Protecting, nurturing human life from conception to natural death

July 10, 2018

More than 700 traveled from Houston to Austin to march in the 2018 Texas Rally for Life. Photo courtesy of The Office of Pro-Life Activities.

HOUSTON — Catholic Christians worldwide are called to support pro-life initiatives that protect and nurture human life from conception until natural death. The ministry responsible for promoting this culture of life through education, pastoral care, prayer and advocacy in the Archdiocese is the Office of Pro-Life Activities (PLA).

PLA is one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF).

Julie Fritsch, director of the PLA, said it is important in pro-life work to remain joyful and enthusiastic about protecting life and human dignity.

“There can be a tendency in this work, because threats to human life are so grave, to become dispirited, frustrated or angry about those threats,” Fritsch said. “We must instead remember to approach these issues from a perspective of celebrating what is good (the dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God) and not from a sense of despair and anger toward what is bad (the numerous threats to that dignity). It is especially exciting to work with youth and young adults in the diocese who are becoming increasingly aware of these issues and possess this necessary spirit of hope and joy.”

While the practice of abortion in America continues to be on the forefront of pro-life issues, Fritsch said other important initiatives for the PLA include protection for persons with disabilities; access to health care; guidance about Church teaching regarding health care and bioethics; providing compassionate care for persons at the end of life; public policy and legislative advocacy; and education of the faithful on these issues.

“Often times, we think being pro-life is only an abortion issue, but there are other members of the body of Christ who are vulnerable and need our help,” said Paul Emig, a volunteer at PLA’s Jerome’s Hope ministry. “The Office of Pro-Life Activities promotes a culture of life in our community and in our churches, and provides support and many avenues for us to be the hands and feet of Christ.”

Paul and his wife, Racheal, are part of a team of Jerome’s Hope volunteers who have a child with a disability or have lost a child due to a medical condition. Everyone receives training, so he or she may provide spiritual, psychological and practical support to parents and families. Many of the families helped are initially offered abortion by their medical teams, both because of increased prenatal screening and diagnosis and due to liability issues for physicians who fail to make a diagnosis.

Jerome’s Hope volunteer, Monica Rivera, has a son who was diagnosed prenatally with a genetic condition. She was given the option to terminate her pregnancy by her doctor but chose life. Today, she feels called to support and share her experiences with other families in similar situations.

“I never felt pressured to abort, but I often learn of other mothers in similar situations who are encouraged and pressured to abort, even without a confirmed diagnosis,” Rivera said. “My husband and I had to strongly advocate for certain things in preparing for our son’s birth. I think if we had not done this, our son may not be with us today.”
Rivera said most people, at one time or another, are faced with challenges regarding life. Whether it is receiving a prenatal diagnosis, an unexpected pregnancy or having to make end-of-life decisions for a loved one, she feels Jerome’s Hope helps provide education, advocacy and support to those in these situations.

“My husband and I received so much support from our family, friends, and our church and priest,” said Rivera. “I think this support made a world of a difference for us when going through the pregnancy, knowing that our son would have life-threatening challenges. I think Jerome’s Hope can help offer the guidance, reassurance and support that is needed in these challenging times.”

Cindy and Chris Renaudo are volunteers for another PLA ministry, Project Rachel, which began more than 15 years ago as an outreach of the Catholic Church to women, men and families who have been suffering from the aftermath of abortion. Through this ministry, the Church provides a place of healing by trained clergy, counselors and lay people that provide referrals for the Sacramental Reconciliation, as well as provide an integrated network of pastoral counseling, support groups, retreats and referrals to licensed mental health professionals.

“I knew from the onset of my Rachel’s Vineyard retreat that God was calling me to serve,” Chris Renaudo said. “His unlimited mercy cleansed me of my guilt and provided the courage to reach out to other hurting souls seeking His love and mercy. What a blessing to allow Him to work through me to help others in their healing journey.”

The programs and services offered by PLA ministries, whether direct service or education, require DSF funding to remain in operation.

“From providing information, support, options and healing, these ministries are a beacon of light shining the truth about the sanctity of life, from birth through natural death in a world that continues to shun these primary virtues,” Renaudo said.

Rachael and Paul Emig agree.

“There are so many programs within the Archdiocese that are supported by the DSF,” Racheal Emig said. “These ministries rely on our gifts to reach people throughout our whole region, from every walk of life, and every type of circumstance. Without DSF, these ministries might not flourish or be able to provide much needed outreach.”
Paul Emig added: “The money we put into the baskets each Sunday remains within our parish walls. Without support from DSF, many of the ministries that serve a larger portion of our city would not be possible.”