120 respect life coordinators commissioned for coming year

Photo Caption: Bishop Jenky greets Mary Gillespie of St. Malachy Parish in Geneseo after the opening Mass of the annual Respect Life Workshop held Aug. 24 in Peoria.

By: By Jennifer Willems, The Catholic Post

Collaboration is key if the Gospel of Life is going to advance, and respect life representatives from around the diocese were encouraged to keep doing just that at their annual gathering in Peoria last Saturday.

That call started right away, when Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, celebrated Mass for the 120 women and men and commissioned them for service in their parishes and schools. During a homily delivered from the sanctuary steps at St. Mary’s Cathedral, he urged them to work with every person who champions respect for life — even if they don’t happen to be Catholic.

“The pro-life movement has won the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans. You know that. I know that,” he said. “Even now we see the signs of victory.”

The only way to claim that victory is to ground themselves in prayer, unite with others who are involved, and rely on the power of the risen Christ, Bishop Jenky told them.

“In the power of the risen Christ, God and life will win,” he assured them.

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(EDITOR’S NOTE: See related stories Women’s Care Center officially opens and 40 Days for Life set to begin in four regions of diocese.)

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Before the commissioning ceremony, Father William Miller, IC, chairman of the Diocesan Respect Life Board, thanked Bishop Jenky for his continuing call to be witnesses to the Gospel of Life.

“You never lead from behind,” he said. “We thank you for the clear witness you give. It gives us inspiration and courage.”

EXAMPLES OF COLLABORATION
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria is an example of what Bishop Jenky means when he asks people to work together, according to Sister Ana Pia Cordua, SCTJM, president.

Talking to the respect life representatives when they had reconvened at the Spalding Pastoral Center after Mass, she said the bishop has grouped all respect life ministries in the diocese and placed them in the care of Catholic Charities.

“All of you are our extended hands in the parishes. We cannot do this work alone and it is not the intention of our bishop to do the work alone,” Sister Ana Pia said. “You are our face. You are our hands. You represent everyone.”

What they are doing isn’t just one more job, but a vocation, she emphasized.

“I really honor you for taking this responsibility of being the face of God in protection of the children,” Sister Ana Pia told them. “Be courageous because we are doing something great for God.”

Catholic Charities and the Office of Catholic Schools are also working together on “partnership projects” that will engage students in service learning throughout the year, said Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent. During January, for example, students in grades four through six will spiritually adopt an unborn baby and collect items for Catholic Charities’ baby pantries in Peoria and Streator.

CHALLENGES AND GRACE
The first general session of the day was a discussion of Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. It was presented by Craig Dyke, director of the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Family Life, and his wife Amy, natural family planning coordinator for the Diocese of Peoria.

Among the core concepts of the Theology of the Body is that every human person has dignity, is made for communion or relationship, and is called to be a selfless gift to others.

“Theology of the Body builds up a culture of life by revealing the dignity we all have as the children of God, that we are made in his image and his likeness,” Amy Dyke said. “It also reveals the beauty of God’s design for marital love.”

She explained that John Paul II saw how abortion, contraception and disrespect for the human body were connected and would eventually lead to a total disregard for human life.

The Theology of the Body provides the “why” — why human life is sacred, that it should be respected and protected from conception to natural death,” she said. “It also gives the ‘yes’ to the meaning, the truth and the beauty of the marital act. That’s where we are right now, in a society that does not respect the dignity of marriage, the dignity of human life, the dignity of each person.”

The respect life representatives also heard from Dr. Joseph Piccione, senior vice president for mission integration and corporate ethicist at OSF HealthCare in Peoria, and a member of the diocesan Health Care Committee.

“The culture of life is part of God’s history of salvation and the history of salvation and the age of grace in which we live is the real story,” Piccione said. “There are many successes and disappointments, but the real story is God’s ongoing work of grace in us.”

One of six “moments” in that history that he discussed with them was Jan. 22, 1973, the day abortion on demand was legalized by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. He proposed that this case created the pro-life movement.

“If we only limited ourselves to the evening news, we would think that Roe is just a political debate, but we see otherwise,” Piccione said. “The response to life and vulnerable persons is a key part of this story and its ongoing meaning. We are living the ongoing meaning and you are making the ongoing witness to life and to love happen in your moments, in the simplest of encounters.”

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