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21 pro-life ideas for building a culture of life

“Be Not Afraid” is the theme for Respect Life Month, an annual event observed by the Catholic Church throughout the United States to shine a light on the importance of defending and protecting the dignity of all human life, made in the image and likeness of God.
 
The culture of life will grow as long as we are willing to play our part. While not
everyone is called to full time prolife ministry or advocacy, we are all called to help build the culture of life within our families and communities—to walk with those who are vulnerable or hurting; to speak up on behalf of the innocent; to bear witness to the truth about abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and other key pro-life issues.
 
Below are ideas for individuals or parishes to do, organized according to the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ Four Arms of Pro-Life Ministry. What is God calling you to do? During this Respect Life Month choose one of these activities and be not afraid to show that you are pro-life.
 
For more information on any of these ideas, call the Respect Life Office 658-6110 ext. 1176 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
 
Prayer and worship
1. Pray. Pray for the unborn, the elderly, those who hold public office, for prisoners and their families, for conversion of sinners, for refugees, for those suffering loss from natural disasters, for the culture of life to grow.
2. Organize a virtual pro-life prayer group.
3. Join Nine Days for Life.
4. Take part in 40 Days for Life or Life Chain.
5.  Begin a Cenacle of Life at your parish.
6. Fast from something you like as a sacrifice for a pro-life intention each day in October and encourage others to do so.
 
Public Education
7. Become informed about all life issues: abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, hunger and the poor, capital punishment, embryonic stem cell research, etc. Begin here and here.
8. Purchase (or download and print) pro-life pamphlets, booklets, etc. for the parish bookrack in your church.
9. Get permission to distribute USCCB-materials and pro-life articles in pews at your parish.
10. Decorate a bulletin board in the parish hall or religious education area with pro-life messages.
11. Bring pro-life speakers to your parish group or religious education class. Check out the Respect Life Speakers Bureau for ideas.
12. Donate pro-life education materials to school health offices and libraries.
13. Sponsor a pro-life movie night for your parish teens.
Pastoral Care
14. Collect maternity and baby clothes to give to pregnant women in need. Have a “baby shower” to raise funds and donations to assist Birthright or other pregnancy care centers.
15. Encourage anyone who has had an abortion to seek help from Project Rachel.
16. Donate food to your local food shelf.
17. Donate clothing or baked goods to homeless shelters in your community.
18. Become a trained Hospice volunteer.
19. Visit your local nursing home—ask how you can help offer companionship to residents.
 
Public Policy
20. Become informed about pro-life issues and legislation at the state and national level; stay updated by joining the Respect Life Roman Catholic Diocese Facebook Group.
21. Attend the Annual March for Life events in Montpelier and Washington, D.C.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Worship and social justice

By Steven R. Marchand
 
It has been said that one of most striking characteristics of modernity is the fragmentation of the once-cohesive social fabric that held together political, moral and social communities. Concretely, this view of life results in many either-or ultimatums where a truly Christian view would suggest a both-and response.
 
In Catholicism, we hold many paradoxes together -- such as grace and nature, faith and reason, scripture and tradition, body and soul -- in such a way that each element remains in place in tandem with the other. True Christian teaching keeps us from veering into any kind of extremism.
 
Unfortunately, there crept into the minds of many in the Church in the mid and late 20th century a kind of dualism that pitted the worthy celebration of the liturgy against service to the poor and social activism. If one used resources to beautify the liturgy one was accused of stealing from the poor, and conversely, those laity, priests and religious who sought out the poor and marginalized were accused of abandoning prayer and the worship of God.
 
In reality, however, these two missions of the Church -- worship of God and service in the world -- are two sides of the same coin. It is impossible for the Christian community to worship God at Mass, hear the message of the Gospel and ignore those in need around them.
 
In the Old Testament, the connection between worship and justice is clear. In the Book of Amos we read, “Even though you offer me your burnt offering and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:22-24).
 
In the New Testament, St. Paul warns both who would seek to put worship and justice over the other in 1 Corinthians 10-11. He begins by pointing out that it is hypocritical for the community that celebrates the Mass to do so while the poor go hungry. He follows that by stressing the importance of eliminating abuses at the Lord’s Supper and participating in the Eucharist only worthily.
 
In fact, both the worship of God and service to the disadvantaged are aspects of justice and charity. We all have a duty to pray and worship God according to the mind of the Church, to offer to God only the best of what we have in our churches (like music and sacred art) as a matter of rendering to God what is due.
 
These worthy services are for the edification of the whole Christian people, the rich and poor alike. The virtue of religion helps us to grow in our relationship with God through our attention and participation in the liturgy. Our participation in the Eucharist ties us into the redeeming sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for our salvation.
As the Second Vatican Council reminded us, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the power and life of the Church. The King of Kings deserves all the glory we can render Him as He is made present again on our altars.
 
And serving the Lord at the altar should be part of a seamless life of Christian charity. The spiritual treasure we receive at Mass should inspire and inflame our hearts with charity in service to our neighbor. Indeed, the Christian’s motive for social service and justice is that Christ himself is served when we serve those in need.
 
There is no contradiction then between service at the altar of the Cross and the altar of world, for Christ died that we all might have life and have it to the full.
 
As Catholics, we are all obliged to attend Mass with a pure heart and with great praise. At the end of every Mass, we are equally challenged to bring the
Good News and the love that we have first received from Christ into the world.
 
Let us worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness and remember that we serve the same Christ in both our worship and our service.
 
--Steven R. Marchand, a seminarian for the Diocese of Burlington, is scheduled to be ordained to the transitional diaconate by Bishop James F. Checchio, bishop of Metuchen, on Sept. 28 in Rome at the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican at the Altar of the Chair.
 

Originally published in Vermont Catholic magazine, Fall 2017.
 

Obituary: Deacon Walter Luther Brenneman Jr.

Deacon Walter "Ted" Luther Brenneman Jr., 80, died Aug. 19 at The Residence at Quarry Hill in South Burlington.

He was born on Dec. 5, 1936, the son of Walter L. and Beatrice (Blouse) Brenneman in Harrisburg, Penn.

He attended Gettysburg College and received a bachelor's degree in 1958. He received his master's degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and his doctorate in philosophy from the Union Institute in 1974.

He taught at The Stowe School and Marlboro College and retired as professor emeritus of religion at the University of Vermont College of Arts and Sciences. He also authored several books on topics like the holy wells of Ireland, mythological symbolism and religion. He enjoyed research and traveled extensively to Ireland and throughout the world. He and his wife, Mary, walked the Santiago Pilgrimage together and ran a dairy farm in Marshfield for a number of years. He enjoyed skiing, fishing, kayaking and music; he loved all creatures.

For many years he served as a deacon at St. Augustine Parish in Montpelier. Most recently he was a member of St. John Vianney Parish in South Burlington.

On Sept. 19, 1963, he married Mary Helen Gavin in Gettysburg, Penn. She predeceased him in 2011.

Survivors include his children, Leslie Wheelock and her husband, John, of Colchester; Laurie Covington and her husband, Steve, of Palmdale, Calif.; Tracy Gandin and her husband, Dan, of Leland, N.C.; Valerie Brock and her husband, Ronnie, of Wilmington, N.C.; Robin Wright and his wife, Christine, of Bailey, Colo.; and Gavin Wright and his wife, Karen, of Essex; 11 grandchildren; and nine great grandchildren. He was predeceased by one grandson, Owen Wheelock.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Friday, Aug. 25, at St. Augustine Church in Montpelier. Committal prayers will be offered immediately following the Mass at the Doty Cemetery in East Montpelier.

Those wishing to express online condolences may do so at guar eandsons.com.
 

Society of St. Edmund opens anniversary celebration

The Gospel story about the apostles in a boat on a stormy Sea of Galilee is essentially the story of a French religious order’s early decades after its founding 175 years ago – or, for that matter, of those founders’ spiritual heirs at a Vermont Catholic college in 2017, suggested the homilist for a historically significant Holy Day celebration at St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte Aug. 15.
 
“Men of great faith invited by Jesus to come across turbulent waters” is how Edmundite Father Stephen Hornat, the Society of St. Edmund’s superior general, put it during the well-attended, late-morning Feast of the Assumption Mass at the shrine.
 
The liturgy officially began a year of events to note the 175th anniversary of the Edmundites’ 1843 founding at a humble and ruined former Cistercian Abbey in Pontigny, France, by Fathers Jean Baptiste Muard and Pierre Boyer, French diocesan priests who, as Fathr Hornat described, dedicated their lives to evangelism, the caretaking of holy shrines and, most significantly on this Marian Feast, to the intercessory protection and aid of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
 
A parishioner at Winooski’s St. Stephen Church had asked him why not have the Mass at the Edmundite-founded St. Michael’s College rather than the Edmundite-administered shrine, Father Hornat said in his homily. “When I thought about it, the longest running ministry that Edmundites had during our 175-year history, wasn’t education, wasn’t retreat work, wasn’t administering parishes, but rather, caretakers of shrines (including Mont St. Michel in France and St. Anne’s in Vermont).”
 
Yet all those vital pieces of the Edmundites’ history and present mission were represented at the Mass. Most of the St. Michael’s College-based Edmundite community concelebrated, numbering a dozen or more priests and brothers, including those who administer nearby parishes. Present also were many current and former administrators of St. Michael’s College and other faculty, staff and alumni.
 
Father Hornat’s homily shed light on the order’s name and mission from its history: How St. Edmund is buried over the main altar at Pontigny Abbey where Fathers Muard and Boyer first gathered; that originally, the Edmundites were called the Oblates of the Sacred Heart; that Pontigny Abbey happened to be named in honor of St. Mary of the Assumption, “by coincidence or divine intervention,” making the day’s feast most significant to the group; or that the group didn’t become officially recognized as a Church religious order (rather than just a diocesan group) until 1876, and they didn’t become “Fathers of St. Edmund” until 1907.
 
Another guest for the day was a scholar of the history and legacy of St. Edmund who also is Anglican chaplain of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford – Rev. Will Donaldson, who at a reception and light lunch following Mass said he is traveling to sites related to the 12th/13th-century namesake of the place where he is chaplain.
 
As to his interest in Edmund given his present position, he said, “I was thinking I need to find out about him … and the more I look, the more I like it … I want to find out everything I can about him; so I’m over here in Vermont really to chat to people, meet the Edmundites, and particularly ask the question, ‘What is it about the life of St. Edmund that continues to inspire you today?’”
 
He said he and his wife are touring North America as part of research for what he expects to be about a 10,000-word short book on Edmund in three sections: first, a brief historical survey of Edmund’s life and ministry; second, a look at his character through the lens of the Beatitudes, “because I think he hits the Beatitudes on every point – the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the pure in heart, those who are persecuted, these kinds of things are his characteristics;” – and third, a look at how St. Edmund continues to influence Christian communities today, including in Vermont.
 
Other events relating to the Edmundite 175th anniversary in the coming year will include:
 
Nov. 15: St. Edmund’s Lecture and Reception at St. Michael's College.
Nov. 16: Mass at the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel, St. Michael's College (Feast of St. Edmund).
May 13-21, 2018: Heritage Trip to France, led by Edmundite Father Marcel Rainville.
July 3, 2018: Celebration marking Fathers Muard and Bravard moving into the Cistercian Abbey in Pontigny. Mass and picnic at Holy Family Church, Essex Junction.
Aug. 15, 2018: Closing of the Anniversary Year; Mass and reception at St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte.
 
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