September 11, 2015

Religious Education Supplement

Pro-life and catechetical leaders collaborate to spread the Gospel of life

Young women from SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood pose on Feb. 8 wearing clothes highlighted at a fashion show at the Indianapolis South Deanery faith community. Several events that day raised awareness of human trafficking. The clothes in the fashion show were designed and created by Cambodian women rescued from human trafficking. The events of the day were organized by parish leaders of pro-life, catechetical and other ministries. (Submitted photo)

Young women from SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood pose on Feb. 8 wearing clothes highlighted at a fashion show at the Indianapolis South Deanery faith community. Several events that day raised awareness of human trafficking. The clothes in the fashion show were designed and created by Cambodian women rescued from human trafficking. The events of the day were organized by parish leaders of pro-life, catechetical and other ministries. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

In his message for Lent earlier this year, Pope Francis invited parishes around the world to be “islands of mercy in the midst of a sea of indifference.”

Pro-life and catechetical leaders in SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood heeded the pontiff’s call by helping parishioners grow in awareness of homelessness and reach out to help homeless youths in Johnson County.

Collaboration between pro-life advocates and parishioners involved in catechesis at the Indianapolis South Deanery faith community has sparked interest from other archdiocesan parishes, and can serve as a model of how such parish ministries can work together to spread more widely the good news about the dignity and sanctity of life.

SS. Francis and Clare specifically worked with the Franklin-based KIC-IT (Kids in Crisis Intervention Team) in a multifaceted pro-life and catechetical effort.

“It’s part of the continuum from conception to natural death,” said Jim Recasner, a leader in the parish’s Respect Life Committee. “As a part of all of this, we met pregnant young ladies. As a parish, we’ve gotten into an ongoing relationship with KIC-IT to help these moms through the Gabriel Project.”

The Gabriel Project is a parish-based pro-life organization that gives support to mothers in crisis pregnancies.

Patricia McGill, SS. Francis and Clare Parish’s coordinator of religious education, said that children in the catechetical program learned last spring about homelessness in age-appropriate ways, and “how it’s our responsibility as Christians to help end that cycle for them.”

The relationship between the parish and KIC-IT that began with this collaboration has been sustained, says Monica Robinson, coordinator of youth ministry at SS. Francis and Clare Parish.

“There are people from our parish who are volunteering there now,” she said. “So the beauty and gift [of working together] has just been amazing. And it’s because of the collaboration.”

The common effort to learn about homelessness and to help those who suffer from it at SS. Francis and Clare came on the heels of a similar initiative on Feb. 8 when pro-life, catechetical and other ministries came together to help the parish and the broader community learn about human trafficking and to help its victims.

They worked with Center for Global Impact, a Greenwood-based Christian ministry that helps women who were victims of human trafficking in Cambodia.

The day dedicated to human trafficking at SS. Francis and Clare fell on the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese saint who died in 1947 and had been sold into slavery. It included talks about human trafficking on the local and international levels, sampling of dishes made from recipes of women rescued from human trafficking in Cambodia, and a fashion show featuring clothes designed and made by the women.

According to Robinson, the event was publicized widely and was attended by several hundred people, many from beyond the parish.

“Our goal was not just parish awareness, it was community awareness,” she said. “We had a lot of people from the community attend.”

And all of this happened because of the common effort of parish pro-life, catechetical and other ministry leaders.

“These efforts helped open our minds and hearts a little more to the power of working together, and the impact that we can make in working together,” Robinson said. “That’s been a fruit from it, for sure.”

“For me, it’s almost essential,” said Recasner of the collaboration. “The youths and young people are the future of our Church. To be able to work together with the ministries that help develop their faith [is important].”

Such collaboration has also taken place at St. Joseph University Parish in Terre Haute.

Members of its Pro-Life Committee and the men and women’s ACTS teams (a retreat and faith renewal program) worked together to sponsor a day of reflection in September 2014 on the Divine Mercy devotion and its relevance for pro-life advocacy. Catholics from across the Terre Haute Deanery attended it.

Middle school students in St. Joseph’s religious education program have learned about the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life from catechist Amy Langham.

“I try not only to teach them, but for them to have dialogue about the life issues,” she said. “I encourage them to dialogue about life issues because they want to have a voice, and we need to have the teenagers know more about their Catholic faith so that they can express it to others that may not see what Catholics are like.”

Connie Fitch, a leader on St. Joseph’s Pro-Life Committee, has encouraged such collaboration at the parish level and beyond with such community pro-life organizations as Wabash Valley Right-to-Life.

“It’s important to collaborate because you can spread the message,” Fitch said. “You have a larger audience to share the message with. And I think it’s important that we not only educate our fellow parishioners, but our community about what a precious gift from God that life is.” †

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