Protecting God’s precious gift of life at every stage

June 13, 2017

Father Fred Valone, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Huntsville which is just a few blocks away from the Texas State Penitentiary, joins an anti-capital punishment vigil Dec. 7, 2016. John Battaglia was scheduled to die by lethal injection inside the prison, known as the “Walls Unit” that day, but received a stay of execution.  The Office of Pro-Life Activities of the Archdiocese recognizes the dignity of everyone and works for the protection of the lives of the most vulnerable, regardless of their state in life. File photo by James Ramos/Herald.

HOUSTON — While the practice of abortion continues to be a major factor in pro-life work since it represents the most obvious and extreme affront to the dignity of life in society, the Catholic Church emphasizes protecting and nurturing the human life at all stages of existence.

According to Julie Fritsch, the director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities (PLA) of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, while the gravity of the impact of abortion on society is critical, the Church cannot lose focus on the many other issues threatening human life and dignity that call out for attention. PLA is one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF).

“Pro-life work is in fact about recognizing the dignity of everyone, and working for the protection of the lives of the most vulnerable, regardless of their state in life (unborn, elderly, disabled, sick, etc.),” Fritsch said.

As result, PLA focuses on several pro-life initiatives: providing compassionate care for persons at the end of life; protection for persons with disabilities; access to health care; education about Church teaching on health care and bioethics issues; and advocacy (political) and education of the faithful for all of the above. PLA accomplishes its mission by providing support to individuals, families and parishes in the Archdiocese through education, pastoral care, prayer and legislation.

Additionally, Fritsch believes there is a lot of confusion about Church teaching around various bioethical issues, such as reproductive technologies, end of life care, stem-cell research, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders and more.

“We plan to begin a program in Fall 2017 for lay adults to outline the Catholic position on these issues and provide an opportunity for groups discussion and evaluation of these issues,” said Fritsch. “We are blessed that there is so much energy and interest among Catholics in the Archdiocese. People are excited to get involved and readily willing to assist with new programs.”

One such volunteer is Deacon David Garvis, BCC, PhD(c), who is a Clinical Ethicist Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.

“I appreciate the work of the Office of Pro-Life Activities,” said Deacon Garvis. “It is not a single-issue office, but tackles the challenging issues that face our culture, including palliative care, euthanasia, cooperation, end of life and the challenges of the disabled. This is made possible through education and encounter.”

Leslie Corrigan, another volunteer, is currently the Gabriel Project coordinator at St. Thomas More Catholic Church and has been with the program for 15 years.

“I started helping because I value and understand that a child is a true gift,” Corrigan said. “My husband and I struggled with infertility for years before we were blessed with our son. I want to convince women to keep and adore their babies and understand that their child is a gift from God.”

Corrigan feels PLA is important to the Archdiocese and Church because it allows all parishioners to assist individuals and families that live in their own parishes and communities.

“We bring Jesus to them, pray for them, and explain that a spiritual life that includes God is the most important path for them to follow,” Corrigan said. “Our volunteers become friends; we pray, cry, laugh and welcome their babies with open arms. These women are no longer alone, and their crisis goes away because they know someone is there for them; many otherwise would have no family support or this unconditional love.”

Mary Pinedo, 2016-17 President of the Catholic Organization of Life (COOL), a pro-life youth group supported by the PLA, believes the pro-life movement is of upmost importance because all life should be respected and upheld beginning at conception and ending in natural death.

“The ministry is important for the people of the Archdiocese and the Church as a whole, because as Catholics, we have the responsibility to protect and defend life,” said Pinedo. “It is important to support DSF because it benefits great ministries like PLA, which does amazing work to bring about the culture of life and to raise our society. PLA makes it possible for my pro-life group, which is Houston’s only citywide pro-life youth group, to defend life, pray with other youth for an end to abortion, and spread the culture of life.”

Another PLA volunteer, John Costello, who is a Knights of Columbus Field Agent, agrees supporting the DSF is critical to protecting life.

“(PLA) provides a strong platform that brings together passionate, caring people, some of faith and some just wanting what is right from a human nature standpoint, with a common desire to protect women and support them to the fullest,” said Costello.

“I have noticed a change in the comfort level and frequency of the message of awareness and support for women in need of better options to their health and ability to choose to become a mother. Churches are able to promote DSF and its vital need for our pro-life activities; we have to combat the big money, mostly politically motivated that fuels abortion providers that severely and negatively harm women and their babies.”