2010 Respect Life Program Models
The following are suggested models of activities, prayer services, educational events and other methods for engaging the parish in the pro-life ministry of the Church. This year’s program focuses on seven different key topics, from The Promise of Pro-Life Youth to Divine Mercy and the Death Penalty. Each article from the program has some suggested ways of involvement at the parish level listed below.
- The Promise of Pro-Life Youth
- Losing a Child to Suicide: Trusting in God’s Mercy
- Caring for Each Other, Even Unto Death
- Sex Trafficking: The New Slavery
- Make Room for People
- Hope for Married Couples Who Want to Have a Child
- Divine Mercy and the Death Penalty
The Promise of Pro-Life Youth
- Begin a youth-oriented pro-life newsletter in the local community, either through the high schools or through the parishes. Circulate the newsletter via the pro-life organizations in the area and via email, so that students can easily promote their activities and events and invite others to attend. Suggest that students form a team to develop the newsletter every two weeks or every month. Working on the newsletter might count for a project for a class, some experience on a resume or even service hours for schools who require them. For an example, see: Special Edition March For Life.
- Host a “Pro-Life Summer Leadership Retreat” where students can gather to learn more about how to be actively pro-life in their schools and the greater community. Encourage leaders to grow in virtue and to be confident in the truths they represent. Offer the retreat for 7th – 12th grade or 9th – 12th, and invite guest speakers who can address concerns about pro-life legislation or other current needs in the pro-life movement. For an example, please visit: prolifeyouthcongress.com.
- Host a “Walk for Life” event, putting proceeds towards a faithful pro-life group or towards starting a pro-life group in a local school or parish. Advertise the Walk at local parishes and public places (where allowed), and leave it open to any who would like to attend. See example: prolifeyouthcongress.com.
- Host a “Culture of Life Youth Dinner,” promoted through local schools and parishes. Extend the invitation to 7th – 12th or 9th – 12th grade youth, and encourage parents, teachers, coaches, parish priests and other adults who can support the youth in their efforts to attend as well. Funds can go to support the local pro-life groups of the parishes or schools or to help start a new group. Select a pro-life leader to speak at the event concerning an important pro-life issue. Invite some students who are involved in pro-life work to share their own experiences. See example: prolifeyouthcongress.com.
- Host a “Pro-Life Youth Conference,” or send youth from your parish to one that already exists. Invite speakers who can better educate young people on the needs of the pro-life movement and how best to defend life in the many areas of our culture where it is discredited, ignored or attacked. Encourage student leaders to promote the conference in their school and parish. For an example, please see: prolifeyouth.com/schedule.
Losing a Child to Suicide: Trusting in God’s Mercy
- Offer a support group that can meet at regular intervals for parents of teens who have committed suicide. The groups can begin and end in prayer, and have discussions lead by a trained therapist or a knowledgeable priest, deacon or religious who can understand where those hurting are coming from and lead them through their grief towards healing.
- The Archdiocese of Milwaukee holds a series, Hope in the Midst of Grief, twice a year at rotating locations, which can be repeated. Other parishes hold similar programs or weekly groups for those struggling with grief. Many support groups, like the ones organized by parentshope.com or hopeforparents.org, can be useful models for beginning similar programs in your parish or greater community.
- Visit karlasmithfoundation.org (The Karla Smith Foundation) for events and resources for families whose loved one has a mental disorder or who has committed suicide.
Caring for Each Other, Even Unto Death
- Recruit volunteers, through bulletins and announcements, to visit local nursing homes and hospices, specifically those patients who are dying and have no family members nearby. Contact the social services staff member of the nursing homes and hospices to ask for a list of these patients, and have one of the volunteers coordinate and schedule regular visits with these patients. Volunteers who visit can be there to listen, talk, pray, or just be a comforting presence. Volunteers can be trained by hospice staff and pastors, and monthly support meetings for the volunteers allow them to interact with one another and help relieve emotional stress. A similar program, No One Shall Die Alone, was instituted in the diocese of Boise, Idaho, by Deacon Chuck Finan, c/o St. Pius X Parish, Coeur d’Alene, ID (208-765-5108).
- Ensure that there are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to bring the Eucharist to homebound and sick. Organize a program in which elderly who cannot get themselves to Mass can sign up to be taken every week by parishioners in their neighborhoods, and announce in the bulletin that the parish is looking for volunteers to drive these people who otherwise can’t get to Mass. Try to get several volunteers per person, to be sure that there are enough drivers so as not to be too overwhelming for any one person. If possible, expand the program so that volunteers will take elderly to doctor’s appointments, do basic chores and shopping for them, and sit and visit with them.
- Check with your state Catholic Conference for resources available to educate Catholics about end of life care, and your state’s procedures for designating a healthcare proxy or making a living will consistent with Catholic teaching. Invite a Catholic MD, ethicist or other expert to give a talk at your parish on these issues, based on materials from the state Catholic Conference.
Sex Trafficking: The New Slavery
- Hold a Holy Hour for victims of human trafficking, and include educational materials on this growing problem.
- Organize an informational night in which to teach parishioners about human trafficking, and how it violates the dignity of the human person, and what they can do to help. Create situations for parishioners to donate money and items for victims who have escaped from this suffering.
- Organize parishioners to write letters to legislators asking them to address this widespread problem. Create template letters or emails for parishioners to send to family and friends to encourage others to get involved.
- The site http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/action/student/ lists suggestions for student activity on how to begin a club or promote awareness on this important issue in their schools or clubs. The models available could be modified to educate different groups such as a parish informational night or a youth group awareness night.
- The Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers explanations of ways to respond to this issue and educational resources. These can be promoted through information nights or in bulletin inserts at the parish: /mrs/trafficking/usccbresponse.shtml.
Make Room for People
- Organize an information or educational evening, dinner or meeting for parishioners concerning the issue of human dignity and overpopulation. The Population Research Institute’s site offers a number of resources which can serve as educational materials. Their subsite, www.overpopulationisamyth.com offers unique educational videos that can serve for raising awareness in many settings, such as youth groups, educational or informational meetings, conferences, etc… Downloads available can be utilized by pro-life clubs and parish organizations as well. Examples available here: http://pop.org/research/.
- Host a Holy Hour for Life, which focuses on the dignity of all human life from conception until natural death. Dedicate the time to Our Lady of Guadalupe. See the Liturgy Guide for the 2010-2011 Respect Life Program for an example of a holy hour and suggested prayers.
Hope for Married Couples Who Want to Have a Child
- Offer support groups for parishioners struggling with infertility. Invite a couple who has dealt with infertility to speak about their experience, especially the help and healing they found through the Church’s teaching and ministry. Invite guest speakers, doctors, nurses, or other trained professionals who can offer support and encouragement to your group. An example program is, “Begotten, Not Made: Pastoral Care for Couples Experiencing Infertility” developed by the Family Life Institute. It is used to aid dioceses in counseling infertile couples and provides teachings to help deal with infertility. Visit familylifeinstitute.org.
- Offer Natural Family Planning (NFP) classes in the parish, and extend the invitation especially to those dealing with infertility. Promote the classes through the bulletin or other parish groups. Valuable materials can be found at popepaulvi.com/about.htm.
- Host a night of Catholic infertility treatment possibilities. Get a teacher or doctor trained in natural procreative technology to speak on the subject, answer questions, and help people learn more about licit ways of treating infertility, along with the high success rate of natural methods.
- Set up a special prayer/adoration night on the feast of St. Gerard Magella, October 16, patron of infertile couples.
- Start a discussion group to discuss the dangers and consequences of attempting to create or “improve” humanity through technology. Movies such as “Gattaca” or “Blade Runner” could promote discussion, as well as novels such as Brave New World, That Hideous Strength, and The Island of Dr. Moreau. Be sure to have a knowledgeable facilitator to answer questions and provide explanations for Catholic moral teaching on these issues.
- The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists offers ways to contact your legislative representatives. Host an informational evening and include template letters which attendees can sign and send: aaplog.org/get-involved/.
Divine Mercy and the Death Penalty
- Form a prayer group for those facing the death penalty. Suggest members commit to praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for them each day. If possible, collect names of inmates on death row for members to pray for specifically.
- Have a collection of gifts, cards or a spiritual bouquet for the families of inmates who have been executed. If possible, also have cards written for families of victims of crimes. Prayer cards, Bibles, rosaries, and other supportive gifts are encouraged.
- Create a template for letters or phone calls that parish members can send to their legislators, explaining that many people want a ban or at least a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Encourage all parishioners to take part in this campaign so that legislators see that support for the death penalty is wavering, and that life must be respected in all cases.
- Start a prison ministry program. The Diocese of Arlington has volunteers who visit with prisoners, conduct GED and other educational tutorials, organize Mass and other religious services, and conduct Bible studies and other catechesis. They also have volunteers outside the prisons who pray for inmates and victims, join legislative advocacy networks, write letters to those in prison for life and on death row, join prayer vigils when executions take place, and reach out to victims, their families, and the families of the inmates. Learn more at their website. See also the Prison Ministry Network of the Diocese of Raleigh, NC for a variety of programs to minister to the incarcerated and their families.
- Offer Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday for victims of crime and their families, and for those on death row and their families. After mass invite parishioners to pray a Chaplet of Divine Mercy together.