WASHINGTON — In a statement to mark Respect Life Month, October 2017, Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York reiterated the need to build a culture of life throughout the year. Cardinal Dolan chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The Cardinal’s statement launches the year-long 2017-18 Respect Life Program (www.usccb.org/respectlife), which provides materials exploring the theme, “Be Not Afraid.”
“Looking back over the last year, there’s been a lot of uncertainty, suffering, and heartache. Between tragedies that occur in the public eye and trials that take place in our personal lives, there’s no shortage of reasons we cry out to God,” Cardinal Dolan said. “At such times, we may feel alone and unequipped... But we have an anchor of hope to cling to. ...God says to us, ‘Do not fear: I am with you’ (Isaiah 41:10).”
“There are times we may doubt the value of our own lives or falter at the thought of welcoming and embracing the life of another. But…He makes all things beautiful. He makes all things new. He is the God of redemption,” the Cardinal said. “That’s powerful. That’s something to hold onto.”
“As followers of Jesus Christ, …we are called to be missionary disciples…commissioned to reach out to one another, especially to the weak and vulnerable,” Cardinal Dolan said.
Begun in 1972, the Respect Life Program highlights the value and dignity of human life throughout the year. Materials are intended for use across the spectrum of Catholic life, work, ministry, and education.
The 2017-18 Respect Life Program features six articles on a range of issues. They address practical steps to build a culture of life, compelling reasons to oppose assisted suicide, principles to consider at the end of life, an overview of the role of conscience, offering genuine support to a friend who’s considering abortion, and a Catholic Q & A on the death penalty. Many digital and print resources are offered, including toolkits for priests and deacons, parishes, Catholic education, Respect Life ministry, youth ministry, young adult ministry, faith formation, and communications.
The full text of Cardinal Dolan's statement is available along with many other resources at www.usccb.org/respectlife. The first Sunday in October (Respect Life Month) is observed as Respect Life Sunday and kicks off the new program, which continues through to the following September.
New materials are produced each year to help Catholics understand, value, and become engaged with supporting the dignity of the human person, especially the gift of every person's life. Although developed especially for use in parishes, schools, and faith-based ministries, many of the materials are also suitable for individual use.
Articles about various aspects of the Program will be added to the website of the Diocese as the year progresses. Please check back on the website for new stories.
Read the first article below:
What to Do When a Friend Is Considering Abortion
More women and girls consider abortion than we may realize. They are our relatives and friends, our babysitters, teammates, people who work with us or for us, married or unmarried. Even if someone identifies as being pro-life, the shock of an unexpected pregnancy, the devastation of a difficult prenatal diagnosis, shame, pressures, or fears may influence her to consider abortion.
If someone shared with you she was pregnant and hadn’t ruled out having an abortion, would you know how to respond? The answer can be summed up in an old adage: We have two ears and one mouth, and should use them in that proportion.
Although the first instinct may be to convince her that abortion ends a baby’s life, hearing facts is not the first thing she needs. Research shows that many women in a pregnancy crisis think, “This is the end of my life as I know it.” To face the challenges before her, your friend needs to know you care about her for her own sake and she is not alone.
First listening to your friend will help build trust and facilitate openness. Eventually, when she knows you truly care about her and she trusts you, you can share the truth in love. You can share facts about abortion, her own intrinsic worth, and the practical help and support available so she can choose life for herself and her baby.
A truly loving approach reflects St. Paul’s description of love in his first letter to the Corinthians: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. … Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Cor. 13:1,4).
When a woman is facing a difficult pregnancy, the reaction of the first person she tells tends to set the tone for her decision-making. How do we respond to our friend in a loving way that is life-affirming for both her and her baby?
Consider the four steps of the L.O.V.E. Approach™*: Listen and Learn, Open Options, Vision and Value, and Extend and Empower.
L Listen and Learn
First, prioritize listening over speaking. You don’t have to worry about whether you may say something “wrong,” and you don’t need to have all the answers. Start by listening to her story.
Ask her about her feelings, thoughts, values, beliefs, and wants. Do not interrupt, except to ask her to expound, when appropriate. For example: How did you feel when you first found out? Did you feel abandoned when he said that? What are your feelings now? What did you think about that? What do you think your parents will say or do? What value does that have for you? How does this relate to your religious beliefs? How important is that for you? In your heart of hearts, what do you really want to do?
Ask open-ended questions and statements like, “Tell me more…”
Interpret and confirm what you think you are hearing: “Did I hear you say…”
Pay close attention to her body language. She may show from gestures of discomfort or a lack of eye contact that what she is saying does not actually reflect her innermost feelings, values, or wants.
Listen for clues to her needs so you can later bring up helpful ways to address those needs. Listen for her strengths and resources so you can later reflect them back to her, building up her confidence and courage.
O Open Options
When her story is fully shared, it is your turn to provide factual information, always in a loving and caring way. You might share about the reality of abortion and the wounds that typically result. You might share experiences about having a baby, adoption, marriage, and how such things might apply in her situation. It’s most helpful to keep the focus on her.
At the same time, avoid using the framework of adoption versus abortion. Research indicates that a woman with an unexpected, unwanted pregnancy often views all the possible outcomes of her pregnancy negatively: keeping her child, abortion, and adoption (which she tends to see as the worst of three “evils”). Research also “suggests that in pitting adoption against abortion, adoption will be the hands-down loser.” It’s better to first focus on encouraging her that she can carry this baby to term.
V Vision and Value
Awaken a vision in her for a healthier life (a vision she may never have had, or that may have dimmed). Help her value herself differently. She is a special creation, worthy of love. She is made in the image of God; as a woman, her maternity is a gift. Jesus loves her and even died for her.
Encourage her. Help her set and work towards goals that extend beyond her due date to help her see life beyond her pregnancy. Reassure her there is always hope and she is not alone. She can make positive, life-giving choices. She can do it.
E Extend and Empower
Provide practical help and support. Her local pregnancy help center can offer consultation, lists of community resources, and ultrasound services. Consider keeping such lists of resources in your car, purse, or wallet. Help her plan next steps. What would help her? A call from you? How can you contact her?
Pray with her and for her and her baby. The L.O.V.E. Approach™ is a way to bring Christ’s love at a crucial life-saving and life-defining moment. We are created to walk with and support one another; we don’t need to fear reaching out in love. Help your friend experience the strength of God’s message that resounds throughout time: “Do not fear: I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10).
Reprinted (excerpted) from Respect Life Program, copyright © 2017, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved.