, to come out and unify for all life issues,” Haehnel said.

The Respect Life Apostolate plans to host a series of educational talks on life issues in 2023. A gala celebrating the apostolate’s 50th anniversary also will take place on March 25. From there, the apostolate will keep its focus on legislative efforts in Missouri related to abortion.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in 2024,” Haehnel said. “We have been hearing from others that there’s going to be proposals to change the constitution in Missouri to make abortion a constitutional right like Kansas. So we can’t back down. We will celebrate and refocus, and then look forward to the 2024 election.”

The archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry has shifted the focus of the Generation Life pilgrimage to Washington D.C. to a local one-day event in St. Louis on Friday, Jan. 20, at Chaifetz Arena. As of late December, more than 1,200 eighth-graders, high school teens and their chaperones have registered for the event. Groups may still register for the event through Jan. 13 at www.genlifestl.com.

“We are aiming for a day centered on prayer, learning and advocacy,” said Youth Ministry Office director Amy Eschelbach. “How can young people live a culture of life, every day, here and in their local areas?

Speakers will touch on a variety of life issues, including abortion, the death penalty, immigration, health care for the poor and vulnerable and more. Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski and Bishop Rivituso will join teens for Mass. Pete Buncher and band will lead praise and worship music, and Danielle Harrison, director of mission and charism at Cor Jesu Academy, will host the event.

Eschelbach said local advocacy groups and religious communities have been invited to be present at Generation Life. “Youth will be able to meet, learn about their missions, and find ways to be involved, building up a culture of life,” she said.

Other activities in January include a Young Adult Holy Hour at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. The gathering is hosted by Anima Christi, the Office of Young Adult Ministry and the Respect Life Apostolate. Jacinta Millman, co-host of the podcast “Cathoholics,” will speak on being pro-life in a post-Roe world. Adoration, the Rosary and confessions will take place afterward.

The U.S. bishops are hosting 9 Days for Life, a novena for the protection of human life, from Jan. 19-27. Each day’s intention is accompanied by a short reflection and suggested actions to help build a culture of life. To sign up for daily prayers, visit www.respectlife.org/9-days-signup.

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