We build a culture of life by reflecting Christ, says bishop at Respect Life Gala

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

October 13, 2014

Bishop Michael Olson addresses pro-lifers at the Bishop’s 10th Annual Catholic Respect Life Gala, his first gala as bishop of Fort Worth. (Photo by Juan Guajardo / North Texas Catholic)

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It’s a call for help Betsy Kopor never tires of answering. At least 400 times a year, women suffering from post-abortion trauma phone her Rachel Ministries office hoping to find forgiveness and peace.

“I hear the pain they have been living with for years,” says Kopor, who founded the ministry in 2001. “Most of the people who call had an abortion five to seven years ago. They tried to live with it, and get past it, but couldn’t.”

Through retreats, peer counseling, and referrals, the Rachel Ministries coordinator lets them know about the Divine Mercy of God.

“The saddest thing is they don’t believe God can forgive them for what they’ve done,” she says, describing a mindset that often leads to substance abuse, promiscuity, and other self-destructive behavior. “It’s a terrible tragedy to think God doesn’t want anything to do with you.”

The healing and post-abortion care women find at Rachel Ministries was showcased at the 10th Annual Bishop’s Catholic Respect Life Gala held Sept. 27 at the Omni Hotel in downtown Fort Worth. In a five-minute video a woman shared the story of her struggles that began with a late-term abortion at age 13. Ten years later, a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat helped end her ongoing depression and suicidal tendencies.

Money raised at the gala supports Rachel Ministries, Youth for Life, the Gabriel Project, which serves women in crisis pregnancies, and other Respect Life activities in the diocese.

The fundraiser underwrites six Rachel’s Vineyard retreats, offered in English and Spanish each year to abortion’s second victim — the mother.

“I’m grateful to everyone who attended the banquet. Because of their generosity, I’m able to do what I do with Rachel Ministries,” Kopor explains. “The diocese never wants anyone to go without help because of money.”

More than 750 people attended the 2014 gathering — setting a record for the annual event. Table sponsorships and bids for silent and live auction items also increased.

“We made an effort to reach out to parish respect life groups and doubled the mailing list,” says Yolanda Newcomb, special events coordinator for the Advancement Foundation, the fundraising arm of the diocese. “Our new bishop was the keynote speaker. That combination helped fill 75 tables.”

Addressing the audience at his first pro-life banquet as bishop, Bishop Michael Olson left no doubt as to his role in defending life from conception to natural death.

“There are many voices in the pro-life universe,” he told the crowd. “Yet we are here tonight to speak to the particular voice that is Catholic — a voice that during this past year, I have personally become ever more responsible for articulating.”

Referencing St. John Paul II, he said the Church must safeguard the dignity of man against a “culture of death” that exalts the individual and demands the resolution of social problems by killing weaker human beings.

“For rape and violence, it proposes abortion. For crime, it demands capital punishment. For limits in allocation of health care resources, it proposes euthanasia and assisted suicide,” he pointed out.

The Catholic response to this culture is never reactive but directed at the persons most affected and attacked within the milieu of this culture — the weak, the unborn, the terminally ill, and the poor.

“Christ tells us we are called to be the light of the world that we might dispel fear, anguish, and ignorance — the chief component of the culture of death,” Bishop Olson continued. “We are the light of the world when we reflect Christ in our actions and in our words. When we are transparent and honest — in a word, truthful, so He might shine through us.”

In closing, he asked the gathering of pro-life supporters to be vigilant in examining how they live their daily lives in favor of life.

“If we are not honest and compassionate, we block and promote a barrier to the light that Christ shines on human life,” the bishop suggested.

Among the bishop’s listeners were the young members of Nolan Catholic Students for Life and the diocesan Youth for Life who volunteered to set up tables, work the silent auction, and validate parking receipts. But their presence at the gala had an even greater purpose, according to Sean Gillen, president of the Nolan pro-life group.

“I think Bishop Olson wanted us to be visible at the banquet so everyone could see that youth are involved in pro-life work,” the Nolan senior explained. “The youth in the Catholic Church are very important for the pro-life movement and mystical body of Christ, in general, because we are the future of the Church. We have an important role in pro-life activities, involvement, and awareness.”

Youth for Life Coordinator Sue Laux says young people are continually becoming more pro-life.

“The younger generation is better educated on the issue, and that’s what Youth for Life is all about — to educate and train,” Laux said. “The kids who participate in our events are encouraged to reach out to their peers, and they do.”

Her ministry organizes an annual Lock-in for Life, a trip to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., a summer Pro-Life Boot Camp, and a biannual chastity awareness rally. Funds raised at the gala subsidize programs and provide participation incentives. The impact social media is having on young people is a targeted topic for upcoming programs.

“It’s tainting their behavior and interaction with one another,” said Laux referring to the general teen population. The temptations presented by digital communication devices “desensitize kids and that leads to promiscuity and use of Internet porn. Those are huge things hurting young people.”

The 2015 Bishop’s Catholic Respect Life Gala is set for Nov. 7, 2015.

It’s a call for help Betsy Kopor never tires of answering. At least 400 times a year, women suffering from post-abortion trauma phone her Rachel Ministries office hoping to find forgiveness and peace. “I hear the pain they have been living with for years,” says Kopor, who founded the ministry in 2001. “Most of the people who call had an abortion five to seven years ago. They tried to live with it, and get past it, but couldn’t.”

Published (until 10/20/2114)
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