Priests & Pastors
Pastors must be an integral and active part of any successful parish ministry. This is especially true of the parish Respect Life Ministry. The Respect Life Office Is a resource for our faithful in the pews, but also for our shepherds. Please take a few minutes to look around the website for ideas for your parish Respect Life Ministry.
If any of these comments sound familiar, please read the following testimony from a woman who could be a member of your parish, then prayerfully consider contacting the Respect Life Office for more information or for assistance.
“Twenty years ago I had my abortion, the week before I had my abortion, I was sitting in my seat in my pew at my church. The week after my abortion I was sitting in my pew at my church. For the last twenty years, I’ve sat in that same seat, in the same pew. Never once has there been a message in our church offering hope and healing, and as a result, I assumed [abortion] must not only be the unspeakable sin, but therefore it must be the unforgivable sin.”
As you can see, her pastor had very good motives, but he unintentionally caused more damage by choosing to not talk about abortion instead of choosing to talk about abortion in a thoughtful, caring way. There are thousands of women sitting in church who need to hear that God’s gift of forgiveness is offered to all, not just those who have never had abortions.
Research indicates that at the time of their first abortion, 36% of women were attending a Christian church at least monthly. This means these women have the intense additional guilt of knowing they are taking the life of a child made in the image of God. For a Christian teen who becomes pregnant, she’s not only terrified of how this will affect her life and what will happen if her parents find out, but she may also be worried about what will happen if her pastor or youth minister finds out. Even though most churches would respond appropriately to an unplanned pregnancy, these mothers don’t know that becasue teh topic has never been discussed in church, so out of fear they abort.
Regardless of how often, this is what pastors should make clear to everyone in the congregation:
- Here’s what we believe: It is not sinful in and of itself to be in the state of pregnancy. The actions that led to becoming pregnant may have been sinful, but there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being a mother, with having a child growing inside your body. We love babies here, and we hate it when babies are killed.
- Here’s what we won’t do: We will not encourage anybody to have an abortion, because we believe that every unborn child is a bearer of God’s image. We will not kick a woman out of the church for being pregnant. We will not shame her. We will not let people tease her.
- Here’s what we will do: We will celebrate the life in her womb, and connect her with the local Pregnancy Resource Center. We will do our best to love unwed mothers well, the way Jesus loved the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery. We will approach her with grace and friendship. We will teach our students and this young woman how to deal with shame through forgiveness. We will throw a baby shower for her and celebrate the baby’s birth just like we do all births in our church.
"While Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again." ~ John 8: 1-11
Designate a Parish Respect Life Coordinator
To learn about how your parish might benefit from having a Parish Respect Life Coordinator, please click here.
Pastoral ideas that have worked for a few of your fellow priests...
- October is Respect Life Month. For just one month, recite a rosary for life before or add a few pro-life intersessions at Mass.
- Participate in a local Life Chain event on Respect Life Sunday, the the first Sunday in October. This is a one-hour silent prayer vigil, usually in a prominent public location.
- Host a parish 40 Days for Life prayer vigil at church.
- Sponsor a Spiritual Adoption program during the school year or between the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and Christmas.
- Keep a stack of Project Rachel business cards in the confessional.
- Sponsor a March for Life pilgrim from your parish.
- Ask your parish Knights of Columbus council to sponsor a Respect Life program, activity or event.
- Save a space in your weekly parish bulletin for a pro-life message or to promote pro-life events and activities..
- Keep the narthex/vestibule stocked with pamphlets and brochures from the diocese or from USCCB.
- Schedule a Missouri Right to Life Mother's Day carnation fundraiser.
- Adopt a local pregnancy resource clinic and host a parish fundraiser or gift drive or attend their annual fundraising banquet. Better yet, volunteer to give the invocation or closing prayer.
- Create a parish prayer team to support one of the Respect Life Office pastoral care programs.
- If an entire homily on abortion is too much, consider discussing abortion as an example in a homily about a different topic or Scripture passage.
- Include the promotion of parish pro-life activities during the announcements portion of Mass.
- Host a training in pro-life apologetics or advocacy
- Sponsor a pro-life speaker other than a church staff member