‘Be strong,’ Bishop Jenky tells parish respect life coordinators

Photo Caption: Newly commissioned parish coordinator Mary Lievens of St. Anthony’s Parish in Matherville receives a certificate from Bishop Jenky.

By: Jennifer Willems

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, brought good news and bad news with him when he celebrated Mass for respect life coordinators from around the diocese last Saturday, and he delivered both with the same words.

“The craven politicians, the lapsed Catholics, the death-dealing abortion mills ultimately cannot win,” the bishop said during his homily at St. Joseph’s Church in Peoria. “Our power, our final victory, is the risen Christ whose body and blood we are privileged to share. So I say to you, ‘Be strong. Be confident.'”

Reassuring Bishop Jenky that they would do so was Father Bill Miller, IC, chairman of the diocesan Respect Life Board.

“We pledge to be your hands and feet in the diocese and continue your work,” Father Miller said as the parish respect life coordinators were commissioned for another year and received their certificates from Bishop Jenky.

THE MASS came at the beginning of the annual workshop for the coordinators, who heard keynote addresses from Jennifer Kimball, executive director of the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington, D.C., and Trent Horn of Justice for All in Wichita, Kan. After lunch the 110 parish representatives and their guests reconvened at the Family Resources Center in downtown Peoria for roundtable discussions by vicariates.

Sponsored by the Respect Life Board, the gathering also gave coordinators an opportunity to pick up Respect Life Program materials prepared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. These will be used in planning activities for Respect Life Sunday, which is Oct. 4.
This year’s theme is “Every Child Brings Us God’s Smile.”

BISHOP Jenky said it was appropriate that workshop participants would hear about the martyrdom of John the Baptist during Mass, since his message is a good one for all who fight for life.

“Martyrs teach us about how to be steadfast, how to have courage and conviction, how disciples of Jesus warriors,” Bishop Jenky said. “We must never settle, never surrender and always put God first — and then not be afraid of anyone or anything.”

The more harshly John was treated, the more solidly he stood, the bishop reminded them. “He loved the Lord and he put his faith in the power of God.”

While it is good news that a majority of Americans oppose abortion, there are still many who do not — including Catholics, he acknowledged, “but you cannot be Catholic and be pro-choice.”

“Abortion and infanticide are examples of homicide, so we can never grow weary of defending human life from conception until natural death. But I think sometimes we do grow weary,” Bishop Jenky said.

He encouraged them to be grounded in prayer, draw strength from the Mass and the Eucharist, and imitate John the Baptist “because he gave witness to the truth.”

THE KEYNOTE speakers for the day also urged the respect life coordinators to be heralds of the truth, spoken in love, and emphasized education as a vital tool in their work.

Kimball said abortion is part of a continuum that started with contraception and now includes eugenics, a science that attempts to engineer children with specific genetic traits chosen by the parents. At the heart of all three issues is the fragmentation of the human person into what is deemed desirable and what isn’t, she explained.

When a couple uses contraception, for example, women are told, “I don’t want your fertility. I only want the parts that work for me,” she said. “If it is her burden to control the parts of herself that are wanted, then she has to deal with the consequences.”

Without a relationship based on truth, goodness, beauty and unity, a woman may feel she has no options when she becomes pregnant. Abortion is the “snowball” at the bottom of the hill, Kimball said.

“How do we educate people when that snowball is on top of the hill,” she asked.

THE CULTURE of Life Foundation that she directs is a non-profit policy think tank that serves as a resource for the facts and science involved in issues surrounding life, family, human sexuality and bioethics. Kimball holds a bachelor’s degree and licentiate in bioethics from Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum School of Bioethics in Rome.

She cautioned that much of the public policy discussion about life issues right now is dominated by the principle of beneficence or doing what is good, avoiding what is bad and respecting autonomy.

“It implies an obligation . . . to do the most good or the most possible,” Kimball said, “so it distances itself from the human person.”

When it comes to eugenics, the human person becomes an object that is subject to regulation, she said. Because there is an emphasis on what is perfect, discarding “imperfect” babies is not only a right but a duty.

“WE ARE no longer in an environment to know how to ask the right questions, how to formulate the right questions,” Kimball said.
The solution is to return to an understanding of the truth and beauty of who we are, she told the respect life coordinators. “We have that to share with everybody.”

Asked about health care reform, Kimball said there is no denying that something needs to be done. She questioned any plan that would ration resources, however.

“Rationing is ethical if there is a lack of resources, but first you have to ask, ‘Is there a need?’ No,” Kimball said.

The Culture of Life Foundation has developed 12 questions to ask about health care reform legislation. These can be found on the organization’s Web site, www.culture-of-life.org, in an article by Helen Alvare and E. Christian Brugger, “Health Care Proposals Pending Before Congress: Ethical Questions a Catholic Should Ask.”

ANOTHER way of inviting people to consider the truth about human life is offered by Justice for All. Horn, a 2007 graduate from Arizona State University, is a full-time intern with the organization.

The mission of Justice for All, he said, is to “train thousands to make abortion unthinkable for millions, one person at a time.”

They make the case for life through an outdoor exhibit that is placed on college campuses and designed to encourage discussion with trained student ambassadors. The four panels, which include some graphic images, ask visitors to consider the humanity of the unborn child and the inhumanity of abortion.

Horn acknowledged that many Christians are opposed to graphic images but asked, “Would Jesus use a graphic image to get a point across?” as he displayed the words in the form of a cross.

THE JFA exhibit changes lives, he said, telling of a football player who viewed it on a Florida college campus and was angry because it made his girlfriend cry. As he talked, the JFA staff learned that she had had an abortion during a prior relationship.

The next day he came back and asked how he could learn to talk about the truth of abortion and its aftermath with others, Horn said.
When people ask what they can do, he said the JFA recommends motivating church communities “to act like children of God” and “learn to graciously articulate the pro-life message.”

“Two questions that you can ask at any time are ‘What do you believe?’ and ‘Why do you believe it?’ Too often we forget to ask them,” Horn said.
For more information about Justice for All or the training sessions offered for young adults, visit www.jfaweb.org.

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