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 This is probably not new information to many in our Diocese. What many may not know, however, is that the Office, the staff and programs are dependent entirely on the generosity of people in the parishes through a Sanctity of Human Life Special Collection. Our parishes began offering the Collection on Oct. 13, Respect Life Sunday, and will continue through January 22, the Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe vs Wade decision. Without the generous donations of the people of God to this specific collection we simply would not exist. So, this collection has been a true blessing which enables us to share the Good News and advocate for the sacredness of human life.

 We learn from the Catholic Catechism: “Human Life is Sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end” (CCC 2258). And yet we are living in a time here in California and throughout the nation when God’s natural order of life is being rejected in our public policies and in secular society. Life, from the earliest beginnings to the final days, is marginalized, absent of care and dignity. We saw this in the passing of California’s End of Life Option Act, which legalized physician-assisted suicide, that went into effect three years ago, and now again in the most recent Senate Bill 24, signed into law, which makes abortion by medication techniques available to all students on our Cal State and UC campuses throughout California. 

 The Office of Respect Life and Pastoral Care works closely with parishes in the Diocese to empower volunteers to make waves of change. Any and all success of the office is a story of gratitude that goes beyond Catholic social teaching; it’s a partnership with the parishes, their coordinators and volunteers. We collectively take pride in recognizing the challenges in all stages of human life. In 2004 we advocated against Proposition 71, a bill which funded embryonic stem cell research and human cloning. Research to date has shown that ethical stem cell research is saving thousands of lives and is still offering the most promising cures for the future. We know from the book of Genesis, how God created us in His image and likeness, reminding us that God’s dominion of all creation is the responsibility of our Christian stewardship. Through scientific inquiry it has become very clear, that following the natural order of life, as articulated in St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, faith and science are not incompatible.

 The gem of the ministry is the hundreds of volunteers entrusted in the Office’s mission to address the call for “a vigorous affirmation of the value of human life.” We are blessed by the Knights of Columbus and their unwavering support of our Mother’s Day Rose Sale which raises thousands of dollars each year for our local pregnancy counseling centers and Veronica’s Home of Mercy, a place where young women in crisis pregnancies can be nurtured and cared for. Their generosity allows us to help women and men hurt by abortion to attend our Rachel’s Vineyard retreat who would otherwise not have the means to do so.

 Last year we joined in the statewide launch of The Whole Person Care Initiative, a collaborate project of the California Bishops and the Institute for Human Caring at Providence St. Joseph Health. It is aimed at creating an environment in our parishes, communities, and health care systems in which all persons are made to feel loved, wanted and worthy. It is a program that accompanies those facing their last pilgrimage here on earth while supporting their caregivers. 

 In addition, children in our Diocese are in dire need of loving foster care families. Consequently, the Office of Respect Life and Pastoral Care is introducing our new Foster Care Initiative to many parishes, to be implemented beginning in 2020. This program will connect potentially qualified foster parents with local Foster Care agencies. 

 Ninety percent of our parishes participate in the Sanctity of Human Life Collection, which is the basis from which all our programs flourish, and we are very grateful for the generosity of our extended Catholic family. It has helped nourish respect life ministers in 75 percent of our parishes and provided resources to expand in the area of pastoral care to serve our community.

 We are often asked why we believe that having to raise our own funds can be such a blessing? We read in Luke 5: 1-11 that we are called to discipleship. Jesus commanded two of his disciples, Simon Peter and Andrew, to “put out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.” This request was, of course, met with much confusion, as this was not the time of day to catch fish. But they obediently let down their nets, catching large numbers of fish. Jesus then said: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will be fishers of men.” We all have been given the call to discipleship, to spread the Good News and become Fishers of Men. Our reliance on collections for our funding has allowed us to build beautiful partnerships with parishes, meet parish staff and raise awareness of the work being done. Every dollar offered up in a collection is received with paramount respect, knowing that there are many worthy causes deserving of it. Being Fishers of Men is about following God’s call and being good stewards of His creation. Let us continue this work.

 For more information about the Office of Respect Life and Pastoral Care, please visit www.sbrlpc.org

 Mary Huber is the Director of the Diocesan Office of Respect Life and Pastoral Care.