Underlining the need for respect of all life Print
Respect Life
Thursday, Oct. 02, 2008 -- 6:41 AM

The power of the term, "Respect Life," needs to be underlined in our minds. When we, in sharing our faith, share our respect for others, we are acknowledging their intrinsic worth and our belief that they are fellow humans to be loved and cherished. This message of loving respect is foundational for all our beliefs.

The other word, life, is too easily glossed over. "Life" for the new human begins when the sperm joins the egg and ends at natural death. All the stages and phases, ups and downs, challenges and soaring triumphs do not change the innate humanity of that unique person.

This October, marking Respect Life Month, the bishops of the United States created a diverse packet of materials with the theme, "Hope and Trust in Life!" Packets were sent to all parishes in our diocese.

Pamphlets cover a wide range of topics including how living wills can create difficulties, especially for disabled people. Another addresses pornography and how this huge industry degrades people. Abortion's effect on male grief and trauma and the deadly toll abortion takes on African Americans are explored. The theme of "Hope and Trust in Life!" is especially present in the materials on stem cells and in forming conscience for Catholics voters.

Our bishops call us to create a culture of life through prayer, pastoral care, public policy, and education. Each of us has a wonderful opportunity to join 40 Days of Prayer for Life, either on the sidewalk at the clinic or by dedicating an hour in adoration or prayer to end abortion.

You can sign up for a regular time to pray or vary the time by going to www.localendar.com/public/madison40days

The diocesan staff pledged to cover one day during last year's effort. Could you inspire your parish to take a half day, a full day, or one time slot a week?

In addition, some parishes bless families expecting children after Mass. Others hold special prayer services. There are many ways you can draw people together to pray for life.

The priests of our diocese have stepped forward in creating a culture of life. More than 40 of our priests have taken Project Rachel or Rachel's Vineyard training to become more aware of how to speak to those grieving after an abortion. An additional seven priests have devoted two additional days to intensive training in how abortion affects men.

All our priests are available to help people heal through the sacrament of reconciliation. If you or someone you know might benefit from taking additional time with a priest or counselor to discuss prior abortions, please call 608-821-3177 or e-mail Help This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   for confidential referrals.

Another avenue of pastoral care is offered through Rachel's Vineyard Retreats. Many volunteers on the Diocesan Retreat team just completed national training with the founders of this ministry, Theresa and Kevin Burke. The next retreat is scheduled in the Madison area on November 14 to 16, 2008. You can get further information by calling 1-877-HOPE-4-ME or visiting www.rachelsvineyard.org  Take courage and if you think someone might be hurting from abortion, give them a gentle nudge to speak to a priest or consider a retreat.

The Respect Life collection has brought hope to many young women who have learned how to care for themselves and their babies at CareNet's Elizabeth House. Currently, six young women are living and learning, thanks in part to donations from the Respect Life collection and the partnering of many churches of many faiths.

In addition, the collection allows the Office of Justice and Pastoral Outreach to offer grants to crisis pregnancy centers througout the diocese. This is a new initiative that is only possible because of the generosity of our parishioners.

Future articles during Respect Life Month will look at the issues of disabilities, ethical and moral life issues, end of life challenges, the death penalty, and more. The words, "Respect Life," encompass so many topics, all of which are bedrock values of our Catholic faith. Your prayers, your efforts to promote good public policy, your care and concern for others, and your efforts to educate others on life issues are creating a Culture of Life.

Susanna D. Herro is the director of the Office of Justice and Pastoral Outreach for the Diocese of Madison.