The irreplaceable work of the parish pro-life coordinator
The Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro Life Activities “calls upon all the resources of the Church—its people, services, and institutions—to pursue [pro-life activities] with renewed energy and commitment in four major areas”: Public Information and Education, Pastoral Care, Public Policy, Prayer and Worship.
The Pastoral Plan also provides an organizational structure for implementing this program. This structure includes three levels of activity: the State Coordinating Committee, the Diocesan Pro-Life Committee and the Parish Pro-Life Committee. The parish committee, headed by a pro-life coordinator, is where the rubber really meets the road for the Church’s pro-life program.
In Nebraska, we have 375 parishes and most are served by one or more parish pro-life coordinators. These coordinators serve as the parish liaison with my office (Bishops’ State Pro-life Office) and with their respective diocesan pro-life directors. They provide the leadership in implementing pro-life activities in their parish and many are pro-life leaders in their communities and regions. My office provides suggested activities, programs, and events for use or promotion in each parish. Activities and programs fall under one of the four major areas mentioned previously and, as much as possible, are connected to liturgical feast days.
For example, around the Annunciation parishes are encouraged to have a special Mass for pregnant mothers and their families or begin the Spiritual Adoption of Unborn Babies project which asks parishioners to spiritual adopt and pray for an unborn baby in danger of abortion. On the Feast of the Visitation, parishes are encouraged to promote the pregnancy help centers in their community or region.
The month of October is Respect Life Month as designated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). For this month, the USCCB Pro Life Office produces a Respect Life Program packet that contains many great educational and liturgical resources to help parishes celebrate the gift of human life. These materials are available online at www.usccb.org/prolife/respect-life-program. Another key date for pro-life activities is January 22, the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling (which legalized abortion). The Church has also linked this date to the liturgy by designating it in its General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), no. 373, as a particular day of prayer and penance for abortion (in the dioceses of the U.S.), called the “Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.”
Since 2011, the Roman Missal also includes a Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life. This Mass was created specifically for the needs of the United States and may be used for occasions to celebrate the dignity of human life.
Occasionally, I ask parish pro-life coordinators to report on what activities they implemented over the past year. One of the coordinators gave me this list:
“Information booth at parish festival, prayer vigil for religious freedom and for the National Night of Prayer for Life, postcard campaign to elected officials, monthly prayer service, leading prayers at the abortion facility, 40 Days for Life, Life Chain, Walk for Life, displaying baby shoes in the Church sanctuary on the Sunday closest to Roe v. Wade anniversary, pro-life webpage for parish website, pro-life section of the parish bulletin, facilitating youth involvement in various pro-life activities, monthly Mass for the end to abortion, hosting pro-life movies (with discussion), asking other parish organizations to pray for the closing of the Bellevue abortion facility.”
This parish response, like many others, describes a variety of pro-life activities that involve a level of dedication and generosity that is edifying. I thank God for the hundreds of parish pro-life coordinators in Nebraska who give so generously of their time and talent to advance the Gospel of Life. Please find out who serves as the pro-life coordinator in your parish and thank them. And offer to help them.