Cecilia Soñé has busy months ahead as diocese’s new director of Respect Life
The answer to what St. John Paul II and others have called the “culture of death” can be found in the Diocese of Peoria, according to the new Director of Respect Life.
“We have a response here and we have the providers — health care, psychological, and spiritual,” said Cecilia Soñé. “It’s just a matter of spreading that information and getting it out there.”
As one example, Soñé pointed to “amazing” Catholic health systems in the diocese such as OSF HealthCare that offer alternatives throughout life’s journey.
“Instead of euthanasia and assisted suicide, we have behavioral health services and palliative care,” said Soñé. “Instead of aborting a child that may die at birth, we have perinatal hospice. If you’re having issues with fertility, we have FertilityCare, all the natural methods.”
Soñé, a family nurse practitioner who has served as associate director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria since 2014, has a wealth of experience in natural family planning, women’s health, and bioethics. She will continue to spend a day and a half each week in Bloomington as a medical consultant at the OSF Institute for Women’s Health on Fort Jesse Road. She also sees Spanish-speaking clients on Thursday afternoons at the Family Resources Center in Peoria, teaching the Creighton Model FertilityCare system and the women’s health science known as NaPro Technology.
Now Soñé, the mother of three grown children, will coordinate the church’s wide scope of pro-life activities in central Illinois. And she is aware that many local individuals and groups have been active in the cause — politically, educationally, and through personal assistance to women in need — for decades.
“We have veterans of respect life who are a treasure and have a wealth of wisdom,” said Soñé, who will specially invite them to mentor and challenge today’s youth.
Forty-four years after the U.S. Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion, Soñé finds hope “because we have such beautiful, active youth with a zeal to serve.” She has witnessed that enthusiasm while developing programs in the areas of respect life and Hispanic ministry in recent years under the Catholic Charities umbrella. “I want to work more with the youth and get some more commitment from them,” she told The Catholic Post.
MAJOR EVENTS APPROACHING
Among the pro-life efforts that Soñé will help coordinate are the Christ Child Society, Rachel’s Vineyard, 40 Days for Life, and parish nursing. She will be a member of the Diocesan Healthcare Committee, the Respect Life Board, and work with the Catholic Conference of Illinois and local pro-life organizations.
Soñé will hit the ground running with major events approaching as October, observed as Respect Life Month, nears.
On Sept. 22, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, will celebrate a Mass for Respect Life at 10:30 a.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. Following the Mass, parish respect life representatives from throughout the diocese will meet at the Family Resources Center to plan the coming year under the “Be Not Afraid” theme selected by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
A few days later, the fall’s 40 Days for Life campaign of fasting and prayer at abortion clinics opens in Champaign, Ottawa, Peoria, and the Quad Cities. Bishop Jenky will lead a rosary outside of the abortion clinic in Peoria at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27.
The Diocese of Peoria’s Respect Life Dinner will take place on Oct. 1, the same day Life Chains will be formed in communities around the diocese.
Soñé is coordinating a major, first-time diocese-wide event — a March for Mary — on Saturday, Oct. 7, to mark the centennial of the Blessed Virgin’s appearances at Fatima, Portugal. The event, open to all and planned as an act of reparation, will include a march from St. Joseph Church to St. Mary’s Cathedral, both in Peoria. The day will include a reflection by Mother Adela Galindo, SCTJM, foundress of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and end with a 4 p.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Jenky at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Further details on the March for Mary will be supplied in a future issue of The Catholic Post.
The month of October ends with a Rachel’s Vineyard post-abortion healing retreat Oct. 27-29.
Among the future projects Soñé envisions is making Rachel’s Vineyard available in Spanish in 2018 and having more Spanish-speaking parish respect life representatives.
“It’s very needed,” said Soñé of added pro-life focus on the Hispanic community, whose strong beliefs in family and child-bearing are being attacked in today’s culture.
She also announced plans for the Diocese of Peoria’s first Respect Life Conference scheduled “God willing” for Oct. 13, 2018, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
Soñé, who was born in Puerto Rico and was raised in New York, earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the State University of New York’s Downstate College of Nursing in Brooklyn in 1984. She worked at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York before moving to Miami in 1986, where she served as a liaison for an AIDS inpatient unit and a women’s HIV clinic. She went back to school to become a nurse practitioner, and received training in the Creighton model of natural family planning at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Nebraska.
“I’m excited,” she told The Catholic Post about her new role as diocesan Director of Respect Life. She said her office will collaborate closely with other diocesan ministries because “everything is so connected and everything flows. That’s how grace works.”
“It’s not all about an individual,” Soñé continued. “It’s about what Our Lord and Our Lady desire and what the Holy Spirit prompts us during this particular moment we are living in.”