Respect Life Apostolate

 

Respect Life Apostolate

The Respect Life Apostolate (RLA) promotes the Catholic Church’s teachings on respect for and legal protection of every human life from conception to natural death by coordinating educational, spiritual, pastoral, and public policy advocacy efforts with particular focus on those issues in the culture that threaten life - abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and unethical advances in scientific technology.

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38th Annual Respect Life Convention a Success

On Sunday, October 28th, the Respect Life Apostolate welcomed nearly 800 attendees to its 38th Annual Respect Life Convention.  The day-long convention, held at the St. Charles Convention Center, reflected on the theme "Respect God's Masterpieces."  The day included Mass, luncheon, numerous speakers, exhibits, and an opportunity to network with like-minded pro-lifers.  Present were families, young adults, parish pro-life coordinators, representatives from other area pro-life organizations, and elected officials.

ICD Youth GroupDuring the luncheon program, the winners of the Bishop McNicholas and Cardinal Carberry awards were announced.  The youth group from Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne Prairie took home the Bishop McNicholas award for their pro-life service efforts.  The ICD youth group, led by youth minister Kristina Radley, have been regular attendees at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. as well as the monthly Helpers of God's Precious Infants Mass and 40 Days for Life.  The youth have also been involved in a wide variety of service projects focused on upholding the dignity of all human life.   

Photo by Lisa JohnstonThe winners of the Cardinal Carberry award were Emily Newsham and Jim Reardon.  Both Emily and Jim have been long-time volunteers at the Respect Life Convention as well as being involved in the parish pro-life groups and March for Life bus captains.  Jim is a parishoner of St. Alban Roe and was part of the first pro-life gathering in downtown St. Louis in 1973.  For him, the 1973 Roe decision was particularly touching since his youngest son was born in January of 1973.  Emily is a parishoner at St. Paul Parish in St. Paul and has been described by friends as being "100% volunteer with a servant heart."  In accepting the award Emily noted, "When you're in it for life, you're in it for life!"

The highlight of the day was the keynote presented by Melissa Ohden.  Melissa shared how she discovery the real story behind her birth and life, as a survivor of a failed saline abortion.  Far from being tragic or full of hatred, however, Melissa's story showed the beauty of God's remarkable love.  Through God's great timing, she was able to meet her biological paternal grandparents and share with them the joy of her oldest daughter, Olivia.  Her keynote was a reminder that abortion is not an abstract concept, but one with a face and a name and how much our prayers and pro-life efforts can make a difference.  (News coverage of Melissa's address is available here.)

Dr. ReardonFollowing the luncheon and keynote address, attendees had the opportunity to select from a variety of workshop presentations.  Presenters included Dr. David Reardon, Nancy Valko, RN, Tyler McClay, and Sheryl Crosier.  An adoption panel presented the perspectives of those who had made an adoption plan for their child, adoptive parents, and Archdiocesan efforts to assist adoptive families.  Additionally, a panel of young adults presented tips and information to help young people remain pro-life on college campuses and at work.

Attendees also had the opportunity to visit with over 45 exhibitors.  Exhibitors included pro-life organizations and other Catholic vendors sharing information about their programs and services as well as selling merchandise.Knights of Columbus Exhibit

Overall, the day was a great success, allowing attendees to be nourished spiritually and intellectually.  Attendees left armed with new information to share with family, friends, and fellow parishoners and were inspiried to continue building the Culture of Life.  A heartfelt thanks to all of the staff and volunteers who helped make the day possible.  

If you missed the Convention this year, make plans to join us for the 39th Annual Convention next October!

Keynote

Are We Not Dying Fast Enough?

By Tom Grenchik - REPRINTED FROM THE LIFE ISSUES FORUM 

Tom Grenchik When the hospice movement began to get traction in the United States in the 1970s, it brought a healthy attitude toward the treatment of patients who were nearing death.  Rather than focusing on curing what could not be cured, hospice care centered on making the dying patient as comfortable as possible.  Naturally, this included medications that kept the patient stable and comfortable, while providing food and fluids.  If the patient was dying from cancer, the family allowed the patient to die from the cancer, and not from starvation, dehydration or a treatable infection.  Throughout the dying process, good hospice care witnesses to the dignity of the human person.   Countless are the patient and compassionate hospice workers who teach us the sacredness of this holy time period when one transitions from this life to the next.       

Yet recent articles in the Washington Post are raising concerns about a possible growing trend in some hospice care.  The Post suggests that as hospice programs enroll more patients who are not actually near death, a pattern of life-endangering doses of pain killers is emerging.  Without delving into the accuracy of this charge, it does tend to coincide with other concerns over a perceived growing practice of “stealth euthanasia” in some hospitals, nursing homes and even hospice programs.

Reader responses to the articles fell into three categories: families that had a positive experience with hospice care; people working in hospice care who found the articles unfair; and suffering families who felt that the death of a loved one was indeed expedited.  The articles told of fairly stable patients enrolled in hospice for “pain management” or “respite,” who instead were taken off their normal prescriptions, such as diabetes or blood pressure medicines, and given excessive doses of pain-killers.  The pain-killers made them disoriented and unable to eat or drink, justifying even heavier doses of morphine to end their resulting discomfort.  Patients don’t live long when food, fluids and helpful medications are replaced by ever increasing doses of morphine.

StatueAs one family member commented in reaction to the Post article: “Right up until the day my mother began hospice ‘care,’ … she had been eating regular meals on her own, had no problems with swallowing, and was mentally ‘with-it.’ … She was convinced to go into hospice to ‘be more comfortable.’ Within 24 hours of beginning hospice ‘care’ she was in a severely tormented subconscious state and never regained consciousness. She was no longer able to eat or drink on her own and since this was hospice ‘care’ she was given no fluids or sustenance. She was dead in five days.”

 Catholic teaching certainly allows for the use of pain-killers, and in progressively higher doses if pain increases.  But ideally this is balanced against the patient remaining conscious if at all possible.  Preparing for death is often a time for healing relationships and restoring family unity.  This is greatly aided when the patient is kept comfortable  and conscious.  However, if there is a growing trend to cease comfort care and ramp up pain-killers, even for those whose pain is already under control, that would dramatically change what most would hope and expect from hospice care.  As one family noted, the response to any request was always more pain killers.

 What would drive such a trend?  Have the health care and insurance companies noticed  that sick and dying patients are very expensive, so shortening the dying process saves resources? Is there a  general fear of death that welcomes a lethal overdose, rather than the dying process?  Or could this be another inroad of the culture of death, which treats human lives as expendable when they are no longer productive?

 Whatever the extent or cause of this trend, as people of life we should do several things. First, we need to pray and work to build a culture of life. Second, we need to take care to make sure that our loved ones receive appropriate end-of-life care (and speak up if this isn’t the case).  Last, but certainly not least, we should go out of our way to thank the hospice workers, nurses and doctors who truly value their patients, all the way through the natural process of dying. The best solution to bad care is providing and encouraging good and loving care, enabling each of us to live even our final days with dignity.

Tom Grenchik is Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Click here to learn more about the bishops’ pro-life activities.

Action Alert: Save Two Missouri Pro-Life Bills

The Missouri General Assembly reconvenes on Sept. 10 for the 2014 veto session. This means there is less than three weeks left to contact your representatives about two very important pro-life bills.

The first, HB 1307, would extend the reflection period after consultation to 72 hours before a woman has an abortion. Abortion is a life-changing procedure – for both the baby and the mother. Women need time to review all the medical information and alternatives available. This bill provides that. 

The second, HB 1132, would provide a tax credit increase for pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes. The assistance these organizations help women to choose life for their unborn children by providing the necessary tangible support which she might not be able to receive otherwise. 

Both of these bills were passed, but were vetoed by Governor Nixon. In the veto session on Sept. 10, the General Assembly can override both of the vetoes of Gov. Nixon. Contact your representative today to explain why these laws are the right choice for Missourians and urge their support. 

For more information, click here.

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