Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Respect Life Issues Take Center Stage In October

By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published September 30, 2010

Working toward the recognition of the dignity of all human life is a constant focus for this local church, but there is something special about Respect Life Month when the Archdiocese of Atlanta rallies together to put the spotlight on this one, all-encompassing issue.

During October, all areas of the archdiocese, sometimes together and sometimes in their own way, will respond to the call by U.S. Catholic bishops to highlight threats to the sanctity of life. The bishops first designated October Respect Life Month and the first Sunday of the month as Respect Life Sunday in the early 1970s.

“It is great when the entire archdiocese is focused on Respect Life Month all at the same time,” said Mary Boyert, director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Ministry. “That is what makes it so special because we are joined together as a community.”

35 Life Chains In North Georgia

Many parishes in the Archdiocese of Atlanta will participate in the annual Life Chain on Oct. 3, an ecumenical event started in California that has engaged hundreds of thousands of pro-life participants across the United States and Canada. At each Life Chain, silent participants gather in a public place for one hour and pray and stand in witness to the sanctity of human life by lining the streets of their local communities and holding signs stating life in the womb is sacred, that abortion hurts women as well as the unborn, as well as signs speaking of God’s healing, forgiveness and love.

The Cathedral of Christ the King will hold a Life Chain from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Peachtree Road, outside the Cathedral, followed by Benediction. This is one of 35 Life Chains taking place on Oct. 3 in North Georgia in cities from Blairsville to Carrollton, Gainesville, Hartwell and LaGrange. Other Life Chains taking place near Catholic churches in the archdiocese include: St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.; St. Augustine Church, Covington, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.; near St. Anthony Church, Blue Ridge, from 1 to 2 p.m.; and St. Mary’s Church, Rome, from 3 to 4 p.m. (For a complete list, visit and click on Georgia.)

“Sometimes people get busy and put (pro-life issues) in the back of their minds,” said Nick O’Connor, who is involved with the pro-life ministry at the Cathedral of Christ the King. “Respect Life Month brings it back out and refreshes people’s memory. … The pro-life effort is extremely important.”

O’Connor said the Cathedral pro-life ministry remains very active throughout the year by bringing life-affirming speakers to the parish and also supporting other pro-life ministries, such as the Advice and Aid Pregnancy Problem Center in Hapeville.

Another pro-life effort taking place during Respect Life Month is the 40 Days for Life campaign, being held from Sept. 22 to Oct. 31 in many states.

Each local campaign uses prayer, fasting and witnessing outside a specific abortion clinic in a focused, 40-day period to try and change hearts and minds about the reality of the human life of the child in the womb.  There are three locations in the metro Atlanta area where 40 Days for Life campaigns are currently taking place, including Atlanta, Lawrenceville and Marietta. (To take part in prayer at one of these, visit

‘Powerful Opportunity For Catholics’

Most parishes will also hold their own events to commemorate Respect Life Month, whether it is through prayer services, recitations of the rosary or hours of Eucharistic adoration, all focused on particular life issues.

St. Monica Church in Duluth is organizing a “Change Your World” campaign for Respect Life Month, in which parishioners are invited to collect change throughout the month of October and donate it to help support pro-life activities throughout the year. An information table will be set up all month in the narthex. Materials will be made available on post-abortion healing retreats and Bible studies available in the archdiocese. There will also be pro-life materials for children.

“(Respect Life Month) is a call from our bishops to stand up for the unborn and the voiceless. In our culture that is not popular,” said Kathleen McCusker, pro-life ministry director at St. Monica Church. “The Catholic Church has been a leader since before Roe v. Wade and this is a powerful opportunity for us as Catholics.”

Schools throughout the archdiocese will also be active during Respect Life Month. Notre Dame Academy in Duluth is getting both students and parents involved in the events. Each student will create a “life cross” with their families and carry it with them during special prayer times throughout the month. Each life cross will include the names of family members on one side and pictures of the child with their family on the other.

Each older Notre Dame student will be paired with a younger student as a prayer partner, and they will pray the rosary together while holding their life crosses. There will be several scheduled prayer times throughout the month with each set of partners having the opportunity to lead a segment of the rosary.

“We have to have these years of foundation for the sanctity of life,” said Joan Janoszewski, religion coordinator for Notre Dame Academy. Young students need to be taught the sanctity of human life from an early age so that they will understand and be active in the movement as they get older, she said.

Full Spectrum Of Life Issues

Every year, the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference prepares and distributes a packet that is made available to individuals and parishes and schools across the country. Included in the packet are assorted pamphlets on various life issues and practical ways to share them at the parish level. There is also a liturgy guide.

The archdiocesan Respect Life Ministry distributed these documents to every parish in hopes that they would use the materials to educate while providing events where Catholics can come together in support of the sanctity of life.

The 2010-2011 Respect Life materials include articles and stories relating to various facets of life issues. The topics include: the death penalty; infertility and the church’s response to married couples seeking to overcome obstacles to fertility; youth and the pro-life movement; facts about world population growth and world poverty; the teen years and suicide; and the sex trafficking threat to human life and dignity.

Death Penalty

An article entitled “Divine Mercy and the Death Penalty” reminds readers of where the church stands on the issue, using words from Pope John Paul II and the USCCB to illustrate the points made.

“When the state, in our names and with our taxes, ends a human life despite having non-lethal alternatives, it suggests that society can overcome violence with violence,” the USCCB said in the 2005 document “A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.”

The article encourages Catholics to participate in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, “a beautiful prayer that has a powerful efficacy to repair the hurt wrought by sin,” states the article, which was written by Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City–St. Joseph, Mo., a consultant to the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Suggestions from the USCCB on how to incorporate this into parish life include:

1. Form a prayer group for those facing the death penalty. Suggest members commit to praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for them each day.

2. 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.

3. 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.

Married Couples And Infertility

This year’s packet also includes “Hope for Married Couples Who Want to Have a Child,” which discusses another crucial topic regarding the issue of life. Many Catholic couples who run into difficulty conceiving children may feel alone or unsure what they can do to pursue the creation and growth of a Catholic family. This educational piece, written by Dr. John Bruchalski, a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, chairman of Divine Mercy Care and founder of the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, Va., serves as an encouragement for couples to seek alternative methods that are approved by the Church.

“Many successful options exist for Christians who want a morally sound way to treat infertility, and who need help combating the sadness, frustration, and even anger that can come from the inability to ‘have a child,’” wrote Bruchalski. “We all need to discern the course God has for us—physicians as well as couples. Sound science based on the dignity of the human person is available to help couples to cooperate with our Heavenly Father and conceive a child. “

“Some may be called to adopt a child whom God has sent via another set of birth parents,” he continued. “Or perhaps some couples have a unique vocation that does not involve raising children. It is our challenge as believers of the living God to know that he loves all of us profoundly and that he knows us better than we know ourselves. When we align our will with his will, and respect his great gift of human life, there is hope for us all!”

Suggestions from the USCCB on how to incorporate this into parish life include:

1. 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. A program, “Begotten, Not Made: Pastoral Care for Couples Experiencing Infertility” has been developed by the Family Life Institute. Visit

2. Offer Natural Family Planning (NFP) classes in the parish and extend the invitation especially to those dealing with infertility.

3. Host a night on 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.

‘The Promise Of Pro-Life Youth’

An article entitled “The Promise of Pro-Life Youth,” is also featured in the packet of materials and brings a sense of urgency in getting the younger generation involved in the pro-life movement. Written by Megan Breen, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, who is studying for a master’s in theology of marriage and family at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C., and Samuel Vasquez, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Both are interns at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the USCCB.

“The energy, charisma, joy, and love for life that teenagers possess are too valuable to be written off or distorted by a culture of death. Centered on the message of the Gospel, young people can create a foundation of vibrant faith for those who have become discouraged by the mixed messages of a despondent society,” the article states. “In Pope Benedict’s first message to young people, he taught with great conviction that if ‘we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed.’”

Suggestions from the USCCB on how to incorporate this into parish life include:

1. Begin a youth-oriented pro-life newsletter in the local community, either through high schools or parishes. Circulate the newsletter via the pro-life organizations in the area and via e-mail, so students can easily promote their activities and events and invite others to attend. Working on the newsletter might count for a class project or service hours for schools who require them.

2. 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. Offer the retreat for seventh-12th graders or ninth-12th-graders, and invite guest speakers who can address concerns about pro-life legislation or other current needs in the pro-life movement.

3. Host a “Walk for Life” event, putting proceeds toward a pro-life group or toward starting a pro-life group in a local school or parish.

All of these documents are designed not only to help educate people during Respect Life Month, but also to be sources of information to help leaders continue these important discussions throughout the year. The documents are downloadable in PDF format as either a pamphlet or brochure or bulletin insert. A list of program models is also available to aid pro-life ministry directors in planning events to build on the teachings.

Respect Life Month should not be the only time of the year Catholics focus on these issues, but rather serve as a time for Catholics to come together and reignite their passion for the defense of the sanctity of life, pro-life ministry leaders say.

“We need to have a time when this becomes the focus,” said Janoszewski of Notre Dame Academy, adding that Respect Life Month can provide the strength and enthusiasm to continue this important work for the rest of the year.

“We are always concerned about respecting life, but this is one time where we focus, as a Catholic community, on the dignity and value of human life,” said Boyert.

To download the 2010-2011 USCCB Respect Life materials, visit