WASHINGTON (CNS) - Building a culture of life is "essential to who we are" and it "happens through our daily actions, how we treat one another and how we live our lives," said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
The U.S. Catholic Church observes each October as Respect Life Month. It opens with Respect Life Sunday, which this year was Oct. 1. In an Oct. 3 statement, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York launched the monthlong observance but also the 2017-18 Respect Life Program.
The theme for the yearlong program is "Be Not Afraid" and will be in effect through September 2018.
New materials are produced each year to help Catholics understand, value and become engaged with supporting the God-given dignity of every person. This year's packet of materials - on a range of life issues and available in English and Spanish - are available at www.usccb.org/respectlife. Articles, bulletin inserts, prayers, action ideas are available in print and digital formats.
"Once again, we mark the month of October as Respect Life Month," Cardinal Dolan said. "Looking back over the last year, there's been a lot of uncertainty, suffering and heartache. Between tragedies that occur in the public eye and trials that take place in our personal lives, there's no shortage of reasons we cry out to God.
"At such times, we may feel alone and unequipped to handle the circumstances," he continued. "But we have an anchor of hope to cling to. With words that echo through thousands of years into the corners of our hearts, God says to us, 'Do not fear: I am with you.'" (Isaiah 41:10)
The 2017-2018 Respect Life theme of "Be Not Afraid" is a reminder "of this promise," he said.
"God isn't a detached, distant observer to our pain; the Eternal Son became man and himself experienced immense suffering - for you and for me. His wounds indicate the very essence of our identity and worth: We are loved by God," Cardinal Dolan said.
During those times when people doubt the value of their own lives or "falter at the thought of welcoming and embracing the life of another," he said, reflecting on the "healed wounds of the risen Christ" can show all that "even our most difficult trials can be the place where God manifests his victory."
"He makes all things beautiful. He makes all things new. He is the God of redemption," Cardinal Dolan said. "That's powerful. That's something to hold onto. ... He is always with us."
"As followers of Jesus Christ ... we are called to be missionary disciples ... commissioned to reach out to one another, especially to the weak and vulnerable," Cardinal Dolan said.
"This Respect Life Month and always, let's walk with each other; let's help each other embrace God's gift of human life," Cardinal Dolan said. "Whatever storms or trials we face, we are not alone. He is with us: 'Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:20)