My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church normally observes Sept. 29 as the Feast Day of the Archangels: St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael. Since Sept. 29 falls on a Sunday this year, the liturgy for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday of the Year takes precedence in the rankings of liturgical celebrations, but we can still remember to pray to these great archangels in our devotional prayers. Indeed, as I travel around the diocese, I have noticed that the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel is prayed in all but a handful of our parishes either after Mass, before Mass, or as the concluding prayer for the Prayers of the Faithful. The editor of Catholic Times, Andrew Hansen, has written an excellent article about this prayer, which appears on page 16 of the current issue.
As we approach the month of October, we should also remember that October is Respect Life Month and the first Sunday of October is observed as Respect Life Sunday. As Catholics, we are called to cherish, defend, and protect those who are most vulnerable, from the beginning of life to its end, and at every point in between. During the month of October, the church asks us to reflect more deeply on the dignity of every human life.
The Respect Life theme this year is Christ our Hope: In Every Season of Life. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, explains that this theme “is particularly suited for the times in which we live. The attacks against human life seem to grow more numerous and callous by the day. Despite these challenges, we know that Christ has conquered sin and death once and for all. Through our Christian hope in the resurrection, we are given the grace to persevere in faith. Our sacrifices on behalf of the Gospel of Life can contribute to the redemption of this current culture of death.”
Archbishop Naumann also notes that, in the coming year, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the papal encyclical Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life), written by St. Pope John Paul II. In his encyclical letter, the Holy Father said that “together we may offer this world of ours new signs of hope, and work to ensure that justice and solidarity will increase and that a new culture of human life will be affirmed, for the building of an authentic civilization of truth and love” (EV 6).
This year we celebrated our annual diocesan Respect Life Mass on Sept. 7 at Holy Family Parish in Granite City. As is our custom, Mass was followed by our rosary walk to the abortion facility euphemistically known as the “Hope Clinic.” I say it is euphemistically called the Hope Clinic because in reality it is a dark place where the only hope for the lives of the unborn babies who are brought there rests with those praying for their lives outside the abortion facility. Thanks be to God, lives of unborn babies are being saved, doubtlessly due in no small part to the tireless efforts of those in the pro-life movement.
According to a report released on Sept. 18 by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion policy group, the abortion rate in the United States reached its lowest levels since abortion was legalized by the United States Supreme Court in its 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade. There were 13.5 abortions for every 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2017, an 8 percent decline from 2014. In 1973, there were 16.3 abortions performed per 1,000 women within that same age range. Unfortunately, there was a 2 percent increase in the abortion rate in Illinois between 2014 and 2017, from 16.3 to 16.6 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. So we still have more work to do.
Following the rosary walk to the abortion facility in Granite City, we returned to Holy Family Parish to listen to our luncheon speaker, Dr. Patrick Castle, who founded LIFE Runners, a pro-life running group with 12 teammates in 2008. When I joined LIFE Runners in 2011, we had 170 teammates. LIFE Runners now number over 13,000 teammates in all 50 states and 38 nations!
I will be running the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Okla., with the LIFE Runners on Sunday, Nov. 24. This will be my 25th marathon in 25 years! I have designated LIFE Runners as the charity for which I will be fundraising through my running this year.
Donations for the LIFE Runners may be sent by check payable to: Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, c/o Bishop Paprocki Marathon Sponsor, 1615 W. Washington St., Springfield, IL 62702-4757, or online at: www.dio.org/marathon.
In my previous 24 marathons, I have raised a total of $499,920.38 for various charities. Please support my charitable cause as I surpass half a million dollars in lifetime marathon fundraising this year!
May God give us this grace. Amen.