The archdiocesan Respect Life Office held eight meetings across the archdiocese to help “build a culture of life,” in response to the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) that directly counters the Church’s opposition to abortion.
The gatherings were titled “You’re Chosen To Build a Culture of Life.” The last meeting was April 11 at St. Rita’s parish on Staten Island, and the first was March 7 at John S. Burke Catholic High School, Goshen.
New York State’s Reproductive Health Act (RHA), voted into law Jan. 22, allows late-term abortions. It has been met with disbelief and grief from people active in the pro-life mission, as well as from many in the general public.
“I think people have walked away hopeful, because they see many other people at the meetings and they know they are not alone,” Sister Virginia Joy, S.V., director of the Respect Life Office, told Catholic New York of the gatherings.
“We’ve had very positive feedback; people have been stepping forward who have not stepped forward before.”
Sister Virginia added, “There is a spiritual reality to all of this. Without the Creator, the creature no longer makes sense. When we remove God, we forget our origin, our identity and our destiny…There is a spiritual component, and we all need to recognize that there is a practical component.”
In the “You’re Chosen” meetings, Sister Virginia’s presentation focused in part on words from the Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), an encyclical from the 1990s written by St. John Paul with help from several bishops, including Cardinal John O’Connor.
The Sisters of Life nun quoted the encyclical as saying, “This is our culture—and it is a culture in crisis. The culture of death promotes a completely individualistic concept of freedom…without the Creator the creature would disappear…when God is forgotten the culture itself grows unintelligible…By removing God, Man has forgotten that he is chosen and loved – willed into existence. Without God, Man has to earn his own value, dignity and worth.”
The encyclical “ is excellent and timely for now; there is a battle being waged over us,” Sister Virginia said in her presentations. “We fight the battle by putting God back in the center of our lives and our society…each of us is chosen, willed and necessary. The answer to our current crisis (RHA) is for each of us to live from this truth —that every individual is a wonder, a result of the thought of God, unrepeatable, irreplaceable.”
Attendees say the presentations energized them. Maureen Haege, a parishioner of Good Shepherd and St. Joseph in Rhinebeck, said, “You can actually feel the energy of the pro-life community here in Dutchess County; it’s palpable. The ‘You’re Chosen’ events served to inspire and encourage us.”
Wendy Wood, a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in Goshen, said the meetings were “much needed at this time when so many New Yorkers were looking for direction after the devastation of the RHA.”
“So many of us wanted to roll up our sleeves and get to work, but it always starts with the Lord. The evening was a beautiful reminder of that.”