September 2, 2014
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception” (2270). The Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Fort Worth strives to protect human lives through its services, which include Youth for Life, Rachel Ministries, and Gabriel Project. These three major diocesan pro-life programs are made possible through the office’s biggest fundraiser of the year: The Bishop’s 10th Annual Respect Life Gala.
This year’s gala, set for Sept. 27, will feature Bishop Michael Olson as its primary speaker. All proceeds will go to the Respect Life Office so the diocese can carry out its pro-life mission.
Last year’s gala raised the largest total in its history, bringing in approximately $160,000. However, Respect Life Director Michael Demma said the office needs at least $240,000 to cover ministry costs for the year.
“While the $160,000 seems like a lot, we’re not making our goal to support the small amount we’re doing. There is a whole set of life issues that we’re unable to address because we do not have the programs and the staff to do it,” said Demma.
The programs provided by Youth for Life educate and enrich teens to become future leaders of the Church. They are educated in chastity and pro-life issues, encouraging them to carry out its mission statement to “defend life and fight the culture of death.”
Youth for Life presents several programs throughout the year, including Pro-Life Boot Camp, Lock-In for Life, and the March for Life pilgrimage. Scholarships are also provided for the various programs, targeted at those who cannot afford to attend certain events.
Hundreds of students attend Youth for Life events throughout the year. Coordinator Sue Laux said she sees the impact the programs make on the teens involved. “The kids go onto college and stay involved in the pro-life [movement],” she said.
Lisa Arth, a parent and parishioner at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Keller, has one daughter in college and another in high school who have been extremely involved in Youth for Life over the years. Arth said her daughters are better Catholics and pro-life advocates because of these programs. “I don’t think they would be as strong in their faith life or in their understanding of the traps out there,” she said.
She added that her daughter Adeline is a student leader at the University of Arizona’s Newman Center and participates in campus pro-life activities. “I see such a difference in the kids who participate in these programs versus the kids who don’t,” said Arth. “We need these young people to be on board. If you don’t have the youth, you don’t have a future.”
Since 2001, countless men and women have found healing in the Diocese of Fort Worth through Rachel Ministries. The program helps both men and women heal after abortion through the ministry’s retreats, monthly support groups, and other healing services. Rachel Ministries Coordinator Betsy Kopor said that through the financial and spiritual support of the annual gala, the ministry is able to provide help and healing for those suffering from the effects of abortion.
“People are not prepared for how they are going to feel afterwards. Abortion can hinder relationships; it can cause depression and extreme guilt, and sometimes,” leads to other serious consequences, “such as post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Kopor. “It’s so wonderful to know that [the gala attendees] support our work, and they support what we do.”
Kopor also said the Rachel’s Vineyard retreats are their most effective and popular healing strategy. There are six retreats per year: four in English and two in Spanish. The gala helps provide partial scholarships to those who are unable to afford to go otherwise.
“They say going on a weekend retreat is like six months of therapy,” Kopor emphasized.
Forty year-old Emily (not her real name) attended a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat in 2010 after having had an abortion at age 18. Following her abortion, she felt anxious and alone. She had a drinking problem, and it affected all of her relationships. The retreat assisted in saving her marriage; she is now at peace.
“I could never forgive myself until I went to Rachel’s Vineyard. A lot of people are being healed. I see the healing that this child has brought to me and those around me,” said Emily. “If people really knew the death and destruction that [abortion] brings, they wouldn’t make that choice. I am really healed from it.”
Emily is regularly involved in the ministry and serves on the retreat team. She wants people to know that there is “life after that terrible choice.”
“Betsy and all involved have such caring hearts and they are servants. All the focus is on healing. You watch someone go from death to resurrection from Friday to Sunday. You watch the life of Christ just sink in. It’s amazing,” said Emily. “I feel like I owe it my life, and I know there are a lot of women and men who feel the same way — that their lives are changed.”
Gabriel Project, another ministry supported by the Respect Life Office, is a parish-based organization designed to help women in crisis pregnancy situations. The program offers volunteer mentors and a 24-hour hotline for pregnant women in need. The gala’s financial support helps the ministry purchase needed training materials for women who wish to volunteer for the program.
Volunteers are called “angels” who mentor pregnant women. Just as Gabriel said to Mary “Do not be afraid,” Gabriel Project angels help women through their difficult times through friendship and spirituality.
Since 2003, Angela Walters, volunteer training coordinator and founding member of the Gabriel Project program in the diocese, has worked to make sure pregnant women have the help they need. She said Gabriel Project helps pregnant women in various situations, including abuse, lack of the father’s support, or even those who face temporarily difficult situations.
“We are not counselors or social workers. We are just women who want to help other women through a difficult time,” said Walters.
She added that both the mentors and the women being mentored are deeply impacted in profound ways.
“They become friends, and their spirituality is strengthened — the spirituality they have personally and the spirituality they share with other people through the program itself,” explained Walters. “Their lives are changed forever when they see that baby is born. They are thankful for God’s hand in everything.”
One woman, Rosa (who chose not to share her last name), shared how she met a sidewalk counselor outside of an abortion center who convinced her not to have an abortion and referred her to Gabriel Project.
“I explained to her that I didn’t have anyone else,” said Rosa, adding that volunteers helped her find a place to live and helped her with her pregnancy. “After that, they told me that they would help me finish my high school, and would help pay for the things that I needed for my baby. I’m really glad Gabriel Project helped me. Everything that I have and I almost have is because of Gabriel Project. They still help me with my baby.”
For more information or to register for this year’s Annual Pro-Life Gala, visit www.advancementfoundation.org, or call 817-560-2452, ext. 118.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception” (2270). The Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Fort Worth strives to protect human lives through its services, which include Youth for Life, Rachel Ministries, and Gabriel Project. These three major diocesan pro-life programs are made possible through the office’s biggest fundraiser of the year: The Bishop’s 10th Annual Respect Life Gala. This year’s gala, set for Sept. 27, will feature Bishop Michael Olson as its primary speaker. All proceeds will go to the Respect Life Office so the diocese can carry out its pro-life mission.