GARZA: Being the neighbor during Respect Life Month

October 10, 2023

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October is Respect Life Month in our Church. This annual observance reminds us how, as one mystical body of Christ, we work to look after each other and ensure the dignity of every individual.

In Evangelium Vitae, St. John Paul II states: “Society as a whole must respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person’s life.”

As practicing Catholics, we try to live out “Respect Life” every day of the year, and what drives us to do so is the commandment of “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39).

What can it look like to respect life every step of the way? We know where to begin: Conception. We walk with a mother through her pregnancy. Then the child is born.

We must then look at the child’s condition: Are they taken care of? Do the parents have what they need to give their child a good life? The child begins school. Do they have the required supplies? Do they have shoes and clean clothes? Are they able to eat three meals a day?

They grow up a bit, and for whatever reason, they start getting into trouble. They are detained and taken to a juvenile detention facility. Their parents work four jobs between them and have a small child at home and cannot easily make time to visit them on the days that visitation is allowed. They feel alone... without neighbors.

But they are not alone, my brothers and sisters. We are the neighbor. We are the ones who love them as we love ourselves. In these scenarios, we donate baby clothes and food; we find supplies for school; we take the mother shopping for new shoes; we vote for the schools to provide free meals; we babysit the small child; we give the parents a ride to ESL classes; we help the young man enroll in a technical school like the new St. Peter Catholic – A Career and Technical High School. We are neighbors they have known for years, neighbors they recently met or neighbors they will never meet but who contribute their treasures in some way.

While we were helping in “the free,” Special Youth Services volunteers were in the juvenile detention facility, accompanying the young people on their spiritual journey. They studied Scripture together. They reminded them that no matter what they had done, they were forgiven by God. They helped them understand their value through the love God has for them. They were their neighbors.

We all worked together to serve that family, as it cannot be done by just one person. As part of the mystical body of Christ, there is always a place for you to respect life by serving that body. You are needed. I invite you to pray for the courage to answer the Lord’s invitation to where you are called to serve the body of Christ. St. John Paul II, pray for us!

Alejandra Maya Garza is an associate director with Special Youth Services.

(OSV Photo)