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Respect Life Sunday launches yearlong pro-life program in U.S. church

By Sarah McCarthy
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Each year October is designated as Respect Life Month by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and this year's theme is "Each of Us Is a Masterpiece of God's Creation," inspired by words in a statement Pope Francis issued for the 2013 Day for Life.

The Day for Life is an annual observance celebrated by the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the pope's message that year came as Great Britain and Ireland prepared to debate right-to-life issues in health care policies and legislation.

"Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor are masterpieces of God's creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect," the pope said.

The first Sunday of October, Oct. 5 this year, is Respect Life Sunday, and kicks off the U.S. Catholic Church's yearlong pro-life program.

The USCCB's Secretariat of Pro Life Activities has prepared a packet for the 2014-2015 program containing materials and resources.

The packet includes several pamphlets, each one addressing a different human life issue. This year, the six topics covered are: adoption; the sorrow of miscarriage; healing after an abortion; advance medical directives; various issues raised by technology that treats children "as commodities"; and the connection between poverty and abortion. The pamphlets offer stories of people who have lived through these circumstances along with advice on how to handle such situations.

The materials are available online at www.usccb.org/respectlife.

Launched in 1972, the Respect Life Program was created to celebrate the value and dignity of human life in Catholic dioceses across the U.S. Each year, as a part of the program, Respect Life Month is observed with liturgies and marked by special events that take place during the month of October and throughout the year.

In a letter contained within this year's packet, Tom Grenchik, executive director of the pro-life secretariat, expressed gratitude to priests, parish groups and other organizations participating in the yearlong program for helping to "build a culture of life."

In his statement as chairman of the USCCB pro-life committee, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley heralded "community and solidarity" as ways to counter threats against life.

"We want to be part of a society that makes affirmation and protection of human rights its primary objective and its boast," he said. "Yet to women faced with an unexpected pregnancy, abortion is often presented as their only 'choice.'"

Cardinal O'Malley referenced women facing an unexpected pregnancy, babies pre-diagnosed with mental disabilities, and the elderly, saying they and many others are "our brothers and sisters pushed to the periphery" by life-threatening decisions.

"Are we moved by the suffering of those without shelter? Do we seek to alleviate the fear, confusion and panic that women facing unexpected pregnancies may be experiencing? Do our hearts ache for elderly patients in nursing homes who feel abandoned and unwanted, having no one to visit them? Our mission is to show each person the love of Christ," he said.

"These tragedies go directly against respect for life, and they represent a direct threat to the entire culture of human rights," he said. "Rather than societies of 'people living together,' our cities risk becoming societies of people who are marginalized, uprooted and oppressed."

Cardinal O'Malley also urged people to "draw close to Jesus in prayer and in the sacraments" and reiterated Pope Francis' call to see others as masterpieces of God's creation.

"When God created each of us, he did so with precision and purpose, and he looks on each of us with love that cannot be outdone in intensity or tenderness," the cardinal said. "We must look at ourselves and at others in light of this truth and treat all people with the reverence and respect which is due.

"As uniquely created individuals, we each have unique gifts which we are called to use to share Christ's love," he added. "We may never know how much a simple gesture of compassion may affect someone's life."

 

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