By Christina Galeone
In St. John Paul II’s “Evangelium Vitae” (The Gospel of Life), he wrote: “In this great endeavor to create a new culture of life we are inspired and sustained by the confidence that comes from knowing that the Gospel of life, like the Kingdom of God itself, is growing and producing abundant fruit (cf. Mk 4:26-29).”
The diocesan Respect Life Office, which relies on funding from Partners in Charity to operate, strives to produce an immense harvest. With its mission to “uphold the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death” and to proclaim the Gospel of life through its work, it not only helps adults of all ages, it helps the next generation to value that dignity as well.
In addition to implementing the U.S. Bishops’ annual Respect Life Program, the Respect Life Office provides many services and resources to help people in the Worcester Diocese understand and cope with various issues. According to Allison LeDoux, director of the office, those resources include an e-mail newsletter, information regarding the Church’s teachings on life issues and Project Rachel, a ministry that aims to facilitate healing and reconciliation for people who have been hurt by abortion. The office also offers training, programs and presentations about life and death issues – including training and support for parish pro-life ministries. Each year, it also coordinates the Fortnight for Freedom; the ongoing Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty; the March for Life bus trip; the pro-life awards and the Mass for Life for Catholic high school students.
That Mass for Life is one way the office reaches out to a generation growing up in a society that promotes secular values and admonishes people with traditional ones. Catholic schools in the diocese send their eighth-graders, ninth-graders, some seventh-graders and members of their pro-life clubs to the Mass, which has been held on the Feast of the Annunciation since 1998. (This year it was snowed out and rescheduled for 10 a.m., May 2 at St. Paul Cathedral.) At the Mass, the office presents three awards: The Mother Teresa Pro-Life Award is given to a person who demonstrates “heroic witness to the intrinsic value of all human life.” The Gospel of Life Award is given to a priest who has ardently proclaimed the Gospel of life. Finally, the Ruth V.K. Pakaluk Pro-Life Youth Award is presented to a youth who has “shown outstanding witness to the value of human life.”
“Many young people respond generously to this call, thanks to the wonderful guidance of many dedicated adult teachers and mentors,” said Mrs. LeDoux. She added, “We always have a great many high school and college students from the area who attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C., every January with wonderful enthusiasm.”
But the Respect Life Office doesn’t just encourage teens. It offers them insights that have the power to save lives. While one girl who attended a high school presentation given by Mrs. LeDoux was later inspired to utilize the office’s resources to help pregnant students at her college, another found courage.
“Several years later, I learned about a young lady who experienced a crisis pregnancy and was getting pressure from her boyfriend to have an abortion,” recalled Mrs. LeDoux. “She was able to stay strong and choose life, because a few years earlier she had heard the presentation … and had seen the beautiful models of what her unborn baby would look like. The young woman did very well, was able to finish her education and raise her child. We don’t often hear stories like this … but it was certainly a blessing to have learned of this experience and how the grace of God can work in someone’s life in ways we don’t know.”
With the help of Partners in Charity, the office can continue its life-saving work. In the 2015 Partners in Charity campaign some $55,434 was earmarked for the Respect Life Office.
“We are very, very grateful that Partners in Charity funds the work of the Respect Life Office,” said Mrs. LeDoux. “We do not have the benefit of other sources of income or of independent donors to sustain this work, so the funding received from Partners is vital to our mission.”
And that mission’s harvest continues to grow.
“Millions of lives are at stake … including the baby in the womb, and the frail elderly or terminally ill who need our love … and care. We only need turn on the news to see … the culture of death in a society that has lost sight of God, who created each of us in his image and likeness,” she noted.
“The work of the Respect Life Office – to educate, to care and serve, to pray, and to advocate – is essential in building a Culture of Life and a Civilization of Love. … This is what the Respect Life Office, thanks to the assistance of Partners in Charity, sets out to do,” she added.