On a coffee shop patio earlier this year, a group of young adults had gathered to learn about and discuss the pro-life movement when a woman who appeared to be homeless approached them with a message: “Hey, I don’t know what you guys are talking about, I just happened to see you and I wanted to congratulate you for being God’s children.”
Maria Elisa Olivas, the community coordinator for Catholic Charities, stood up with the other members of the Café Literario small group and embraced the woman, telling her that she was loved by God.
“She was just so moved and said, ‘Sometimes we forget that He loves us and we just need someone to remind us, and you guys are perfect examples of that,’” Olivas told Denver Catholic during a phone interview.
It was a poignant reminder of the importance of sharing the message that every human life is to be cherished, a theme that will be central to the Respect Life movement in 2020, starting with the Celebrate Life March and rally on January 11.
“This year our theme is ‘Every Life is a Gift,’” said Lynn Grandon, director of the Respect Life office for Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver. “That’s really reinforcing our message that from conception to natural death, every human being is a gift to this time in history.”
To promote the theme, the Respect Life office is again offering numerous public events: the biannual 40 Days for Life campaigns and the monthly Prayer in the Square gatherings that take place every first Saturday of the month. New events in 2019 included screenings of the film Unplanned, which was released earlier this year and explores the story of Abby Johnson’s conversion from Planned Parenthood clinic director to prominent anti-abortion advocate.
“At the end (of the movie), we had ourselves and different priests stand up and balance what they saw with a short explanation of the mercy of God and his willingness to forgive, his unconditional love for people,” Grandon said. “We encouraged people who have suffered through this or know someone that has, to reach out to them with his forgiveness and a call to come back into relationship with Him.”
The office is also working to support pro-life efforts within parishes. It published an over 200-page manual on its website that details how to form a team and give parish representatives a clear understanding of the primary pro-life issues so they can speak effectively about them and participate in public awareness events.
In media, Deacon Geoff Bennett is continuing to host the “Respect Life Radio Show” on 1060AM. To date this year, he has aired 35 episodes on the radio, which are also available as a podcast. The show was started in 2018 and addresses broad topics in the Catholic faith, with recent episodes focusing on reproductive technology, educational programs about Humanae Vitae and Theology of the Body for teens, transgenderism, and how people can ground themselves in their faith.
The office has also expanded their outreach to the Hispanic community. Olivas has presented to different Spanish-speaking communities and parishes about embryology, abortion, contraception, marriage, chastity, homosexuality and more, and this summer, the office brought on newly ordained Deacon Pedro Reyes to help deliver presentations on marriage and pornography.
Olivas said she has been heartened by the reception so far.
“We’ve been translating everything like flyers and promotions for the Respect Life office events into Spanish and trying to get more participation from the Hispanic community,” Olivas said.
She also coordinates the Café Literario small group, which brings together young adults twice a month to discuss many of these same topics.
“They are all on fire,” Olivas said of the people who participate. “They are very interested in learning and getting to know how the Church stands behind the truth, and why standing behind the truth will make us free and happy.
“I think seeing that initiative of them wanting to learn and start living more holy lives is encouraging.”
In 2020, Grandon is focused on the annual march and rally — which in 2019 drew an estimated 5,000 people to the Colorado State Capitol — and growing the Respect Life office’s programming and offerings.
“Our hope is to really continue to build an army of pro-life advocates to really strengthen the pro-life message throughout our archdiocese,” Grandon said. “We want to equip people with the apologetic tools that they need to effectively address the culture of death here in Colorado and swing the pendulum back to Colorado embracing the reality of the sacredness of every human life.”
For more information on the Spanish-speaking Cafe Literario small group, please contact Maria Elisa Olivas at 720-799-9265 or [email protected].
Respect Life Office Parish Representative Manual
Overall information about the Respect Life Office