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Respect Life Month is opportunity to promote dignity of all human life

MAKING A STAND FOR LIFE

Photo Credits: Illustration by Abigail Witte
October is Respect Life Month, during which Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and around the nation come together to serve as witness to the dignity of every human life.

Parishes will kick off the month by marking Respect Life Sunday at Masses the weekend of Oct. 6 and 7. While the month of October is typically filled with events that promote the sacredness of human life, including the archdiocese’s annual Respect Life Convention, it’s also a reminder of the importance of promoting life issues as a way of life, throughout the year.

The U.S. bishops’ theme for this year’s Respect Life Month is “Every Life: Cherished, Chosen, Sent,”

Pope Francis wrote earlier this year that “Our defense of the innocent unborn … needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development.”

Karen Nolkemper, executive director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate, noted that the collaborative effort of the pro-life movement must continue forward, especially as momentum toward a Supreme Court nomination grows. People who work to build a culture of life must be prepared for the possibility of an overturn of Roe vs. Wade.

“We’re in this to change minds, save souls and heal hearts,” Nolkemper said. Through prayer, education, media and resources and support for pregnant women to help them choose life for their babies, all members of the pro-life movement play an equally important part.

“Sometimes the evil one wants to say one person’s role in this pro-life movement is more valuable than another, and that’s a way the enemy brings about division,” she said. “We have done a good job of uniting other pro-life agencies, but we want to go beyond and reach out to other pro-life folks within other faith backgrounds. Each organization has a very valuable role to play. It’s like an orchestra, where we need all of the instruments to play that beautiful music. We need all of the players to end abortion in our lifetime.”

The Respect Life Apostolate promotes four pillars in promoting a culture of life, with the end goal of making abortion unthinkable. The pillars are Spiritual, Pastoral Care, Education and Public Policy.

SPIRITUAL

• Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent, located across the street from Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, provides prayer and witness near the abortion clinic. Staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, the convent offers a place for prayer, Mass and adoration, and hospitality for prayerful witnesses in front of the abortion clinic.

• Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, established in St. Louis in 2000, is a peaceful, prayerful life-saving ministry that meets the third Saturday of the month, except in January when it’s replaced with the Annual Roe vs. Wade memorial Mass. The prayer vigil begins with 8 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Rosary procession to Planned Parenthood and Benediction upon return to the Cathedral Basilica. People unable to process are invited to remain in eucharistic adoration at the cathedral basilica. If your parish priest would like to celebrate Mass on the third Sunday and lead the Rosary prayer procession, please contact prolife@archstl.org or (314) 792-7555.

The Respect Life Apostolate sponsors a spiritual adoption program, which provides an opportunity for children, teens, adults and senior citizens to prayerfully intercede on behalf of moms and unborn babies threatened by abortion. Participants spiritually adopt a baby known by God to be at risk of abortion by pledging to pray the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen prayer daily for nine months. Schools and parish schools of religion promote the spiritual adoption program during the school year, often ending with a baby shower to support mothers facing a crisis pregnancy. Call (314) 792-7555 or email prolife@archstl.org for more information.

The RLA also sponsors a Mass in November for people who have been touched by the gift of adoption; and a Mass in June to support women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and their families.

PASTORAL CARE

The LifeLine Coalition is a group of Catholic social service agencies and pro-life caregivers committed to helping women experiencing crisis pregnancies through: increasing awareness and availability of pregnancy assistance services; generating new revenue for caregivers; and expanding services to pregnant women. Contribute to the Lifeline Coalition online at www.bit.ly/2Q6HeFM. Checks should be made payable to LifeLine Coalition, Respect Life Apostolate, Mail Stop 34001, P.O. Box 953745, St. Louis, MO 63195-3745

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson established the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund in 2009. The fund relieves the burdens of expectant parents and parents who have recently given birth under difficult circumstances. Contribute to the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund at www.bit.ly/2Q5thI4. Checks should be made payable to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Fund, Respect Life Apostolate, Mail Stop 340012, P.O. Box 953745, St. Louis, MO 63195-3745.

Project Rachel and Project Joseph are ministries of the Respect Life Apostolate that offer healing and hope to women and men wounded by abortion. The ministries offer free, confidential professional counseling, spiritual support groups, retreats and spiritual direction and reconciliation. For more information on either group, call 314-792-7565; or email stlprojectrachel@archstl.org for Project Rachel or prolife@archstl.org for Project Joseph.

The Order for the Naming and Commendation of an Infant Who Died Before Birth is a special rite that memorializes children who have died before birth, including miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion or accident. The rite, often carried out in the context of Mass, gives families the chance to name their child and commend the child to the loving care of God. For more information, contact Mary Varni at maryvarni@archstl.org.

EDUCATION

• Right START (Students Tackling Abortion Realities Today) is a respect life curriculum taught by trained, volunteer teachers to eighth graders at Catholic elementary schools and parish schools of religion. Lessons include information on fetal development, abortion, chastity, and the sanctity of each life created by God. The program culminates with a closing prayer service. The curriculum includes lectures, reading, activities, discussions, videos and music. Started in 1997, Right START currently serves more than 86 schools/PSRs and 2,100 students in the Archdiocese of St. Louis each year. For more information, contact Terry Trafton at (314) 792-7560 pr email terrytrafton@archstl.org.

• The annual Respect Life Convention in October (see page 18) is a celebration of life and educates and inspires attendees on supporting a culture of life.

The Respect Life Apostolate’s eighth grade creative writing contest takes place each year, with an awards ceremony in the spring. Students write about the virtue of chastity and how this virtue leads to a healthy, happy and holy life, which helps prevent abortion. Each year, the RLA receives approximately 1,100 entries from students representing 60-plus Catholic schools, PSR programs, and Catholic homeschools. The deadline for applications is generally in February. For guidelines, visit bit.ly/2xCqPSm.

• Parish Respect Life Committees provide resources to their parishes on life issues, and support their pastor in making life issues visible at the parish level. There are more than 250 parish coordinators in more than 175 parishes in the archdiocese. For information on starting a parish committee, email prolife@archstl.org or call (314) 792-7555.

PUBLIC POLICY

The Respect Life Apostolate works with Parish Respect Life Committees to participate in letter-writing and phone call efforts to public officials on pertinent legislation. The RLA also works in cooperation with the Missouri Catholic Conference and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to keep people informed about legislation on state and federal levels.

The RLA also promoted Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, a teaching document by the U.S. bishops on the political responsibility of Catholics. To access the statement, visit www.//bit.ly/1x0iAdI.

• The Missouri Catholic Conference is the public policy arm of the state’s bishops and is actively involved in all levels of government, especially state and federal issues. The MCC promotes the common good by advocating for public policy that upholds the sanctity and dignity of all human life. To learn more, visit www.mocatholic.org.

>> Respect Life Month events

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson led the recitation of the Rosary outside of Planned Parenthood in January 2017. During Respect Life Month, which is held every October, there are several opportunities to pray to end abortion.
• The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity will host a pro-life Mass and adoration every Monday in October in recognition of Respect Life Month. The Mass will begin at 7 a.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent, 4311 Forest Park Ave. in the Central West End. After Mass, eucharistic adoration will take place until 11:30 a.m. Call (314) 449-8612 for more information.

The Missouri Catholic Conference Annual Assembly will take place Saturday, Oct. 6, at Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City, Mo. This year’s theme is “Pope Francis at Five Years: The Church at the Peripheries.” Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry of the Archdiocese of Chicago will be the keynote speaker; workshops topics include campus ministry, protecting the unborn via legislation, serving the poor and vulnerable, human trafficking, immigration, the opioid crisis, death penalty and Catholic response to LGBT issues. To register, visit www.mocatholic.org.

• More than 1,300 locations across North America will participate in the annual Life Chain on Sunday, Oct. 7. The annual event is a prayerful and peaceful witness to the sanctity of human life. For specific times and locations in St. Louis and elsewhere in Missouri, visit www.lifechain.net.

“Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer,” a movie about former abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell, will be shown in theaters beginning Friday, Oct. 12. Gosnell was convicted of murdering several infants born alive during attempted abortions as well as performing illegal abortions. To find a listing of theaters in St. Louis, visit gosnellmovie.com/theaters.

• The Helpers of God’s Precious Infants Mass and prayer vigil at Planned Parenthood takes place on the third Saturday of the month, except January. This month it will be held Saturday, Oct. 20. It begins with 8 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and a Rosary prayer procession to Planned Parenthood. Those unable to participate in the procession are invited to remain at the cathedral basilica for eucharistic adoration.

• The annual archdiocesan Respect Life Convention will take place Sunday, Oct. 28, at the St. Charles Convention Center. Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation will be the keynote speaker. Exhibits open at 9 a.m., followed by Mass at 9:30 with Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Exhibits and afternoon workshops are free. Workshop topics include teens and chastity, “Humanae Vitae,” inside the abortion industry, spiritual and moral considerations for the seriously ill and dying, pro-life apologetics and legislation. To purchase tickets for the luncheon and keynote speaker, contact the Respect Life Apostolate at (314) 792-7555 or register online at stlrespectlife.org.

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