Respect Life in ministry

October 11, 2011

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, along with Catholics across the nation, observe Respect Life Month in October. 

During Respect Life Month, Catholics are asked to pray and reflect on our commitment to witnessing a culture of life in our society and promote the transcendent nature of the human person and respect for human life from conception to natural death.

The theme for this year’s Respect Life program comes from Jesus’ words: “I came that all might have life and have it to the full.”

“Catholics must not shrink from the obligation to assert the values and principles we hold essential to the common good, beginning with the right to life of every human being and the right of every woman and man to express and live by his or her religious beliefs and well-formed conscience,” Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, chair of the U.S. Bishop’s Pro-Life Committee, said in a statement marking respect life month. 

The Texas Catholic Herald asked some of the Archdiocese’s ministries to share the many ways they advocate respect for life in their daily work. 

The Gabriel Project

Denise Angel, a Gabriel Project phone volunteer, isn’t just a witness of God’s love but one who has also lived it.

Angel was born in 1965 and from the beginning was a “testament to the power of God’s love and infinite wisdom,” Angel said. At 5 and a half months into her pregnancy, Angel’s mother was advised to have an abortion because of health reasons. All throughout childhood doctors told Angel’s mother that Angel would not survive to see her teen years.

“At each milestone birthday that I was ‘supposed’ to have died, there I was, and there she was, telling me all along how she had dedicated me to the Blessed Virgin and teaching me the basic tenants of our Catholic faith. She never let me forget I was a child of God first and foremost.”

However, always wanting to be a wife and a mother herself, Angel’s world “came crashing down” when she found out that she would be unable to have children.

“I felt betrayed and empty; the safety net of my faith ripped away by my own hands and I was freefalling through life in a state of despair,” said Angel.

However, with the support of her mother and after marrying her husband who had custody of his daughter, Denise reached a point in her life where “I am right where I want to be...and right where God intends for me to be. I thank Him for all that he has given me, for my family, for my Church, and for the ability to connect with the women involved in the Gabriel Project, both the other volunteers and the women that we assist. My life is enriched with many blessings, and I am finally home. A long journey, but one well worth the taking,” said Angel.

“From the very first day we were mother and daughter in all things but blood. Even though seven years of her life had passed before she came into mine, the bond was forged instantly. She was, and continues to be my living dream, and if I ever doubt God’s love for me, I just look in her direction,” Angel said. 

The Gabriel Project is pastoral care provided by the Archdiocesan Respect Life Office that helps women who are in crisis pregnancies by offering Christian love and practical solutions at the parish. Parishes participate by placing a “Sign of Life” outside the church to advertise their commitment to help all others in distress, to turn all hearts to Jesus Christ and to make Him known to everyone.

For more information call 713-741-8728 or visit †

San Jose Clinic

In all of its years of service, the clinic’s mission has been very much in line with the goals and awareness of Respect Life, according to Paule Anne Lewis, SJC executive director.

“San Jose Clinic is an advocate for Respect Life in our service to our patients through upholding the teachings and values of the Catholic Church,” she said. “Our staff and volunteer physicians counsel women on contraceptive reversal and removal of contraceptive devices. It is our policy not to prescribe contraceptive drugs. In addition, we are dedicated to assisting expectant mothers in resources and referrals for both financial and medical support as needed. In addition, we are blessed to have Catholic Charities staff in our facility to assist these women with the help they need.”

Founded in 1922, San Jose Clinic is one of the oldest charity clinics still in operation in the United States. The clinic has served the Houston area for more than 88 years, providing quality health care and health education to low-income, uninsured individuals and families. Supported by volunteer health care providers, the Clinic offers medical, dental and optometry services, as well as lab work and prescription medications at no additional cost to patients. It is the only health care entity owned by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. †

Martha’s Kitchen

In 1990, Monsigor William Tinney and the St. Martha Catholic Church parish council discussed the feasibility of a social ministry in Houston. The study resulted in Martha’s Kitchen opening its doors on Oct. 26, 1992. 

“Our guests are accepted without prejudice or questioned about their place of residence or status of employment,” said Carolanne Voltmann, chairwoman of the board of Martha’s Kitchen. “They are warmly greeted at the door and presented with a meal ticket. There is a sink with soap and hot and cold water available for them to wash their hands before entering the serving area. Here they are greeted with music and a cheerful group of servers. It is our intent to offer our guests a friendly, comfortable and social environment in which to eat.”

Sister Marie Elena Lopez, director and Sister Julie Sandoval, who have been with Martha’s Kitchen since it opened, manage the facility. Their duties include directing the efforts of the volunteers, planning meals and ordering food and supplies. The kitchen will celebrate 19 successful years on Oct. 26 and will have fed over 1.5 million people. Food preparation, serving meals and cleaning and sanitizing of the Kitchen afterwards is done by over 160 volunteers, an average of 25 per day, five days per week.

Sister Lopez, says, “to every new volunteer that, by their happy smiles, and kind word our guests will truly feel the Lord’s presence in the kitchen.”

Martha’s Kitchen, a parish outreach ministry, serves a hot lunch to approximately 350 people each weekday. †

Catholic Chaplain Corps

In a visit with the Texas Catholic Herald, Father Page Polk, O.F.M., discussed his own ministry as the Catholic Chaplain Corps director for the Archdiocese. He commented that his experience with the corps – dating back to 2000 – gives him a profound perspective on the immeasurable value of human dignity. 

“Being with people in times of illness, hospitalization … has afforded me many opportunities to be with them and to provide Pastoral and Sacramental Care,” Father Polk said. “I have seen, both literally and figuratively, the hope and gratitude of patients, families, friends and hospital personnel for the Church’s presence to them. These experiences humble me. Such experiences also make my heart soar with thanksgiving and gratitude to God.”

He greatly appreciates the courage hospital patients and their families have displayed during these vulnerable situations, “for those whose faith is so strong in times of fear, anxiety, uncertainty. Being with people under these circumstances has increased my prayer life and has challenged me to reflect on my own trust in the Lord.”

The Catholic Chaplain Corps provides sacramental and pastoral care to the patients, families and staff of hospitals and institutions.