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Joint parish task force spreads pro-life message

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

By Mike Dyer

ARCHDIOCESE — October will be a busy month for members of the Parishes for Life (PFL) task force in many area faith communities.
The task force, which evolved through the archdiocese’s Advocates for Justice Greater Cincinnati Parish Collaborative and receives support from the archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Office and Respect Life coordinator, is determined to spread the pro-life message to as many local parishes as possible.

The Social Action Leadership Team (SALT) at St. Andrew and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishes in Milford developed a campaign to help parishes become the first line of assistance to women experiencing crisis pregnancies. Their efforts evolved into PFL, which was adopted by the collaborative earlier this year as another project to pursue.

The effort involves distributing a brochure and contact information to all  area crisis pregnancy centers and putting other helpful resources in the hands of every parishioner so they know where to direct people when an encounter with an expectant mother arises. Host parishes are also able to organize information nights that introduce parishioners to the work of nearby pregnancy centers.
Joe Mohlenkamp, a member of the Social Justice Ministry at St. Ann Parish in Groesbeck, said Respect Life Sunday, marked on Oct. 3, will have several aspects at his parish. That includes information in a newsletter and bulletin, homilies during Sunday Masses and tables staffed by members of the Social Justice Ministry and Respect Life Committee members.
“Parishes for Life is appealing to me because it focuses on love and support for moms and babies — a direct, personal way to promote life and to support those facing a major event and major decisions in their lives,” Mohlenkamp said. “This is a new focus for me. I see Parishes for Life as a good complement to the many good activities that are underway in support of life.”
Mohlenkamp said he expects St. Ann parishioners will show significant support for this program.
“We believe we are stimulating thought and reflection and prayer about important social justice topics,” he said.
The project started when SALT member Jerry Braun brought the idea to members of the joint parish ministry group of St. Elizabeth Seton and St. Andrew parishes. As he formed the idea in 2009, Braun, who was active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Elizabeth Seton, saw that many families could use much more personal support beyond just food and money.
As the economic recession continued, Braun noticed the lack of personal and medical help available to low-income pregnant women and their future children. He believed that if parishioners knew of the real plight of these women they would volunteer immediately to help them in any way they could before the women would make a choice to terminate their pregnancy.
“This effort seemed different and personal,” said Ed Alten, a co-founder and promoter of PFL.

As a result, the group agreed to consult with their pastors about it and they, in turn, supported the effort to work with the joint parish ministry to create an activity that helped women. The group contacted the Ladies of Seton, a social parish ministry, who agreed to host an event at one of their meetings. They invited representatives from a nearby pregnancy center to give a talk about what they did and their need for volunteers. The group also developed a purpose statement and a brochure titled “You Are Not Alone.”

A task force was also formed that included members of Respect Life and Social Action groups at St. Ann in Groesbeck; St. Vivian in Finneytown; St. Thomas More in Withamsville; Good Shepherd in Montgomery; St. Ignatius in Monfort Heights; and others.
Tom Miller, Right to Life coordinator at St. Vivian Parish, has been involved with PFL since earlier this year. He began publishing announcements about the task force in the parish bulletin in August and formally introduced the effort at Masses the weekend of Sept. 25-26. An information night about the task force, held in conjunction with St. Ann Parish, is scheduled for Oct. 7 at 7 p.m., and will feature pregnancy center volunteers who will discuss their ministry. Neighboring parishes are invited to attend.
“I thank God for the opportunity to work on a concrete initiative such as PFL to address the issue of crisis pregnancies in a loving and caring way to protect life, not only of the child, but also to provide support to the parents to help them make this life choice.”
“One important feature the project brought to the collaborative was bringing the parish Social Action and Respect Life parish groups together in a unified effort to reduce abortions and together to promote a consistency of life ethic demanded by church teaching,” Alten said.
Representatives from area pregnancy centers were also included and, when task force members visited the centers to discuss their efforts, they were warmly received and given many helpful suggestions.
“We need to strengthen the effort to get volunteers to the pregnancy centers and promote them within our parishes,” Braun said.
Through funding from a parish empowerment fund and a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection, the group was able to produce and distribute brochures and pregnancy center information at a discounted rate to parishes.
“We think expansion of the brochure distribution into areas where pregnant women will read it is key; this includes in schools, and where young teens meet, including in our own parish families,” said July Alten, who helped co-found PFL.
“Generating compassion in parish members to volunteer at these centers is also key as more informed pregnant women seek them out,” she added. “We believe this is God’s work and will be effective if guided by the Holy Spirit.”
As the task force increases its efforts, members hope that additional parishes join in the project. For more information, contact the SALT group at 513-575-1515.


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