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Respect Life Sunday (October 4th) marks the beginning of Respect Life Month and the beginning of the U.S. bishops' annual Respect Life Program which continues through the following September. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has designated Respect Life Month as a special time to reflect on life issues and to pray for and promote greater respect for all human life. At the same time, our efforts in this area must reach beyond one Sunday or one month of the year.
In the updated 2001 version of their Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities: A Campaign in Support of Life, the bishops said: "[W]e renew our call for individual Catholics and the many institutions and organizations of the Church to unite in an unprecedented effort to restore respect and legal protection for every human life."
As part of this effort, the Respect Life Program was launched in 1972 and responds to the need of parishes, schools, and other ministries for basic presentations on life issues. It provides resources designed to be helpful to those in leadership positions as well as others.
2015-16 Respect Life Program Materials
This year's theme, "Every Life is Worth Living," is especially timely in light of the renewed push for legalizing assisted suicide in many states, but is also applicable to the wide spectrum of life issues. The theme is displayed on a 22" x 17" poster and unpacked in a positive, one-page flyer. The flyer is ideal for use as a bulletin insert and can also be posted on a school or parish bulletin board. The flyer and poster are both double-sided, with Spanish and English on the reverse sides.
The set of seven new Respect Life articles, available in pamphlet form, uses personal accounts, quotes, and practical tips to encourage respect for the life of each person while addressing a variety of topics: supporting a friend with an unexpected pregnancy, terminal illness, chastity, the dignity of persons with disabilities, sterilization, and prenatal diagnosis. These articles can be ordered in English or Spanish and are also available online as bulletin inserts (in a new format from previous years).
This year's Prayer & Program Guide includes suggestions for a parish or school display, suggested homily notes and intentions, a discussion guide for this year's articles, and resources for the bishops' annual pro-life novena surrounding the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade abortion decision, "9 Days for Life."
A new prayer card, based on this year's theme, is also included in this year's materials and is conveniently sized to fit in wallets.
These materials are also posted at USCCB.org/RespectLife, along with this year's Respect Life Month Statement by Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap., chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and a catalog of the USCCB's other pro-life resources. Other online-only resources are also available.
Observance and Activities for Respect Life Month and Throughout the Year
There are many ways to use the materials as a springboard for personal use, familial participation, activities within the classroom, parish, or youth ministry, and more. Each suggestion for a particular venue could be adapted for other venues as well.
Personal use: Read one article each week, month, etc., and take some time to reflect upon and/or journal about it and its effect on your life. Carry the prayer card with you in your wallet to pray daily.
Familial Participation: Pick a related activity to do as a family from the section in the Prayer and Program Guide titled "Coffee and Conversation."
Classroom: Host a contest during Respect Life Month based on this year's theme. Categories might include art, short stories, essays, poetry, photography, short videos, etc.
Parish: Use "Coffee and Conversation" to host a one-time discussion group, or a seven-week series to cover all the articles.
Youth Ministry: Engage teens in 9 Days for Life using the Prayer & Program Guide, as well as the numerous resources that will be available at 9DaysForLife.com.
Anne McGuire is the assistant director for education and outreach for the secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Respect Life Information and Ordering
For more information about the 2015-16 Respect Life Program materials, including how to order, please visit USCCB.org/RespectLife. For more information about the bishops' other pro-life efforts, please visit USCCB.org/Prolife. Many resources are available in both English and Spanish.
Originally printed in the October 2015 issue of Catechist magazine. Printed with permission. For more information, visit Catechist.com.
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