Behind the scenes of the pro-life movement

The faithful are supporting the pro-life movement in many small ways. Some contribute their art, legal or medical advice, knit blankets for babies, mail out requested materials, run crisis pregnancy centers, manage websites, make phone calls and otherwise contribute to protecting the dignity of life in all stages.

Grass-roots movement

“It really is a movement,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “It’s not just an organization or any one campaign. It’s something that came up from the grass roots. It’s almost an uncountable number of things that are happening.”

In 1975, the bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities addressed perspectives including information and education, public policy efforts and pastoral care, especially to women with unplanned pregnancies, and integrating prayer and liturgical life.

“The vast majority of people in the pro-life movement are unsung heroes,” Doerflinger told Our Sunday Visitor.

Although many have never been heard of nor received public recognition, they continue to be “of enormous importance” with their contributions.

New generation

“One of the great reasons for hope in the movement is the active involvement of so many young people,” he added. “There’s a new generation who are very enthusiastic and very committed.”

And there’s no such thing as too young. “My grandchild, who is 18 months old, prays with us for the babies,” said Tama Kain, who teaches religion and English at St. Patrick School in McCook, Neb.

Kain organized students to collect diapers for an annual project sponsored by the Lincoln Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, who always exceed their goal of donating 50,000 diapers to Catholic Social Services and crisis pregnancy centers. The 50 participating St. Patrick students contributed 6,056.

Pro-life music efforts

When the collection ended in October, the students had a pro-life program and sang the song, “We Want to See the World.”

The song was written by David Burke of Duluth, Ga., a musician, composer of sacred songs and music leader at Mary Our Queen Church in Norcross.

“When the melody came to me, I pictured an angel singing back and forth with children,” he said. “God sent me this song to be heard by expectant parents contemplating an abortion.”

The lyrics are a dialogue between unborn children who are asking their parents to bring them into the world. It’s the most requested song he’s ever written, and he makes the sheet music available for free to churches, schools and pro-life organizations (DavidBurkeSongs.com).

When a group performed it at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Burke said, there was not a dry eye among the thousands attending.

“God is using me as a vessel to bring his voice and message to the world in song,” he said. “I have a dream that some person comes to me someday and says my song made his or her parents choose life instead of an abortion.”

Spiritual adoption

Linda Brenegan of the Respect Life Program in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Md., created paintings that are popular in the pro-life movement. They include a series depicting prenatal development and Little Sweet One posters that are used worldwide for education and in spiritual adoption programs.

Bob Paige of Novi, Mich., sends the paintings out in his solo operation of SpiritualAdoption.org. He initially made and mailed out prayer cards before founding one of the spiritual adoption programs in the United States. Parishes that participate request packets of materials, and so far, he has distributed 3 million cards.

“This has tremendously strengthened my faith because through the Holy Spirit, I am helping people to end abortion,” Paige said. “People are praying for all these little babies.”

Pamela Grothaus joined the spiritual adoption program at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs, Fla. It started in March and ends on Dec. 25 to coincide with Christmas. In the months in between, participants receive emails with prayers, information about prenatal development and Brenegan’s art.

“Prayer is critical,” Grothaus told OSV. “The power and intentions behind it make a difference.”

Getting the message out

John Hergenroeder III, an outdoor advertising specialist in Newville, Pa., makes pro-life billboard posters and hand-held posters, some of which are based on Brenegan’s art (prolifebillboards.com).

“Outdoor advertising is a way to reach more people more often, for less money than any other media,” he said. “When you talk about the sheer volume of people who pass by, it’s a great way to get the message out.”

One of the most gratifying returns, he said, is when he hears that someone chose life because of seeing his hand-held placards.

Lobbying for life

Father Patrick Delahanty and attorney Jason Hall sometimes spend weeks sitting in session when Kentucky legislators convene.

As the public policy arm of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, they stay in touch with lawmakers and keep track of bills that are relevant to the framework of Catholic thought and teaching on social justice and life issues.

“It’s very important to be there and to be watchful,” Father Delahanty said. “If you don’t show up, they’re going to be listening to someone else.” 

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania. This is the last in a three-part Year of Faith series on the diversity of faithful within the Church.