October 6, 2017

Respect Life Sunday: ‘Life matters because God gives it,’ says Msgr. Stumpf at annual Respect Life Mass

A line of pro-life witnesses extends down a street during a Life Chain rally on Oct. 1 in Bloomington. (Submitted photo by Marian Leahy)

A line of pro-life witnesses extends down a street during a Life Chain rally on Oct. 1 in Bloomington. (Submitted photo by Marian Leahy)

By Natalie Hoefer

On a day that later saw the senseless killing and injuring of hundreds of innocent lives in Las Vegas, Catholics gathered on Oct. 1 to promote respect for life of all stages on the Church’s annual Respect Life Sunday.

At the annual archdiocesan Respect Life Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, Msgr. William F. Stumpf, archdiocesan vicar general, spoke in his homily of the threats to life that have become a reality.

On this day, he said, “Our attention is drawn once again to challenging and frightening realities within our culture: abortion, assisted suicide, embryonic stem-cell research and capital punishment.

“These realities alarmingly remind us that we as a society have lost sight of a fundamental and absolutely essential truth … : ‘that human life is a precious gift from God; that each person who receives this gift has responsibilities toward God, self and others; and that society, through its laws and social institutions, must protect and nurture human life at every stage of its existence’ ” (United States Catholic Bishops Pastoral Plan for Pro‑Life Activities, November 2001).

Msgr. Stumpf noted attitudes that lead to disrespect for life, attitudes that proclaim “that nothing is sacred, … that there is no objective morality, … that we should never suffer or be inconvenienced, … that [you should] put yourself first ... .”

Such attitudes, he said, do not stand against the truth that, with each person made in the image and likeness of God, “each life is sacred and precious … and we cannot discard it like unwanted trash.”

He spoke of other truths that the Catholic Church declares in opposition to current attitudes.

“We proclaim the truth that, while life is complex and complicated, filled at times with headaches, heartaches, sorrows and fears—life always matters.

“We proclaim the truth that, while at times life is inconvenient and difficult and unplanned, nothing and no one is ever unplanned or unwanted—because ultimately the one doing the planning and the wanting is God.”

Quoting from the day’s second reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, Msgr. Stumpf noted that Christians are called to “do nothing out of selfishness or out of vain glory; rather humbly regard others as more important than yourselves” (Phil 2:3).

Not only are Christians called to practice such respect for life, he said, but “we are charged with changing hearts and attitudes. … The Life Chain [event] today and the right to life march in January continually give voice to those truths.” (See related story on page 9 for Life Chain events held on Oct. 1 in central and southern Indiana.)

Taking action to change hearts and minds is not reserved for Respect Life Sunday, Msgr. Stumpf noted. Such actions must be ongoing, and most often effect change “one heart and one mind at a time”—actions such as volunteering for pro-life ministries and organizations, helping at a soup kitchen or reaching out to those in prison.

“These ministries not only change lives but also they change hearts,” he said.

“And thus every time we open ourselves to those who are vulnerable—and especially to those who are vulnerable to being discarded—we not only change lives but hearts.

“And we say to the world once again [that] life matters … because God gives it.”

At the end of the Mass—which he concelebrated with Father Patrick Beidelman, rector of the Cathedral Parish and executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Worship and Evangelization—Msgr. Stumpf joined interim archdiocesan Office of Pro-Life and Family Life director Scott Seibert in recognizing one couple and one individual from the archdiocese for their efforts in promoting forms of respecting life.

Cara and Josh Bach, members of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis, received the annual Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Respect Life Award for their work in promoting adoption as a life-giving alternative to abortion. The couple has five adopted children and started an adoption support group in their parish.

Emily Taylor, a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis, received the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe Pro-Life Youth Award. Emily, 16, was honored for starting and coordinating a Teens for Life group at her high school, Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis. †

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