Every October Bishop Salvatore R. Matano presides at a diocesan Respect Life Mass, in celebration of Respect Life Month. This year’s Mass was held on Oct. 1 at Our Lady of Victory/St. Joseph Church in Rochester.
This year’s theme for the USCCB 2017-18 Respect Life Program is “Be Not Afraid.” Its dual purpose is to provide encouragement and comfort in difficult times, as well as to inspire the motivation and courage to accompany others and stand for life.
Jesus promises to be with us every step of the way, and he showed us the way to value every human life. He made special efforts to engage “the least of these” and honor those that society didn’t value.
Last February, thanks to the many parishes who participated in Public Policy Weekend, 12,000 parishioners in the Diocese of Rochester signed letters or petitions opposing physician-assisted suicide. They urged our state legislators to recognize that allowing doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to those who are terminally ill does not value human life. The bill did not come to the floor of either the Assembly or the Senate for a vote.
In addition, this summer judges on the New York State Court of Appeals unanimously denied a claim that the state’s constitution already gives New Yorkers the right to end their lives in the circumstances described above. They also affirmed that no matter what it is called, such an act is indeed suicide.
The Medical Aid in Dying bill is sure to be reintroduced in the next legislative session, as well as a bill that would expand late-term abortion, offering us more opportunity to “Be Not Afraid” and stand for the value of every human life from the moment of conception until natural death.
The Life Issues office, a ministry of diocesan Catholic Charities, provided for every parish and campus ministry to receive the 2017-18 Respect Life Program kit of materials, including a beautiful poster of Christ’s ascension by Giovanni Bernardino Azzolino, reflection flyer, resource guide, order catalog and six new articles. Topics include Catholic considerations for understanding and preparing for death; how to be lovingly be there for a woman considering abortion; top reasons to oppose assisted suicide; the death penalty; basics of conscience; and fostering a culture that cherishes human life by responding to our call as missionary disciples. You can view and utilize all the items in the kits and more at www.usccb.org/respectlife.
As the reflection flyer concludes, we have the courage to “Be Not Afraid” because of Jesus: “Walk with each other. Do not be afraid to embrace God’s gift of life. Whatever storms or trials we face, we are not alone. He is with us.”
“Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).
Stack is life-issues coordinator for the Diocese of Rochester.