October 10, 2014

Stewards of life: Theme for Respect Life Sunday identifies all people as ‘masterpieces of God’s creation’

Clarie Pfister, left, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Terre Haute; John Paul II Catholic High School student Julianna Gallion; Celine Mitchell, a member of St. Patrick Parish; John Paul II Catholic High School student Erin Pfister; and Cassie Mitchell, a member of St. Patrick Parish, hold a banner during the Life Chain in Terre Haute on Oct. 5. (Submitted photo by Tom McBroom)

Clarie Pfister, left, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Terre Haute; John Paul II Catholic High School student Julianna Gallion; Celine Mitchell, a member of St. Patrick Parish; John Paul II Catholic High School student Erin Pfister; and Cassie Mitchell, a member of St. Patrick Parish, hold a banner during the Life Chain in Terre Haute on Oct. 5. (Submitted photo by Tom McBroom)

By Natalie Hoefer

The unborn child in his or her mother’s womb.

The homeless man begging for food.

The elderly woman confined to a wheelchair.

The person reading this article.

Each of these people shares something in common: All are the precious work of God’s hands.

“Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation” was the theme chosen by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for this year’s Respect Life Sunday, celebrated on Oct. 5.

Throughout southern and central Indiana, many priests spoke about the sanctity of life during homilies. And ecumenical Life Chain prayer events raised awareness of the sanctity of—and threats to—life in the womb.

In Indianapolis, a special Respect Life Mass was celebrated at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, during which the archdiocesan Office of Pro-Life and Family Life presented this year’s pro-life award winners.

During his homily at the Mass, Father Patrick Beidelman, pastor-rector of the Cathedral parish and executive director for the archdiocesan Secretariat of Spiritual Life and Worship, likened each person’s call as a steward of life to the “other tenants” mentioned in the Sunday reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew.

“Today, as we gather on this Respect Life Sunday, in which we proclaim the inviolability of human life from its conception to natural death, we must remember that we, as members of the Body of Christ, as God’s children in the Church, we are the ‘others’ to whom Jesus was referring in the parable [of the vineyard tenants],” he said.

“We have been given the opportunity to enjoy the kingdom of God, to work in and for the kingdom of justice and peace that Jesus came to establish, … to use the gifts he gives us for good and to assist others, particularly those in most need and who have no voice, to reach their potential in this life and the life to come.”

As God’s creation, Father Beidelman said, we are called “to imitate his love and devotion to all creation [by] … how we speak to one another, how we work and socialize with one another, and especially how we sort out our problems and differences.

“Let us do so courageously and compassionately, with deep reverence for the image of God that is within each of us.”

During the Mass, the archdiocesan Office of Pro-Life and Family Life recognized one individual and one couple for their contributions to the cause for life during the past year.

An ‘eye-opening’ experience

Curtis Bouchie’s reaction to the news that he would be awarded the Our Lady of Guadalupe Pro-Life Youth Award was a surprised, “Wow, me?”

When Curtis decided to volunteer this summer at Birthline, a ministry of the archdiocese located in Indianapolis that provides assistance to pregnant women and mothers of infants in need, he did not go in with an eye toward receiving an award.

“My grandma has been volunteering there for over 10 years,” said the member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg. “I thought it would be a good idea to go down and see what she does there twice a week. I wanted to see what it’s all about.”

Curtis, a junior at Brownsburg High School, was impressed—so impressed that he came back several more times to volunteer at Birthline.

“I thought it was really helpful to the people who decided to be pro-life,” he said. “We were dealing with real people.

“I would carry supplies to cars and carry donations to the office. I got to deal hands-on with people instead of just organizing shelves or folding clothes all day. I still did that, but working with the people was more fun.”

Curtis said he learned much from working with the clients who visit Birthline.

“They are kind of quiet,” he said. “They’re shy, but grateful. You can tell [Birthline] made an impact.

“Some are single moms, trying to provide for their kid, no father. A lot of it was eye-opening as to how blessed I am with what I have.”

Curtis, the only child of St. Malachy parishioners John and Elaine Bouchie, is also an active volunteer and leader with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. He hopes to attend Bellarmine University, a Catholic college in Louisville, Ky., to study math and actuarial science.

Wherever he goes, he plans to continue supporting the pro-life cause.

“I could really see the effect of what I was doing,” he said. “They had a need, and I liked being able to help.”

A pregnancy center ‘built on love and support’

In the spring of 1994, Mary Keck had a vision while on a retreat.

“I had this vision of a pregnancy center at this building that was for sale in Brookville,” she recalled. “That’s when God planted the seed for the Pregnancy Help Center.”

Four months later, Mary’s and her husband Matthew’s 19-month-old son, also named Matthew, contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and was sent to St. Mary Hospital in Evansville.

But Mary and her husband Matthew had no health insurance, and at the time had six other children to care for.

“People of our parish [St. Michael Parish in Brookville] and Brookville, knowing we had no insurance, started a fund for us,” said Matthew. “All the money collected for the fund went to pay the hospital and doctor bills.”

But their son did not survive.

“The hospital forgave the entire hospital bill,” Matthew said. “When all the doctor bills were paid, there was money left over in that account. That was the seed for [the Pregnancy Help Center]. The entire community played a big part of starting it.”

And not just with their money, Mary added.

“The people of St. Michael and the entire community and our friends put out their love. The center is built on love and support.”

The entirely volunteer-run Pregnancy Help Center in Brookville has grown over the last 19 years. It now offers 16 services, including pregnancy testing, post-abortion counseling, parenting instruction, financial classes and more.

For this—and more—the Kecks received the Archbishop O’Meara Respect Life Award.

The Kecks, married for 37 years with eight living children and 12 grandchildren, have made a family affair of the Pregnancy Help Center and the logistics business they own and operate.

“The center is on the first floor of a building that has our family business on the second floor,” said Matthew. “We have four members of our family working at the logistics business. So when people come into the Pregnancy Health Center for diapers or baby items, the four boys upstairs might help distribute them.

“We also have three of our children on the board of directors for the Pregnancy Health Center. It’s kind of become like a family ministry.”

While the Kecks see their “greatest pro-life triumph” as their eight children and 12 grandchildren, the couple expressed gratitude for the award.

“I thought about all the people who over 19 years have so selflessly given their time, so many benefactors that have supported us, the churches in the community who donate to us, and all the people who volunteered who have never had any recognition,” said Matthew of his reaction to the news that he and Mary had been chosen for the award.

“This award really gives them the recognition that they deserve for all the hard work that they’ve done.”

“Amen,” said Mary in agreement. “We are just so thankful.” †

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