The diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities held a gritty inservice for local Respect Life coordinators.
The annual training and information session took place Oct. 6, the vigil of Respect Life Sunday.
"The whole object of this is so you can get some additional information that you can use in your tool box to bring out into the parishes," said Cheryl Calire, director of the diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities, in welcoming the 60 guests including a dozen new parish coordinators.
Special guest speaker Daniel Lawson, LMHC, CASC, a solution-based Catholic therapist who uses stories of faith in his practice, offered to the attendees, what he called, the gift of grit.
"Grit is the ability to persevere amidst adversity. It's the ability to withstand the trials of life," he said. "For us to achieve anything, to persevere in holiness or the work we do, you're going to need to have it to some degree."
He used St. Teresa of Calcutta as a role model, explaining how she had the fortitude to carry on in the face of adversity and challenging times. She refused to allow age or illness to stop her from helping the poorest of India. Lawson related a story of her asking a baker for food for a starving boy. After the baker spit in her face, she said, "That was for me. What do you have for the boy?" She didn't back down.
Lawson outlined five points of grit. Telling those present they should have a place to fail, a hobby where they do not have to feel perfect. They should also surround themselves with people who will challenge them to be better people. Gritty people don't see success as a goal, but as a process, so that they never stop achieving. This can be done by "playing an infinite game," not living a life with a win/lose ending, but a win/learn model. Lastly, people should remember that all their work is for God, so popularity should not be a goal.
Lawson pointed out that many heroes of the Bible - David, Paul and Moses for instance - were murderers. "But none of these people are remembered for that. God obviously works with whatever. If he can't work through you, he'll work around you," he said. "Every obstacle is really an opportunity."
A surprise guest speaker came from the Rochester-based Feminists Choosing Life of New York. Calire met executive director Michele Sterlace-Accorsi at the Human Life Foundation Awards dinner in New York City just a week before.
FCLNY is a statewide human rights coalition that spreads awareness about the consistent-life ethic and the philosophy of non-violence. The consistent-life ethic is the recognition of value in the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death.
"We oppose abortion. We oppose war, physician-assisted suicide, the death penalty. We're an educational coalition of feminists," Sterlace-Accorsi explained. "We don't want pro-choice women to co-op that term feminism. It's a bit of a buzzword. I think there are a lot of pro-life Catholic Christian people who hear feminism and are taken aback. Like, what is that? My son said Jesus was the first feminist. What is feminism? What does that mean? It's just the recognition of the value and dignity of human life, particularly in women. It's providing women with the same opportunities - social, economic and political - as men."
Local coordinators with 40 Days for Life, Vine & Branches, Sidewalk Advocates for Life and Rosary Novena also gave updates on their work.
Bishop Richard J. Malone celebrated Mass with newly named vicar general, Father Peter Karalus and Father Ivan Trujillo concelebrating. The bishop spoke on the recent V Encuentro, a gathering of 3,000 Hispanics answering the call to be missionary disciples. The Texas convention hall, where they met, showed a great devotion for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Dating back to 1531, the Our Lady of Guadalupe icon is one of the rare images of a pregnant Virgin Mary, who instructed devout Mexican Juan Diego to deliver messages to his bishop.
"By embracing that mission entrusted to him, Juan Diego helped to bring Christ's transforming love to a culture once oppressed by death and a dismal future for people when neither dignity or human life were revered," Bishop Malone said.
Diego lived in a time of human sacrifice. Today, preborn children are aborted, the elderly are encouraged and assisted to take their own lives, and criminals are placed on death row.
"How do we respond? Today's Scriptures give us a clue. In the first reading (Gen.2:18-24), that creation story, we remember that every human person is created in God's image and likeness. Every human person is loved by God and called by God to eternal union with Him. We're also created to be in communion with one another, and to depend on and care for one another. So, we hear in a reading from Hebrews, that second reading, that Jesus consecrates us and celebrates His communion with us by calling us brothers, and that means sisters as well, that we are together through Christ as a family of His people. The Psalm we just sang reminds us to walk in God's ways. That's what a missionary disciple is all about. Like St. Juan Diego, you're entrusted, every one of us, with ways in our lives. You know the ways you're called to. I know mine. We know when we do well. We know when we fail. I know when I fail. We're each given specific ways to manifest that call to God and to one another."
Do we visit aging parents? Do we offer support for young parents, or those expecting children? The bishop asked before thanking the pro-life ministry of the diocese for caring through uncertain times. "This is how we build a culture of life," he said.
Sarah Ambrosia, from St. Peter Parish in Lewiston, was one of the new respect life coordinators commissioned after the Mass. She said she took on the role simply because her pastor asked.
"He's seen that I am active in the pro-life community, so I was more than happy to say yes. He wanted to revitalize the pro-life group at our parish. Last year we got it going again and hopefully we're going to be doing some good things there," she said.
She first thought about joining the pro-life movement about five years ago, after seeing people pray for an end to abortion as part of the National Life Chain. "That was the first time it sparked an interest for me. It's wonderful seeing so many people coming together. So, I started researching it and looking into the topic," she said.
This was her first inservice. "It was great to be around so many people who are here for the same reasons and the same cause. It's inspiring. It makes me want to go back to my parish and share with the committee and do more."