Women Affirming Life to join Pro-life Office

NEWTON -- Proud to be pro-life and hopeful for the movement’s mission, 250 women gathered for the annual Women Affirming Life breakfast on Dec. 8.

“We are Catholic, we are women and we are very proud to be pro-life,” said WAL president Frances Hogan. Her statement was followed by enthusiastic applause.

The morning began with Mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley in a conference room at the Newton Marriott Hotel. The altar was adorned with a crèche, Advent wreath and an icon of the Blessed Mother holding the child Jesus.

WAL was founded 18 years ago with the goals of bringing together and encouraging Catholic women to provide a public witness, educate and to pray unceasingly about life issues, Hogan said.

All of those goals have been realized, and now the organization must find new and more efficient ways to reach Catholics in the archdiocese. For that reason, WAL will transition into the care of the Pro-Life Office as a program of that office, she said.

“Our mission now must essentially become an effort to reach the grassroots in our own parishes,” she said. “We need to touch the individual members of our own Church, our own communities and quite often our own families with the truth and the beauty of the Church’s teaching about the respect life effort.”

Hogan said the feast day was an apt choice for the WAL breakfast.

“The Blessed Mother has certainly been a model for all of us of true discipleship, of true faithfulness, of true submission to the will of God and of true feminism,” she said.

Cardinal O’Malley spoke in his homily about the joy of the Immaculate Conception and the example of Mary’s faithfulness.

“Mary’s yes, Mary’s fiat, allowed God to come into our world. God was asking for her permission,” he said. “In our own lives, God is often asking us for permission. Like Mary we want to be able to say ‘yes’ to God, ‘yes’ to love and ‘yes’ to life.”

The cardinal also spoke about St. Nicolas, who was recognized as a saint by the Church because of his great generosity. His life of holiness and charity is a witness to the Church’s faith. His feast day is Dec. 6.

“The day before yesterday we celebrated the feast of St. Nicolas, which unfortunately in our culture has degenerated into Santa Claus. Sometimes children when they’re coming out of Mass will ask me if I’m Santa Claus. I say, ‘No, but he was a bishop, so you got that much right,’” he said.

Speaking after the breakfast, Marianne Luthin, director of the Pro-Life Office and executive director of WAL, said that part of building a culture of life is teaching Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.”

Young people must hear the beautiful message of the gift of their bodies, their sexuality and the gift of parenthood. The average American teenager is exposed to 14,000 sexual innuendos over the course of a year, and many of them rarely hear the message of chastity, she added.

“What a different world it would be, what a different culture it would be, what a different Church it would be if our young people could hear that message and live it out,” she said.

During the breakfast, Sister Marianne Lorraine Trouve, FSP, a writer who has edited nearly 100 books, addressed the women on the topic of “A Marian Perspective on the Theology of the Body.”

Mary was called to two vocations: motherhood and virginity for the sake of the kingdom. She accepted God’s will to unite the two vocations, which was a calling unique to her. She lived out the Theology of the Body by making a gift of herself, and through her example, she prevents this doctrine from becoming an abstraction, Sister Marianne said.

Sister Marianne said the first step to building a culture of life in the world is to affirm each person as an image of and gift from God.

She then read a comment posted on one of her blog entries. The poster, identified as David, spoke about the unexpected gift of his fourth child. Neither he nor his wife were sure how they would manage the change that a new baby would bring, he said.

“Instead of thinking about how our plans have been impacted by this baby, we are trying to focus on God’s plan, and who this baby might be,” he said. “I don’t think either of us has made peace with this change quite yet, but I also know that the only path to peace is acceptance of God’s will and a setting aside of our own will. We are placing our hope and trust in God.”

Sister Marianne’s blog can be found at www.thomasfortoday.blogspot.com