LIFE AND FAMILY MINISTRY

Respect Life Month to be time of prayer, advocacy for local pro-life movement

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PROVIDENCE — With the approach of Respect Life Month in October, pro-life activists in Rhode Island look forward to another month of prayer, advocacy and education, including several opportunities organized by the diocesan Office of Life and Family Ministry.

The first of these opportunities, the 13th annual Human Life Guild Day, will take place on Saturday, September 30, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Saints Rose and Clement Parish, Warwick. The annual conference will provide a venue for pro-life advocates to come together in prayer and fellowship to discuss current pro-life issues. Bishop Thomas J. Tobin will begin the day with an opening Mass in Celebration of Life assisted by Chancellor Father Timothy Reilly, who will serve as homilist.

Father Christopher Murphy, assistant director of vocations for the diocese and chaplain at Bishop Hendricken High School, will offer the first talk on “Inspiring our Youth to Stand Up for Life,” followed by presentations by Father Raymond Suriani and Father Nicholas Fleming, as well as representatives of Rhode Island Right to Life. The topics are inspired by the theme of the Respect Life program provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for 2017-2018, “Be Not Afraid,” a theme Life and Family Coordinator Carol Owens said can apply to all those who care about human life.

“Be not afraid as a young person. Be not afraid as a married couple. Be not afraid to go out in public,” she explained.

Owens added that while education is an important component of Human Life Guild Day and events that follow, participants should not forget the importance of prayer and fasting, especially during Respect Life Month.

“I think praying is probably the most important thing we can do to overcome the horror of abortion,” she said.

Respect Life Month officially kicks off the following day with Life Chain Sunday taking place at locations around the diocese on October 1 from 2 to 3 p.m. The national event brings together churches and individuals of different denominations to form a public prayer chain to witness to the realities of abortion. In Rhode Island, at least 11 Catholic churches and organizations will host prayer chains outside their doors, inviting the public to participate in prayer and reflection on the importance of human life.

“It’s just another peaceful, prayerful vigil to create awareness of the atrocity of abortion,” said Owens. “In some places I know, like St. Martha’s, they’ll leave their doors open and some women will sit in there and just pray because they can’t stand for an hour.”

Opportunities to publicly witness to the pro-life message will continue throughout the month with the 40 Days for Life campaign, a national campaign to provide a peaceful vigil at abortion clinics during their open hours from September 27 to November 5. In the Diocese of Providence, participants will begin with a walk to Planned Parenthood’s Providence location following 12:05 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on Wednesday, September 27. The campaign, co-sponsored by Rhode Island Right to Life, will then continue with vigils from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays outside Planned Parenthood and Cranston Women’s Medical Center. Though volunteers try to provide a public witness, Owens also invited those unable to attend to participate in the vigil by praying a daily rosary in the home during the 40 days.

“This is great for people who are more or less homebound, in nursing homes — they can be our prayer warriors,” she said.

In addition to abortion, assisted suicide and end-of-life care, Owens said she hopes during this year’s Respect Life Month to bring attention to domestic violence and increase awareness of diocesan resources for those who experience it. The Office of Life and Family Ministry’s When I Call for Help program offers support for victims of domestic violence and abuse.

“I think this is something that is not really visible in our parishes, that there is help for people who live in a domestic violence situation,” she said.

Though domestic violence is not often thought of as a traditional pro-life issue, Owens emphasized how awareness and prevention of domestic violence should be a priority for those concerned with respect for life not only because it assaults the inherent dignity of the victim, but also because of the repercussions for the entire family and community. Many of the women who participate in the office’s St. Gabriel’s Call program for assistance during crisis pregnancies, she said, have experienced domestic violence.

“We need to create an awareness that domestic violence is also a huge issue with respect for human life, because it trickles down from the perpetrator to the family to the children,” she said.

For more information on Respect Life Month events in the Diocese of Providence, or to sign up for a prayer time for 40 Days for Life, contact the Office of Life and Family Ministry at 401-421-7833, ext. 218.