By Joyce Bibey
As a Catholic community we celebrate Respect Life Month in October. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also observes the first Sunday of October as Respect Life Sunday, when we are asked to reflect more deeply every day on the dignity of every human life from conception until natural death. This year’s theme for Respect Life Month is “Live the Gos- pel of Life.” The bishops across the country hope this theme reminds and inspires us to “transform our culture by allowing the Gospel of Christ to touch and transform our own hearts and the decisions we make.” There is no time like the present to renew our Christian beliefs to treat others with the dignity we want to for ourselves. Pope Saint John Paul II’s comments during his visit to the United States and Canada still hold great inspiration today, “The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones…. If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, America, defend life!”
Parishes in all reaches of West Virginia are committed to Respect Life and Pro-Life awareness. Here are highlights of a few of those parishes, working to build a culture that cherishes every human life.
• St. Francis Xavier Parish, Parkers- burg, has a Catholics for Life of the Mid-Ohio Valley group with members also from St. Monica in Lubeck, St. Michael’s in Vienna, St. Margaret Mary in Parkersburg, St. John’s in St. Mary’s, Christ Our Hope in Harrisville, and the Basilica of St. Mary of the Assumption in Marietta, Ohio. Yearly activities include: National Night of Prayer for Life on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception; Holy Hour for Life observing the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children and marking the anniversary of Roe vs Wade legalizing abortion; May Memorial Cross Project with Parkersburg Catholic High School and the Knights of Columbus; Monthly Prayer in front of Planned Parenthood in Vienna; Spiritual Adoption program, praying for the unborn for 9 months; and much more.
• St. James Parish, Charles Town, has a Pro-Life Ministry active in educating the public about prenatal develop- ment, violence of abortion, and end of life issues. They participate in March for Life, Prayer Chains for Life, Pro-Life Booth at the Jefferson County Fair, and host the parish’s Annual International Dinner & Auction Fundraiser. The volunteers also work with Birthright and the Gabriel Project locally.
• St. Anthony, Charleston, parishio- ner Stanley Wyatt organizes and en- courages participation in a variety of events including the Day of Remem- brance of the Unborn, Sept. 12; the Na- tional Chain of Life hour of prayer and silent witness for the unborn on Oct. 4th at various locations in Charleston and St. Albans (this event is held across the state and country), and the Fatima Rosary for Life on Oct. 10th near the Abraham Lincoln Statue at the West Virginia Capitol.
• Our Lady of the Hills Parish, Elkview, hosts St. Anne’s Outreach Center. The facility is open every Thursday 8:30a m to noon to serve families with children from newborn to age four, as well as young expecting single mothers in the communities of Big Chimney, Clay, Clendenin, Elkview, and Pinch.
• St. Joseph, Martinsburg, has a Spir- itual Adoption Program and St. Joseph Angels “to extend the hands of Christ to families facing adverse circumstances during pregnancy and early child- hood.” The group helps provide prayer, emotional support, clothing, diapers, supplies, car seats, and more.
• St. John Parish, St. Mary’s, hosts a Spiritual Adoption program; Pro-Life cross displays in the month of May; and joins with St. Francis in Parkersburg for Catholics for Life activities.
• Immaculate Conception Parish, New Cumberland, houses the Gabriel House, also known as the Gabriel Proj- ect. It is an ecumenical network of churches in northern Hancock County committed to safeguarding and honor- ing life, offering help to pregnant women and families with infants and young children.
• Sacred Heart, Chester, has a “Pro- Life Chester” page on Facebook; Spiri- tual Adoption Program; Rosary Rally for Life in October; Power of Prayer Pro-Life Rosary in January; and supports Gabriel House in New Cumberland. “Sacred Heart Religious Education” Facebook pages.
• St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Weirton, has a Pro-Life ministry that organizes a number of activities that include the Life Chain in October, Memorial Mass for the unborn, Spiritual Adoption Program, Gabriel Project, March for Life, 40 Days for Life, and more.
• St. Francis Xavier Parish, Moundsville, began a Gabriel Project in 2018 for Marshall County to provide immediate and practical support to pregnant women and families with infants and young children. By helping pregnant mothers who carry new life, and usually carry the burden of poverty as well, the parish actively reinforces the culture of life that we, as Catholics, so strongly be- lieve in.
• St. Michael Parish, Wheeling, has Pro-Life Committee. This group hosts meetings every month, a Pro-Life Ro- sary the third Monday of each month, Spiritual Adoption Program, 40 Days of Life, Memorial Cross displays, Pro-Life Chain, Respect Life Liturgy with Bene- diction and Eucharistic Adoration in January, weekly columns in the bulletin, March for Life, Lenten Fill The Baby Bottle fundraiser, and other gatherings such as the showing of the movie Un- planned. The Knights of Columbus, parish school students, and PSR stu- dents are also involved.
• Our Lady of Peace Parish, Wheel- ing, volunteers just began their Pro-Life efforts in 2019 with the Spiritual Adop- tion Program, posters, monthly bulle- tin announcements, Pro-Life bracelets, and special Pro-Life Christmas orna- ments.
It doesn’t take an army, but a handful to do the legwork of these activities, said Mark Witzberger, coordinator of Pro-Life activities at Our Lady of Peace Parish. “We just need to get everyone spiritually on board.”
As the USCCB reminds us, “May we strive to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps, caring for the most vulner- able among us. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, may Our Lord grant us the grace to live cou- rageously and faithfully his Gospel of life.”