Collaboratives and the sanctity of life

This week approximately 300 middle and high school students, and more than 100 adults from the Archdiocese of Boston, planned to board buses and head to Washington, D.C. to participate in the annual March for Life, the largest pro-life event in the world. Another contingent from Boston included families, college age young adults, seminarians, and priests and lay staff from the Pastoral Center and parishes. Boston would have been well represented if the weather cooperated. But even without ominous weather threats, not everyone is able to go to Washington.

Also this week, nearly half of all parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston including most of the parishes in collaboratives, offered, or will offer, a Holy Hour for Life so that people who are not going to Washington can pray in solidarity with our marchers and with all who stand for the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.

The right to life and the dignity of the human person are fundamental to the Catholic faith. These are implicit in any pastoral plan, whether it is the archdiocesan plan, Disciples in Mission, or a local plan, which, when approved by Cardinal O'Malley, becomes the collaborative road map for the following three years. Each collaborative local pastoral plan lists the vision and purpose of the collaborative, and the values that help the collaborative decide, communicate and behave. Each collaborative plan also presents specific priorities that all parishioners in the collaborative will work to implement. Most Phase II Collaboratives have submitted drafts of their local pastoral plan. It is heartening to see how parishes in collaboratives have incorporated these basic life issues into their plans. Several have gone beyond implicit, and explicitly state that "respect and care for all people including those who are vulnerable ... unborn children" is a value that guides the parishes of this collaborative. Another collaborative describes one of their values as "integrity," describing it in their draft: "Express and model respect for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death."

Parishioners from the Phase III collaborative of St. Mary Parish in Chelmsford and St. John the Evangelist in North Chelmsford, are representing the collaborative at the march in Washington. This collaborative also offered a Holy Hour for Life, jointly sponsored by St. John's Culture of Life Group and St. Mary's Family Life Council and Youth Ministry in conjunction with Boston Deacons for Life and Pro-Life Office of the Archdiocese of Boston. They gathered to "pray together for those who have been wounded by abortion, for respect for the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, and that those who govern us may be guided by justice, truth, and a love for the gift of life." Respect for life is not a principle confined to the January anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision. The welcome statement on the St. John the Evangelist website is timeless, ".... We bring together and welcome the faithful from diverse walks of life for the sanctity of life and the dignity of every person. We dedicate ourselves to formation in faith, pastoral care and service to all generations."

The Dorchester-Mattapan collaborative of St Gregory, St. Matthew, and St. Angela parishes, included a message from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the bulletin notice inviting people to their Holy Hour, Sunday, January 24, 3:00 p.m., at St. Gregory Parish: "The bishops of the United States have established January 22nd as a particular day of penance 'for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.'"

Parishioners at Holy Hours for Life throughout the archdiocese offer prayers that all life will be protected, especially the most vulnerable, and that marchers for life in Washington will give effective witness to elected officials and the entire country.