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Respect Life Month is reminder of promoting a culture of life all year long

Annual Respect Life Convention set to take place on Oct. 15

October is Respect Life Month, during which Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Louis and around the nation highlight their 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 1 and 2. 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 a culture of life throughout the year.

The U.S. bishops have said that Catholics are called to cherish, defend and protect those who are most vulnerable, from the beginning to the end of their lives, and at every point in between. During the month of October, the Church asks Catholics to reflect more deeply on the dignity of every human life.

The Archdiocese of Saint 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.

Post-Roe world

The Church is committed to continuing its mission to serve the most vulnerable and bear witness to the dignity of all human life, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski said.

“The Catholic Church has always proclaimed that every human being, born and unborn, is endowed by our Creator with the right to be protected and cherished,” Archbishop Rozanski said, following the court’s June 24 ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “Therefore, just as before today’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade, the Church will continue serving those who are most vulnerable and bearing witness to the dignity of every human, regardless of religion, race, age or any other factor.”

Walking with Moms

In 2019, the U.S. bishops developed a pastoral initiative called Walking with Moms in Need. This nationwide, parish-based effort helps open the eyes of Catholics to the needs of pregnant and parenting mothers in their local communities. Walking with Moms in Need has assisted parishes in communicating about the support services available to women who are thinking about whether to carry their child to term.

The archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate has developed a list of of 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.

Post-abortion healing

In 2021, the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate expanded its Abortion Healing Ministry through the addition of Rachel’s Vineyard, an intensive weekend retreat for women, men and couples. Up to six weeks of follow-up care is offered after the retreat.

The program was founded in the mid-1990s by Catholic psychologist Theresa Burke. The retreat model features a trained team, including a priest and professional therapist, and leads participants “through the critical steps of healing after abortion and helping them encounter the merciful love of Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician,” wrote Cynthia Haehnel, Respect Life Apostolate director, in a letter to pastors introducing the retreat. The programming is rooted in the Catholic faith, but anyone from any religious background — or no religious background at all — is invited to attend.

The ministry complements two existing programs, Project Rachel and Project Joseph, both of which offer healing and hope to women and men wounded by abortion. All of the ministries offer ongoing support, including a spiritual support group, Bible study, referrals to spiritual directors and priests, and a day of reflection twice a year. For more information on the Abortion Healing Ministry, call or text (314) 406-0815, email [email protected] or visit www.archstl.org/hope-healing.

The apostolate also is seeking additional male volunteers for Project Joseph. For more information, call (314) 792-7555 or email [email protected]

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