March 16, 2007

McQuade: Dialogue can change minds, hearts to respect life

Deirdre McQuade, the U.S. bishops’ primary spokesperson on abortion and related life issues, speaks at the third annual Catholic Pro-Life Dinner on March 3 in Indianapolis.

Deirdre McQuade, the U.S. bishops’ primary spokesperson on abortion and related life issues, speaks at the third annual Catholic Pro-Life Dinner on March 3 in Indianapolis.

By Mary Ann Wyand

(Listen to the author read this story)

Scripture offers advice on how to communicate the Gospel of Life to people influenced by the culture of death, Deirdre McQuade told pro-life supporters attending the third annual Catholic Pro-Life Dinner on March 3 in Indianapolis.

Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well can help pro-life supporters talk to abortion-minded people, she said, and even change their minds and hearts to respect life.

“Abortion doesn’t help women,” she said, but often “they know somebody who has had an abortion and they feel like they can’t call themselves pro-life because that would mean ‘I reject her.’ ”

McQuade, who is the U.S. bishops’ primary spokesperson on abortion and related life issues, said an estimated 47 million unborn babies have been killed in abortion since 1973, but actually “we have no idea just how much blood has been spilled because of abortion in this country, and that’s just the United States.”

The Scripture passage from the Gospel of John (Jn 4:1-42) helps us trust that God is at work in and through us, she said, and that even the most ardent advocates of abortion rights, euthanasia, assisted suicide and embryonic stem-cell research are able to commit to the dignity of all persons from conception to natural death.

McQuade said 10 specific moments related in this Gospel story can help people build the culture of life in society.

First, people of faith need to commit to a life of holiness in order to go through foreign territories and evangelize others, she said. Along the way, they need to pause for sustenance often through prayer and the sacraments.

Christians also need to meet others “where they live,” McQuade said, “not where we want or need them to be.”

By starting a conversation and nurturing a relationship, she said, they can engage people in dialogue about life issues rather than alienating them with harsh language.

“Assume good will,” she explained, then listen to their opinions, “acknowledge the truth” in what they say and “speak the truth [to them] in love because incomplete truth really serves no one.”

Next, “honor their questions,” she said, and “offer them something better” in order to move them toward the fullness of truth, the life-giving teachings and practices of the Church, and the sacraments.

Finally, “expect results,” McQuade said. “We have no idea how God is using us, at least not this side of heaven. Look up and see [that] the fields are ripe for harvest. ... It is always possible to do the right thing. God’s grace is sufficient.”

It also helps to offer a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit, she said, for help in finding the right words that will “suffuse them with ease” and lead them to conversion as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well.

“God somehow enters into the brokenness and nastiness of our lives and suffuses it with his Spirit when we’re open to it,” McQuade said. “We, like Jesus, are called to engage others for the culture of life. … This is the work of evangelization. This is what we can do to create the thirst in people. … [Then] say, ‘Jesus Christ is the only answer to that thirst, and making life-affirming choices and serving your neighbor are the ways we live that out in gratitude to God’s goodness to us.’ ”

Pro-life supporters also heard a testimonial from Kirstie Mack of Gary, Ind., who had an abortion several years ago then chose life during a crisis pregnancy last year and received help from the Gabriel Project.

During the dinner, a diocesan priest and six lay volunteers in central and southern Indiana received Pro Vita Awards for distinguished service to the cause of life.

The award recipients are Father Shaun Whittington, chaplain and religion teacher at Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School in Madison; Christ the King parishioner Elizabeth Sowinski of Indianapolis; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioner Kathleen Sadler of Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese; St. Pius X parishioners Tom and Jackie Quarto of Indianapolis; St. John the Apostle parishioner Pat Car of Bloomington; and St. Thomas More parishioner Bernadette Roy of Mooresville.

Servants of the Gospel of Life Sister Diane Carollo, director of the archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry, said after the dinner that she appreciated McQuade’s comments about ways to talk with people who support the culture of death in society.

“What struck me about her thoughts was the emphasis that Jesus always met people where they were and tried to take them beyond that in terms of doing God’s will,” Sister Diane said. “In order to accomplish that, he always initiated a dialogue and was always open to the other person, and that openness is where the truth can slip in.

“I think in our dealings with people who are so-called pro-choice,” she said, “what we have to do is meet them where they’re at and try to take them beyond that, utilizing a dialogue, finding common ground where possible, but always leaving that openness so that God’s truth can enter into that person’s heart, mind and soul. We don’t want to be so abrasive that we close off any possibility or hinder God trying to have an impact on that person.”

The third annual fundraiser was sponsored by the Office for Pro-Life Ministry, the Gabriel Project of Indiana and Catholics United for the Faith.

“The Office for Pro-Life Ministry and the Gabriel Project collaborate, and all the good that is accomplished is made possible by a network of volunteers,” Sister Diane said. “The pro-life office has many programs … and this dinner helps bring in the necessary funds to continue to work effectively in pro-life ministry.” †

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