On September 18, 2023, Bishop Michael B. Burbidge of Arlington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, released a statement on Respect Life Month: "Living Radical Solidarity." In it, he invites all Catholics to commemorate the 50th anniversary of "Respect Life Month," and calls for "radical solidarity" with mothers and babies in need.
In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in Roe v. Wade, and since then, the month of October has been set aside by the U.S. bishops as "a time to focus on protecting God's precious gift of human life." Bishop Burbidge reminded the faithful that while Roe v. Wade has ended, Catholics are all too aware that abortion continues in most states and "is aggressively promoted at the federal level." But we still desperately need "…many prayers, sacrifices, and good works to transform a culture of death into a culture of life." He encouraged us to continue advocating and marching but said that more is needed as "laws alone" will not end the horrors of abortion.
Ending legalized abortion is paramount and a top priority; however, the most immediate thing we Catholics can do is "thoroughly surround mothers in need with lifegiving support and personal accompaniment," wrote Bishop Burbidge. This companionship and help can save babies and their mothers from abortions.
In the document, he cites St. John Paul II and how Our Holy Father first defined "radical solidarity": "In firmly rejecting 'pro-choice' it is necessary to become courageously 'pro-woman,' promoting a choice that is truly in favor of women… The only honest stance, in these cases, is that of radical solidarity with the woman. It is not right to leave her alone."
Pope Francis, too, reminds us that solidarity is not "a few sporadic acts of generosity. It presumes the creation of a new mindset." We must put the needs of vulnerable mothers and unborn babies before ours, and this is what it means to be "in radical solidarity" with women who are pregnant or raising children with little or no resources. And we must transform our own hearts and put love into action. The Holy Father said this new mindset means "addressing the fundamental challenges that lead an expectant mother to believe she is unable to welcome the child God has entrusted to her."
The statement also suggests that we align together within our local communities, dioceses, parishes, and schools in mutual efforts to pursue policies that correspond to the emotional, spiritual, and other needs of these women and children. In addition, Bishop Burbidge encourages Catholics to move beyond the "status quo and out of our comfort zones." We know we are always better together than alone.
How to help?
"Walking with Moms in Need", for example, is a nationwide and parish-based initiative, and it is an excellent way to help "transform parishes into places of welcome, support, and assistance for pregnant and parenting mothers facing difficulties." And the rewards are heavenly!
While many have felt the 'call' to serve their local communities, they are overwhelmed with demanding jobs, family responsibilities, and the challenges of getting started. Fortunately, Almighty God always makes a way for his disciples to execute his plan.
After attending an informational session at her church, Melissa, a mother of three young children and a job, felt "the Lord's call" when she volunteered to be the ministry's coordinator of Walking With Moms. Her parish now hosts "Hands Up Days" once a month, which allows families in need to "shop for free" for necessities that parishioners donate.
Melissa is an inspiration to anyone seeking to help. She said, "I think for too long we have been comfortable leaving the work of accompanying women in crisis situations – pregnant or parenting – to others in the nonprofit and government sectors. It is very clear in the Gospel that this is our job — all of us!"
Awareness and prayer
There are a ton of resources and information on ways to get involved. On the USCCB's Pro-Life Life Activities website, you can choose how you'd like to help. Two of the four pillars that they mention are awareness and prayer. We know that when we knock, He opens doors, so sign up for the "9 Days for Life Novena. "It is an annual prayer for the protection of human life. Each day's intention is coupled with a brief reflection, advice, and recommended action to "help build a culture of life."
There is a litany of challenges for pregnant women, but many contemplating abortion have financial issues that can feel insurmountable and too often impact their decisions. But "God has given each of us particular gifts, and with those gifts, He entrusts us with a role and duty within the Body of Christ... If we can lighten the burden just a little, what a difference we can make — it is literally life or death," wrote Bishop Burbidge.