Although Catholics are called to cherish, protect and defend human life all year long, the Catholic Church in the United States traditionally sets aside each October as Respect Life Month.
This year’s theme is “Live the Gospel of Life,” in recognition of the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”).
“Written by Pope St. John Paul II, this prophetic document passionately reaffirmed the Church’s constant teaching on the value and sacredness of every human life,” wrote Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., and chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “It remains a foundational text for all our efforts to ensure that the life of every human person is protected and cherished.”
The history of Respect Life Month dates back to 1972, when the U.S. bishops started a respect life program in October, in anticipation of the Roe vs. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in January 1973. By law, the U.S. Supreme Court’s term begins on the first Monday of October.
Gospel of Life 25th anniversary
In honor of the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”), the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities has developed a condensed version of this pro-life encyclical. The compendium was developed as a thorough summary to make Pope St. John Paul II’s prophetic writing more concise and easier to understand for those looking to deepen their understanding of the Church’s teachings on the sacredness of human life. This resource is for those who want to explore the writing when time is too limited to read the full encyclical. It’s also for reviewing key topics, themes and teachings regarding the dignity of the human person. Visit www.respectlife.org/2020 for information.
Walking with Moms in Need
In honor of The Gospel of Life’s 25th anniversary and in answer to St. John Paul II’s call, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities launched a nationwide effort in March, “Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service.” Through the support of their bishops and pastors, parishes were invited to participate to increase the Church’s outreach and support to pregnant women facing difficult or challenging pregnancies. This anniversary year provides the Church with an opportunity to assess, expand and better communicate resources to pregnant moms and families in need.
In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Respect Life Apostolate sent to all pastors a letter that included guidance for parishes to create an inventory of available resources for mothers in need and their families and to recognize potential gaps that may need to be addressed. Parishes also received a guide to assist in achieving each phase of the initiative. The Review also had coverage of the initiative’s launch, with a listing of local resources: bit.ly/33aqC9p.
The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals began hearing arguments Sept. 24 on Missouri’s HB 126 (Missouri Stands for the Unborn Act). The court is hearing an appeal of two lower court injunctions blocking several provisions of the law, including a tiered ban on abortions at different gestational periods, and a ban on abortions of babies with Down syndrome.
The law was passed in 2019 and was a sweeping measure to further restrict abortions in Missouri and protect the health and safety of pregnant women. (The case in the Eighth Circuit is Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, Inc., et al., v. Governor Michael L. Parson, et al.)
Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent
The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity are starting to welcome visitors again to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent. The convent, an initiative of Archbishop Emeritus Robert J. Carlson, was started in 2017 as a ministry of prayer and hospitality, and as prayerful support to those who are working to make abortion unthinkable in St. Louis. The convent is located across the street from Planned Parenthood in St. Louis.
“We are welcoming people to stop by,” said Sister Sue Ann Hall. With the 40 Days for Life fall campaign starting Sept. 23, the convent has seen an increase in visitors, she noted. “We’re open for visitors to come and use the facilities, or whatever they need.”
Masses have resumed on the second and fourth Fridays of the month, with adoration from 7 a.m.-noon, followed by Mass at noon. Groups will be limited in size, and visitors must make arrangements in advance through the Respect Life Apostolate.
The convent also has a new patio and prayer garden, which is open to visitors on Wednesdays for meetings or prayer services. For more information on scheduling a Mass or holding a gathering in the outdoor prayer garden, call Madeleine Appelbaum with the Respect Life Apostolate at (314) 792-7598 or email
Respect Life Convention
The 44th annual Respect Life Convention will take place Sunday, Oct. 18, as a live-streamed event, broadcast live from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in St. Louis. The convention will begin at 10 a.m. and will include prayer, speakers, awards and presentations from Walking With Moms in Need ministry partners. Communications professional Elizabeth Westhoff will serve as the event’s emcee.
Presenters include Auxiliary Bishop Mark S. Rivituso; David Bereit, founder of 40 Days for Life; Dr. James Sherley, Charlotte Lozier Institute & Asymmetrex LLC; Dr. Patrick Yeung, Saint Louis University and Catholic Medical Association; Cynthia Haehnel, Respect Life Apostolate director; and Sister Sue Ann Hall and Sister Delores Vogt, Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent.
The convention also includes a complimentary teen track, which will be recorded and made available to archdiocesan parish youth groups and schools in early October. Presentations will be made by Jacinta Florence, regional coordinator, Students for Life of America; and Brian Westbrook, executive director, Coalition for Life St. Louis.
The deadline to register is Oct. 14. Registration, pricing, sponsorship opportunities, limited live-seating options, video challenge contest, and other details are available at prolifestl.regfox.com/2020-respect-life-convention. For questions or online registration help, email [email protected] or call (314) 792-7555.
Other pro-life activities
The annual Life Chain will take place Sunday, Oct. 4. The event includes an hour to 90 minutes of peaceful and prayerful public witness at various locations throughout the Archdiocese of St. Louis and around the nation. Life Chain is a North American pro-life movement promoting the sanctity of human life every first Sunday in October. For locations and more information, see lifechain.org.
Our Lady’s Inn is sponsoring “Miles for Moms in Need,” a virtual 5K run/walk this fall. Participants may choose to run or walk anytime and at any location between Oct. 24 and Dec. 5, with results to be entered online. Our Lady’s Inn provides shelter and support for women who have chosen life for their babies. For more information, visit ourladysinn.org/virtual-5k-run-2020.