- The Power of the Pen: Write a Pro-Life Letter!
- Parish Letter Writing
- Letters to the Editor
- The Power of Prayer, Archdiocese of Boston
- The Power of the Parish Connection, St. Petersburg FL
- A Community Caring for Life, Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis
- Feminists for Life: Guide to College Outreach
The Power of the Pen: Write a Pro-Life Letter!
A pro-life letter written to an elected official need not be long or elaborate. A short, simply-written letter urging your representative to support or oppose specific legislation is all you need to convey your message.
You may be an expert in some area related to the problem at hand. If so, share that expertise. But you do not need to be an expert. Attach newspaper stories or other documentation that help to explain your position. As with all things, practice makes perfect. As you write first one letter and then another, you acquire greater knowledge of particular issues and become engaged in dialogue with your elected official.
Your representatives in Congress want to know what constituents care about. The personal letter with a poignant story, new information, compelling arguments or special witness may be placed on the Member's desk for special consideration. Your letter could be the letter that causes a Member to take action, to think more deeply on an issue, firm up a position, or come to agree with your view.
Parish Letter Writing
Some of the most successful letter-writing programs have started in Catholic parishes, just like yours, around the country. In the spring of 1997, the diocese of Arlington, Virginia encouraged parishioners to send letters to Senator Charles Robb (D) in hopes he would reconsider his position and support the ban on partial-birth abortion. Over 23,000 letters were collected from 35 parishes and personally delivered to the Senator's Washington office. Parishes selected an initial weekend in which to kickoff the letter-writing. Tables were set up in the back of church where parishioners could stop by and sign a preprinted letter or construct their own personal letter with helpful points from information sheets. In some parishes, the letter-writing tables were set up for several weeks. To further assist in public education, a story was carried in the local diocesan paper, and secular newspapers were alerted to the delivery of the letters on Capitol Hill. One large newspaper sent a photographer to cover the event.
Letters to the Editor
The "Letters to the Editor" section is one of the most widely read features in a newspaper. A newspaper is most likely to print a letter written in reaction to a current story. Just one letter in your local newspaper will be read by thousands of people. In addition, legislative offices monitor all newspapers published in their districts and your pro-life letter will convey to them a sense of local sentiment on a public policy matter.
Personal letter-writing is an important tool to educate the public, communicate with legislators, and effect public policy. One letter has the power to change minds, and what is more important, change hearts.
For more information on personal letter-writing, contact: The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment, 1511 K Street, N.W., Suite 335, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: (202) 393-0703; Fax: (202) 347-1383.
The Power of Prayer, Archdiocese of Boston
Every now and then it is tempting to begin a book by reading the last chapter. In telling the story of the renewed outreach for Project Rachel in the Archdiocese of Boston during 1996 it may be more interesting to start at the end, rather than the beginning. For today, a steady stream of calls are coming in on the Project Rachel phone line. It is two weeks before Easter 1997 and we are running paid advertisements for Project Rachel on five FM radio stations. The ad campaign will cost almost $35,000. When we started planning our renewed outreach in the summer of 1995, the possibility of running a radio ad campaign was between remote and nonexistent. How did we accomplish this?
That summer a few volunteers gathered to plan suitable ways to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Project Rachel in the Archdiocese of Boston. Our goal was to celebrate in such a way that we could reach more post-abortion women and men with the message of the tender mercy of Christ. We had no money or extra staff, only the desire to bring the love of Christ to all those wounded by the sin of abortion.
Throughout the fall of 1995, as we prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance, it became clear that the foundation of our effort must be prayer. The parishes of the Archdiocese responded enthusiastically to a request that they commit themselves to a particular day of intercession during 1996. Parishes agreed to intercede for the healing of post-abortion women and men, signing up for one or more days or weeks, covering every day of the year. Many parishes sponsored Holy Hours with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Over 15,000 prayer cards were distributed during the year. One woman donated 500 hand-crafted rosary beads, packaged with a special request to pray the rosary for Project Rachel.
A new poster for Project Rachel, with the message "Trust in the tender embrace of God's love and mercy," was hand-delivered by volunteers to the 400 parishes of the Archdiocese. Posters were hung on bulletin boards of churches, supermarkets, libraries, beauty shops, laundromats and colleges. A simple business card was widely distributed.
By mid-January we had our first indication that 1996 might hold many surprises. A parish called to tell us that a woman doctor had presented herself at the rectory unexpectedly and in great distress, seeking help and reconciliation. She had worked at an abortion clinic for many years and had decided to quit. Word of Project Rachel's renewed outreach prompted her change of heart.
In early February a Boston Globe reporter contacted our office, and a few weeks later we unfolded the Sunday paper to find a very positive, front-page story, complete with a color photograph of a woman who had been helped by Project Rachel. The floodgates opened. Through the end of March we received at least 25 to 30 calls each week.
In the fall of 1995 and, again, in 1996, we offered a program for priests interested in participating in Project Rachel. By the end of 1996, 250 priests were active in the Project Rachel referral network.
Many other opportunities to speak about Project Rachel presented themselves: cable TV, radio, post-communion talks at Mass, Catholic women's groups and sodalities, college groups, parish pro-life groups, and so forth. During the year, the core volunteer group that included several post-abortion women, continued to meet and pray.
Our rather bold goal was to see that every post-abortion woman and man would have heard of Project Rachel and the reconciling love and mercy of Jesus by the end of 1996. The number of calls to Project Rachel in 1996 had more than doubled, and we felt a certain amount of satisfaction with our progress toward this goal as the year end approached. With thoughts of winding down, we were astonished to learn in mid-December that a woman who had recently died left a $100,000 bequest to Project Rachel. A priest active in Project Rachel took the news of this extraordinary gift with utter composure: "Well, we've been praying all year," he remarked dryly. It was evident that 1996 would only be a warm-up for greater things to come.
In addition to the radio advertising campaign, we are planning to update the Project Rachel Brochure, host a healing retreat for post-abortion women and place a "Book of Remembrance"/Memorial in selected churches of the Archdiocese where families can record the names of their children lost to abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth.
Abortion has left tens of thousands of women and men wounded and sorrowing. This darkness and suffering calls out for the mercy of Jesus Christ our Redeemer. As we approach the Great Jubilee of 2000, let us celebrate by encouraging others to "Trust in the Tender Embrace of God's Love and Mercy."
The Power of the Parish Connection, Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida
One day a call to "the bishop's office" was transferred to our Tampa Respect Life Office. The caller, from a northeastern state, pleaded for help. Her daughter had joined a boyfriend in his travels but was now in Tampa, being held against her will. She had been able to escape his watchful eye just long enough to call her mother and beg for help in getting home. Her mother asked a Tampa telephone operator to put her through to any Catholic church. Having learned how to handle these situations from television suspense programs, the mother and I arranged for the police to pick-up her daughter the following day. I guaranteed the plane fare home and the young lady was reunited with her grateful parents. The mother's thanks included a sentence that has remained with me: "All my life I have turned to the Church for help, and I have never been disappointed."
That's how it should be, isn't it? When we turn to the Church for help, it should be there. With this in mind, early in 1993 the Respect Life Office and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg began a review of existing pastoral ministries and unmet needs. It quickly became apparent that close networking among Catholic Charities, Respect Life and the parishes could vastly improve services, acting as a catalyst for initiating new ministries and expanding those already in existence.
Catholic Charities determined that it could offer competent training in four needed areas of ministry: service for the elderly, AIDS ministry, pregnancy and parenting support and disaster preparedness and response. Our bishop announced the Parish Connection on Respect Life Sunday 1993 by means of an audiocassette played at weekend Masses throughout the diocese. He invited everyone in the Catholic community to consider volunteering for one of the four ministries. Parishes distributed sign-up brochures.
Each participating parish has coordinators for each of the ministries volunteered and one individual—the Parish Connection (PC) Coordinator—to screen, thank, encourage and generally oversee all volunteers.
Catholic Charities offers training sessions for each of the four ministries, held at parishes in various deaneries. A diocesan-wide director for each of the four ministries in Catholic Charities interacts with its area administrator in each deanery.
The diocesan Respect Life Office is represented in each deanery by area coordinators who are responsible for the administration of the Parish Connection. Three or four times a year, the deanery representatives of Catholic Charities and Respect Life meet with pastors and their PC Coordinators to review and plan their programs.
Some might assume that friction is inevitable when these three distinct groups—Catholic Charities, Respect Life, and parish volunteers—try to collaborate. By constantly focusing on the image of the Body of Christ, through networking we can accomplish objectives beyond the reach of any single group. The advantages of the network are many.The Parish Connection:
- offers parishioners an opportunity to be trained and to serve the community in a ministry of their choice, with as much support as they need.
- enables parishes to access professional training through Catholic Charities for ministries new to them.
- enables parishes to offer many competent, trained volunteers to meet parish and community needs.
- enables parish Respect Life committees to link the educational and public policy components of their ministry to this diocesan-wide pastoral effort.
- provides a sense of solidarity within the Church.
- provides a greater presence of the Church at the service of communities.
Although the development of this long-range program has been slow, the growth has been steady. The number of participating parishes has more than doubled; over half of the parishes in the diocese are actively collaborating. Hundreds of volunteers are now in Parish Connection service.
Future plans include expansion beyond these four areas of ministry, the establishment of an "800" phone number, designing and placing signs on the grounds of participating parishes and the inclusion of other denominations in the network.
The Parish Connection logo illustrates many hands encircling a symbolic reminder of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. It expresses the faith behind our mission statement:
In all our parishes, pastoral programs provide many kinds of services. Parish Connection is a plan of pastoral action that connects and enhances these services, encourages many more volunteers, shares ideas and provides training. Catholic Charities, Respect Life and Parishes join hands and hearts to build Parish Connection until it can significantly serve our communities.
For more information, contact Sharon Iler, director of the Respect Life Office, P.O. Box 43011, St. Petersburg, FL 33743 or Arnold Andrews, executive director of Catholic Charities, 6533 Ninth Avenue North, St. Petersburg, FL 33710.
A Community Caring for Life, Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
On Respect Life Sunday 1996, Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of Saint Paul and Minneapolis issued a pastoral letter "Abortion and a Failure of Community." The letter, read from most pulpits in the archdiocese that day, called upon the Catholic community to "reach out" to women and men facing problems arising from pregnancy, from an abortion or from child-rearing and to "respond to [their] needs with tenderness." Describing the various formal programs already in place in the archdiocese, he reminds parishioners that these "only begin to address the needs of those for whom pregnancy has become a time of crisis." He asks that all "join together in becoming the kind of community that makes it clear by [their] own lives that no one need be alone in a difficult pregnancy. Let us become ever more deeply a people of compassion and justice, a community caring for life!"
Close to 200,000 copies of the Archbishop's letter have now been distributed. In the ensuing months, more than 20,000 people signed response cards, committing themselves to be part of "A Community Caring for Life" (ACCL) in some capacity. Other means of publicizing ACCL are a general brochure, a client brochure (to be left in parishes, doctors' offices, schools, places of business), posters, and permanent lawn signs placed conspicuously on church grounds.
The archdiocesan Respect Life Office facilitates the development of parish programs through ongoing workshops to raise the awareness of volunteers about the problems women often encounter which may lead them to consider abortion, about the needs of pregnant women and about post-abortion syndrome. They send each ACCL contact a job description and action guide, advice on meeting facilitation, suggestions for volunteer involvement, prayer cards, clip art, and tips on publicizing ACCL. The parish contact also receives a comprehensive Parish Resource Book which provides information on pro-life physicians, crisis pregnancy centers, places of anonymous AIDS testing, adoption services, low-cost health clinics for those who are carrying their child to term, help with housing, financial counselling, Catholic Charities resources and so forth.
Further publicity is planned throughout 1997, but there is evidence already that word is spreading among the general public and those who may be in need of ACCL assistance. The Respect Life Office has received calls for help from health clinics, county and state counseling centers and HMOs.
Parishes can tailor their programs to meet the needs of the people they serve.ACCL has enabled many post-abortive Catholic women to "return home to their Church" and others to speak publicly for the first time about the pain and sorrow of their abortion experience.
Feminists for Life: Guide to College Outreach
If you have ever tried to counteract the openly pro-abortion attitudes and policies on your local college campus, you have probably experienced hostility and frustration. Feminists for Life may have a solution for you--a first-rate college outreach program. The program contains ads and posters appealing to educated young women, a Pregnancy Resource Kit and step-by-step advice on how to successfully introduce pro-life materials and thinking to residential, health, and psychological counselors on campus. Some sample steps follow.
- Contact the Student Activities Office, Newman Center, or American Collegians for Life (202/737-1007) to find out if there is a pro-life collegiate group on campus.
- Build links with the campus pro-life group. They will be glad to have your support, resources, and expertise. Never undertake any pro-life activity on campus without first seeking their cooperation.
- If there is no organized pro-life campus group, work directly with health clinic personnel. They are often unaware of the many resources and services offered by local crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). After checking with the director of a reputable local CPC, invite the campus clinic director and counselors to visit the CPC or to meet with a CPC director and/or client. Offer to supply the clinic staff with Feminists for Life (FFL) materials, including Rolodex cards with pregnancy resource listings, "You're Not Alone" brochures for clients, counseling instructions, reorder and evaluation forms, etc.
- Provide speakers at meetings sponsored by campus pro-life groups, women's groups and women's studies programs.
- Provide FFL materials for information tables, especially at the beginning of each semested when most student activities fairs are being held.
- Assist in finding sponsors for ads in the campus newspaper.
- Copy ads enclosed with the kit to post on campus wherever appopriate. They can be used as meeting announcements by photocopying on an 8.5" by 14" sheet and using the blank space at the bottom for date/time/place.
- Create a local pregnancy resource directory listing both private and governmental resources.
Donors can sponsor distribution of Pregnancy Resource Kits by sending a $35 donation to Feminists for Life of America, 733 15th St., N.W., Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005. Contact Serrin M. Foster, Executive Director, at (202)737-FFLA for further information.