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Defending Life From Conception to Natural Death

By Bishop Joe S. Vásquez | Photo By Getty Images/fatesun | October 2022

Defending Life From Conception to Natural Death

 

Editor: Bishop, in October, the Catholic Church in the United States celebrates Respect Life Month. Is it fair to say that even with the overturn of Roe v. Wade, we still have much work to do to protect those who are most vulnerable?

Bishop Vásquez: The Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade is a great blessing, and we are fortunate to live in a state that is respectful of the unborn, who are the most vulnerable in our society. However, protecting the unborn is just one aspect of our commitment to respect all human life. The church teaches us to honor and respect the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death. As a church, we must also continue helping mothers experiencing unexpected or difficult pregnancies, we must help families in need and couples who are in crisis. All human life is sacred, and we must continue to protect life at all stages.

Editor: St. John Paul II went into great detail about the Gospel of Life. What is the Gospel of Life?

Bishop Vásquez: St. John Paul II promoted creating a culture of life, where respect for life permeates every aspect of our society and where everyone is appreciated and valued. God is the origin of human dignity, and we know we are all made in the image and likeness of God. The value of a person is not found in the place we come from or how educated we are or what neighborhood we live in.

Sadly, our current culture is primarily focused on productivity, and there is very little care for who we are as children of God. A baby has little productivity, but they must still be protected, loved and cherished. When people become elderly and are no longer able to care for themselves, their productivity is gone, yet they too must be protected, loved and cherished. Mentally disabled or incapacitated persons do not lose their dignity and their value because they cannot care for themselves. They must be appreciated and loved. 

As St. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, “We find ourselves in the midst of a battle between a culture of life and a culture of death. We are all involved in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.”

Editor: How do we change hearts and minds?

Bishop Vásquez: In today’s world there is great division and polarization regarding the dignity of human life. Unfortunately, the evil of this division and polarization — whether racism, chauvinism or social classism — is rooted in the human heart. To combat this, we are called to open our minds and hearts to Christ’s love for all people and the varied difficulties and experiences of others. We must always speak on behalf of and defend the sanctity of human life at every stage. As disciples of Jesus Christ, our work must begin in the home where we form our children. At an early age, we must teach and show our children how to appreciate, protect and respect every person. 

The church has many entities devoted to protecting and honoring human life. In our diocese, the diocesan Office of Life, Marriage and Family, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities of Central Texas and our maternity homes in Georgetown and Temple are dedicated to helping those in need. Many of our parishes are also dedicated to helping find and share resources with pregnant and parenting women through the Walking with Moms in Need ministry. Getting involved with any of these ministries is a way to help promote and protect the dignity of life. 

The church fathers taught in Gaudium et Spes that “everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity, so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus” (27). Therefore, we are also called to inspire all institutions and our government leaders to respect life at all its stages. We must continue to convince others that every human life has dignity, and in doing so we can change hearts and minds and build that culture of life that St. John Paul II called for. The church never loses hope, even when we are up against a society that is contrary to our way of thinking. As we remain faithful to Christ, we hope that others too will join us in these efforts.

Editor: What is your prayer as we strive to promote the dignity of all human life?

Bishop Vásquez: God, source of all that is good, give us the grace to value, love and cherish persons at all stages of life. Jesus sacrificed his life and saved us from sin and death. May we follow his example and safeguard the dignity of every human life. Amen.


Walking with Moms in Need

Inspired by St. John Paul II’s call to build a culture of life, the intention of Walking with Moms in Need is to increase the church’s outreach to pregnant and parenting women in need. While many pregnancy help resources are appropriately coordinated at the diocesan or regional level, moms in need are often best reached at the local level. With 122 parishes in the diocese, each parish effort may look different; however, the intent is to create a collaboration of resources at the local level and to increase awareness of help available to mothers and families in need. 

The goal of Walking with Moms in Need is to provide all Catholics with the resources to help mothers and fathers facing difficult circumstances. For more information on how to establish this initiative in your parish, visit walkingwithmoms.com. For more information on Life, Marriage and Family ministries in the Diocese of Austin, contact Luisa de Poo at luisa-depoo@austindiocese.org or (512) 949-2487.


Resources for mothers in need in the Diocese of Austin

St. Gabriel's Pregnancy & Parenting Program at Catholic Charities of Central Texas: Parent advocates and educators walk with expectant mothers or parents of a child 0-36 months of age. All services are offered in English and Spanish and are completely confidential. Call (512) 651-6100 (Austin area) or (979) 822-9340 (Brazos Valley area) or email SGPPPintake@ccctx.org.

Annunciation Maternity Home: A licensed maternity home in Georgetown that provides free services to young women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Call (512) 864-7755.

Our Lady of the Angels Maternity Home: A shelter for women in crisis pregnancies and those who are post-partum the home offers a loving and stable family environment for women and children in need. Call (254) 742-2340.

St. John Paul II Life Center: A non-profit, Catholic organization committed to helping women with free pregnancy help services, holistic OB-GYN care and education programs. Call (512) 407-2900.

Project Rachel: A healing ministry for those who suffer because of a previous abortion experience. 

Email project-rachel@austindiocese.org or call (512) 949-2487.