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Life issues remain in forefront of 2005 agenda

By Lisa Schulte
The Catholic Voice

Abortion was made legal in the United States 32 years ago. Today it remains one of the most controversial life issues of our time. Since 1973, more than 44 million abortions have taken place in the United States.

During the month of January, the pro-life message will be heard in various ways across the country, including the National March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Jan. 24.

This weekend, Catholic churches will mark Saturday, Jan. 22, as a day of penance and prayer for the violations against human life through acts of abortion. And Sunday, Jan. 23, will be observed as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

In the Archdiocese of Omaha, every parish is encouraged to do something to promote pro-life, said Father Joseph Hanefeldt, archdiocesan director of the Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities.

"I think one of the best things people can do is to fast and pray on January 22nd," he said.

Annual Walk for Life

The annual Walk for Life, sponsored by Nebraska Right to Life, is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 29, in Lincoln. It will begin at 10 a.m. on the west side of the Capitol Building. Vera Faith Lord, a nationally acclaimed speaker, will deliver the keynote address after the walk.

A fish fry will take place Friday, Jan. 28, in the basement of St. Mary Church, 14th and K streets in Lincoln, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. It will be followed by a Mass of Reparation at 7 p.m. with Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln as the celebrant. Also expected to attend is Grand Island Bishop William J. Dendinger.

Eucharistic adoration will begin after the 7 p.m. Mass and continue until the 9 a.m. Mass the next day.

At 8:15 p.m. on Jan. 28, Kathy McGee and Laura Buddenberg will present "Unmasking Sexual Con Games" in the church basement. The Knights of Columbus will sponsor a pancake breakfast in the basement of St. Mary Church before the Walk for Life from 7-8:30 a.m.

Pro-life update

As of October 2004, the number of abortions in Nebraska had gone down by 10 percent, said Greg Schleppenbach, state director of the Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities. That decrease is encouraging, he said, especially when his days are spent promoting the pro-life message.

Last year, Schleppenbach's office helped sponsor a postcard campaign against cloning in Nebraska that went to all Catholic parishes in the state as an effort to push the cloning bill, LB 602, in the state's legislature.

Another initiative of 2004 was developing and producing a pro-life book cover for junior high and high school students. Each cover included information on abortion, abortion resources, fetal development and pregnancy help centers. Nearly 15,000 covers were printed and sent free of charge to Catholic school students in Nebraska, as well as to those who attended religious education programs.

"The idea was to put information right at the kids' fingertips," Schleppenbach said.

Looking ahead to this year, Schleppenbach said he will continue to address biomedical research issues through his involvement in the Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research, as well as put together a resource binder for schools and religious education programs of all the pro-life resources that are available.

Focus on 'Generation Y'

Schleppenbach said much of his focus this year will be on youth ages nine to 24 – "Generation Y" as he calls them. The research that has been done on them, about their attitudes, values and beliefs is very promising for those in the pro-life movement, he said.

"The way this generation goes is going to be the way our culture goes for a very long time," he said. "We have no impact on the past and we have limited success in the present, but we don't have to concede the future. That's where we can really make a difference."

Schleppenbach encouraged all churches, schools, religious education programs and youth organizations to re-evaluate the way they educate young people about pro-life issues.

"We have a real responsibility with forming them well," he said. "It's a very, very encouraging and hopeful generation."

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