My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
For the past couple of weeks, much of the world has been caught up in the excitement of the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There is a local, Catholic, connection for us here in Springfield: Ryan Held, a graduate of Christ the King Grade School and Sacred-Heart Griffin High School, combined with Michael Phelps, Caeleb Dressel and Nathan Adrian to win the gold medal in the men’s 4x100 freestyle relay, one of the most prestigious and important races in the Olympic Games. It certainly was moving to watch Ryan shed tears of joy during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Congratulations to Ryan, his family, and to his SHG swimming coach, Dr. James Stegeman!
Another Catholic Olympian swimmer is Katie Ledecky, who has won gold medals in the 2012 London Olympics and again in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Ledecky resides in Bethesda, Md., where she attended Little Flower School and then graduated from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in 2015. Before every race, Ledecky, a faithful Catholic, prays a Hail Mary. “I do say a prayer — or two — before any race. The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me,” she said. Ledecky added, “My Catholic faith is very important to me. It always has been and it always will be. It is part of who I am and I feel comfortable practicing my faith. It helps me put things in perspective.”
Two other Olympic athletes who are vocal about their Christian faith are David Boudia and Steele Johnson. After winning the silver medal in the men’s synchronized platform diving, Boudia said in an interview on NBC, “When my mind is on this [diving], and I’m thinking I’m defined by this, then my mind goes crazy. But we both know that our identity is in Christ, and we’re thankful for this opportunity to be able to dive in front of Brazil and in front of the United States. It’s been an absolutely thrilling moment for us.” When it was Johnson’s turn to be interviewed, he underscored the faith witness of his diving partner, saying, “The way David just described it was flawless — the fact that I was going into this event knowing that my identity is rooted in Christ and not what the result of this competition is just gave me peace ... and it let me enjoy the contest.” He added, “God’s given us a cool opportunity, and I’m glad I could come away with an Olympic silver medal in my first-ever event.”
It is very inspiring to see these young athletes giving public testimony to their Catholic faith and identity rooted in Jesus Christ. Such public witness of Christian belief is also greatly needed in our increasingly secular world which is often so devoid of a moral compass.
Here in Springfield, the voice of believers in the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception must speak out against the expansion of abortion services at the new Planned Parenthood facility on Bruns Lane, which will now offer surgical abortions in addition to chemical abortions. In announcing this expanded assault on human life, a spokesperson said that “Planned Parenthood has the ability to work with other organizations to help low-income women pay all or part of any out-of-pocket costs for abortions.” This effort to encourage poor people to abort their babies is truly tragic, but not surprising coming from an organization whose founder, Margaret Sanger, said, “The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”
In contrast, pregnancy resource centers in Springfield such as the Pregnancy Care Center, the Elizabeth Ann Seton program, Lifetime, and Beerlahai Roi Women’s Ministries have many resources to assist low-income women throughout her pregnancy, birth, and role as a parent. Local pregnancy resource centers and other non-profit agencies offer assistance directly, but also refer women to state and local government agencies. It is not widely known, but statistically there are four pregnancy resource centers for every one abortion clinic. This statistic holds true in Springfield. Local pregnancy resource centers are able to direct low-income women to government agencies that offer assistance. Eligible low income women can receive temporary medical coverage (Medicaid) for prenatal, birth, and post-partum care. Medical care is available to the mother and child up to the child’s first birthday. Pregnancy resource centers are able to refer women to doctors they know will accept the Medicaid coverage. Pregnancy resource centers also offer education classes on nutrition, care for the baby, and parenting, to name just a few. The Centers also assist women beyond the birth of the baby by providing clothing, diapers, and other items a new mother may need, such as a crib. Catholic churches throughout the diocese support pregnancy resource centers financially and through volunteering and donating clothing, diapers and other items.
Not only pro-life advocates, but all people who are truly pro-choice should support the services of these pregnancy resource centers to give women a real choice to have their babies and give them the gift of life, rather than the dead-end no-choice of abortion. The only real caring choice it to choose life.
May God give us this grace. Amen.