October’s Respect Life Month activities adapting to the challenges of 2020

40 Days for Life participants pray outside the former abortion clinic in Peoria in this file photo. October is Respect Life Month. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

With the cancellation of such traditional October events as the Respect Life Dinner in Peoria and the Pastors Pro-life Dinner in Galesburg due to concerns over COVID-19, Respect Life Month will look a little different this year. Rather than looking at what we can’t do, however, Father William Miller prefers to look at what can still be done to stand up for life.

“We want to be prudent, we want to be careful, we want to be respectful of where our people are at . . . recognizing that not everyone is in the same situation about what they could do right now,” said Father Miller, vicar for respect life for the Diocese of Peoria and rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

Father William Miller

“There are plenty of things we still can do. Maybe they’ll be on a smaller scale and maybe that’s where it needs to start,” he told The Catholic Post. (A list of scheduled pro-life activities follows this story below.)

“Start with family, start with community, start with parishes and schools saying, ‘What can we do?’ Because we need each other right now and we need to know we’re not alone in this battle — and it is a battle,” Father Miller said.

He suggested focusing on prayer and the power of prayer, since conversion of minds and hearts is needed most.

“The pandemic has made many of all ages and circumstances feel a vulnerability and the preciousness of life. But I think we’re also aware there are so many divisions out there and that we need to be united in prayer for the cause of life,” said the priest, who is also pastor of Sacred Heart and St. Bernard in Peoria.

Respect for life was a moral issue before it ever became a political issue, Father Miller said, and upholding the sanctity of human life is part of what it means to be a follower of Christ and a member of the church.

“For those who politicize that and make it a dividing point, that’s not what we’re about and it’s not what we’re going for. What we do want to make sure is that we are united in prayer for that conversion of mind and heart that all of us are always in need of,” he explained.


The Respect Life Dinner, a fundraiser for the Family Resources Center in Peoria, is traditionally held on the first Sunday in October, which is known as Respect Life Sunday. Father Miller said they are looking at holding it next fall in conjunction with another Respect Life Conference.

“We need each other right now and we need to know we’re not alone in this battle — and it is a battle.” — Father William Miller 

The first diocesan conference was held over two days last September and drew nearly 600 people to the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria.

“I think this is an example of something good coming out of something unfortunate,” Father Miller said. “This is the time to plan for that and that’s what we’re in the beginning stages of.”

Father Miller and Cecilia Soñé, director of Respect Life Ministry for the Diocese of Peoria, have also started to talk about doing something near the Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court decisions that made abortion legal in the United States.

Cecilia Soñé

In the meantime, Soñé has sent out a packet of materials from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to the parish respect life representatives. This year’s theme, “Live the Gospel of Life,” honors the 25th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”).

She is also preparing a variety of resources they can use for education and getting people involved. Among them is a series of free webinars offered by the University of Notre Dame’s Office of Life and Human Dignity and efforts such as Rosary Coast to Coast on Oct. 11.

Father Miller said that in the end respect life ministry is about engaging people “one on one.”

“Who’s the person you can reach out to? Who’s the person you could invite to pray with you and say, ‘Well even if we don’t agree about what the solutions are, even all the problems, surely we can agree that this is a mess and we need God’s mercy. Can we pray together for that?’”

Father Miller also encouraged people to be bold enough to step outside their houses and churches, “because there are people waiting for that witness, too.”


BETTENDORF, Iowa — In an effort to welcome and involve more people in the work of the Women’s Choice Center, the organization will host a luncheon as well as a dinner on Tuesday, Sept. 29. Both fundraising events will be held at the Waterfront Convention Center, 2021 State St. in Bettendorf.

Kirk Walden

The featured speaker for “Loving People to Life” will be Kirk Walden, who has nearly 30 years of experience in pro-life work. Based in a suburb of Nashville, he serves as advancement specialist for Heartbeat International, a network of pro-life pregnancy resource centers, and is author of “The Wall,” which focuses on “rebuilding a culture of life in America and ending abortion as we know it.”

The doors open at 11 a.m. for the luncheon, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Boxed lunches and bottled water will be provided for those who attend.

The dinner includes individual entrees that will be covered until they are brought to the table. The doors open at 6 p.m. for this event, which is planned for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Following pandemic protocols, tables will be placed six feet apart. There will be a maximum of six people per table at the luncheon and eight people per table at the dinner.

The Women’s Choice Center traditionally holds a banquet in late September. The luncheon was added as another way for people to get involved in the mission and respect that not everyone is comfortable going out in the evening, said Melissa Gesing, marketing coordinator.

Those who are not able to attend because of another commitment or who prefer to remain at home as the pandemic continues will be able to watch a video that will be posted to womenschoicecenter.org after the events.

There is no cost to attend, but people will be invited to donate, Gesing said, adding that this is the center’s main fundraising event of the year.

Reservations are required and may be made by calling (563) 332-0475 as soon as possible.

The Women’s Choice Center started serving the Quad Cities 18 years ago. It is a faith-based ministry offering free pregnancy counseling, support and services to help women and families make informed choices for life.

Located in the building formerly occupied by Planned Parenthood, the center provides such services as Chloe’s Closet, which makes gently used baby clothing and maternity clothing available to families in need, as well as toys, diapers and formula.


As Respect Life Month begins next weekend, Catholics around the nation are being encouraged to “Live the Gospel of Life.” The theme, chosen by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, focuses attention on the 25th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”).

One of the ways people across the Diocese of Peoria will do that is by participating in Life Chain, a time of silent prayer and witness. Due to COVID-19, National Life Chain Sunday is planned for Nov. 1, although pro-life groups in central Illinois report that they will continue to line sidewalks in their communities on Respect Life Sunday, which is Oct. 4.

While people have always been encouraged to spread out as a way of spreading the message that life is precious at all stages, this year they are being asked to maintain safe social distancing by standing 10 to 20 feet apart. The message remains the same on the signs they will hold, however: “Pray to End Abortion,” “Lord, Please Forgive Us,” “Abortion Hurts Women,” “Abortion Kills Children,” “Pray to Change Hearts” and “Jesus Hears, Heals and Forgives.”

Signs are provided in most places. Graphic signs are not permitted and participants are asked to be respectful, peaceful and prayerful as they stand for life.

According to information provided to The Catholic Post, Life Chains will be held in the following locations on Oct. 4:

  • GALESBURG: Knox County Right to Life will host its 30th annual Life Chain from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m. at the intersection of Henderson and Fremont streets. It will take place regardless of weather so people are encouraged to dress appropriately. Signs may be picked up at 1:30 p.m. in the parking lot just west of Henderson. A rally will follow at Colonial Baptist Church, 1232 W. Fremont St. Masks must be worn.
  • MENDOTA: Route 34 at Highway 251, from 1 to 2 p.m.
  • NORMAL: In front of Epiphany Catholic Church, 1000 E. College Ave., and extending in both directions, from 2 to 3 p.m. Signs may be picked up in the church parking lot.
  • PEORIA: The Heart of Illinois Life Chain, hosted by Central Illinois Right to Life, will form in front of Planned Parenthood, 2709 N. Knoxville, and extend in both directions from 2 to 3 p.m. Signs will be available at Knoxville and Hanssler Place. (Do not park at Planned Parenthood.)
  • QUAD CITIES: Middle Road at Happy Joe Drive in Bettendorf, Iowa, from 2 to 3 p.m. Signs may be picked up at the Women’s Choice Center, 2740 Happy Joe Drive, at 1:30 p.m.


Central Illinois Right to Life is planning a virtual pro-life rally for Tuesday, Oct. 13, from 7 to 8 p.m. It will take place on Zoom and feature Dr. Philip Ney of Mount Joy College in British Columbia.

Dr. Philip Ney

“We wanted to find out if it would work,” said Dan Bohan, vice president of Central Illinois Right to Life. “We wanted to do a virtual event and thought why wait until January?”

The organization usually holds a Sanctity of Human Life Rally near the Jan. 22 anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion in 1973. Bohan said no decision has been made yet on what will happen in January 2021.

Organizers became acquainted with Dr. Ney’s work after reading an article he wrote about siblings born after their mother had an abortion and its effect on them. The psychiatrist and retired medical professor will discuss post-abortion survivor syndrome during the virtual conference.

There is no charge to “attend” the conference, but participants must register by sending an email to danbohan9@gmail.com. Type the word “register” in the subject line.

Information on how to connect to the event will be provided after registration. The Central Illinois Right to Life Zoom account can accommodate about 100 participants, according to Bohan.


Father Joseph Mary Brown, CSJ, prior of St. Joseph Priory in Princeville, sprinkles holy water in the room where ultrasounds are done at the Women’s Care Center, 7319 N. University St., in Peoria. The Sept. 22 blessing of the center, staff and board members came after caring for women and their babies throughout the pandemic and “just to help us remember why we’re here and our focus. We can all use a little boost,” said Connie McClure, director. Considered an essential business, the Women’s Care Center didn’t miss a day during the last six months, continuing to do ultrasounds and provide formula and diapers for those who weren’t able to go to the store or didn’t have the money to buy what they needed. The center continues to offer parenting classes via Zoom. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)


GALESBURG — “Without the Right to Life, There Is No Freedom” will be the theme for a presentation by the Rev. Bob Vanden Bosch at the Festival of Life, planned for Sunday, Oct. 18, at Bethel Baptist Church, 1196 N. Academy St. It will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Sponsored by Knox County Right to Life, the event is limited to 125 persons this year in keeping with COVID-19 protocols. Pre-registration is required and can be made by visiting knoxcountyrighttolife.org or calling Pat at (309) 343-2852.

Rev. Bob Vanden Bosch

Those who attend are asked to wear a mask. As an additional safety precaution, no refreshments will be served.

The Pro-Life Pastors Dinner, traditionally held the same weekend, will not take place, however, due to pandemic restrictions.

Rev. Vanden Bosch is executive director of Concerned Christian Ministries. He has lobbied the Illinois General Assembly for almost 30 years, championing Christian values and the freedom to worship, families, churches, and the unborn and their right to life.

Festival of Life organizers said he is expected to challenge his listeners “to do a personal check on the importance of these values and how to apply these truths to our activities in elections.”

Those who attend will also learn who took the top places in Knox County Right to Life’s annual essay contest and hear the winning essay read by the author.

There is no charge for admission to the Festival of Life, but a free-will offering will be accepted.


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