Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester will once again be able to gather together in person to commence Respect Life Month in October and participate in new and ongoing initiatives to cultivate a culture of life.
On Respect Life Sunday, Oct. 3, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano will celebrate a Mass at 11:15 a.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 296 Flower City Park in Rochester. All are welcome to attend. Last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic and capacity restrictions, plans to gather as a diocese for the start of Respect Life Month were cancelled. Instead, parishes were encouraged to celebrate Respect Life Sunday within their own faith communities.
“There is nothing quite like being in person. There is nothing quite like being able to see, engage and celebrate together in Mass,” said Shannon Kilbridge, associate director of the diocesan Office of Pastoral Services and the director of Office of Life Issues. “It is a drastically different experience to be able to (celebrate Respect Life Month) in person.”
Respect Life Sunday starts the observance of Respect Life Month for the U.S. Catholic Church. To help Catholics understand and value the gift of life and to help establish a culture that preserves it, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops provides yearly resources, such as study and action guides, articles and reflections. Those resources can be found on the U.S. bishops’ website and on the Diocese of Rochester’s LifeROC website, www.liferoc.org.
For this year’s observance of Respect Life Month, the U.S. bishops chose the theme “St. Joseph, defender of life” to coincide with Pope Francis’ declaration to the Year of Joseph, which concludes on the feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.
In addition to Respect Life Month resources, the LifeROC website also offers information about “Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service,” a nationwide USCCB initiative launched in 2019 to encourage parishes and people to support pregnant and parenting moms in need.
“We are encouraging people this year to look at participating (in this program),“ Kilbridge said. “We have a great infrastructure in our diocese to help pair individuals and parishes to walk with moms in need.”
During Respect Life Month and throughout the whole year, the Office of Life Issues seeks to educate more people on some of the life issues currently being debated at the state and federal levels, Kilbridge noted. One issue in particular is the legalization of physician-assisted suicide, also known as medical aid in dying. In January, a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide in New York was reintroduced in the state Senate (bill S6471) and Assembly (bill A4321) for the third time after failing to pass in 2019 and 2020. If passed, this bill would allow individuals with terminal illnesses to obtain from their doctors prescriptions for medications to end their lives.
“We encourage people to continue to stay connected, not only about medical aid in dying possibly coming forward legislatively, but also to understand the kind of opportunities that are available and the hospice and palliative care in our state and in our area,” Kilbridge remarked. “So we would love to expand that information and get people more aware of that and to counter balance the concerns that people might have about end of life care.”
In order to stay updated on issues being debated, Kilbridge said her office is encouraging people to sign up to receive email and text alerts from the USCCB and the New York State Catholic Conference. According to Kilbridge, there is a lot of potential for high-impact kinds of legislation happening this year.
“So we have to, as an office, both work to support connecting people with resources and the immediate impact of moments of crisis in their life and to advocate legally with our legislation to protect life at all stages as well,” she said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more on Respect Life Month and Respect Life resources and to sign up for email and text alerts from USCCB and state Catholic conference, visit www.liferoc.org. To RSVP for the Respect Life Mass, email Shannon Kilbridge at firstname.lastname@example.org.