Religious liberty, abortion battles are topics at Arden conference
ARDEN — "Give me liberty or give me death." Those words of Patrick Henry were spoken in 1775, but they also resonated at St. Barnabas Church in Arden Oct. 13.
The parish's Respect Life Committee sponsored a morning conference, "Words of Life and Liberty," to educate people about the increasing attacks on life issues and the constitutional right to religious freedom.
In the opening prayer, Father Adrian Porras, pastor of St. Barnabas Church, asked God to give the participants a spirit of love and service to others. Three powerful speakers then shared their words to help people more actively engage in the battle.
Pictured: St. Barnabas parishioners recently gathered to hear from speakers (from left) Dr. William Thierfelder, president of Belmont Abbey College; Shelley Glanton, lay associate for Priests for Life and Silent No More activist; and Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life and director of American Victims of Abortion. (Suzanne Konopka | Catholic News Herald)
The first speaker was Dr. William Thierfelder, father of 10 children and president of Belmont Abbey College, which has been leading the fight against the mandate from the federal Health and Human Services department that forces nearly all employers to provide free contraception and sterilization services in their health insurance plans, despite any religious objections they may have.
"We must approach these issues," said Thierfelder, "with fearless trust in God and holy daring in the public square."
He explained that we face circumstances similar to those of Job, who lost everything, and Daniel, who was thrown into the lions' den. But both men trusted absolutely in God.
Trusting also requires constant thankfulness in all things, and daily prayer. He noted that many people complain we don't have enough time to pray, but he noted that it takes him only 41 seconds to pray the Angelus.
"With fearless trust," Thierfelder said, "we can enter the public square with moral courage – the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition."
He gave many examples of courageous people throughout history and reminded the audience that "you are not alone. We must act together, with our love and our lives. Let's do what we believe."
Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life and director of American Victims of Abortion, spoke next in the program. Soon after an abortion experience in 1981, she said, she became deeply involved in the entire spectrum of pro-life issues.
Her talk focused on "When they say...you say" methods to engage the opposition. She strongly emphasized that "every conversation is a moment of relationship. You must listen to and discover who the person is, because everyone we meet has been impacted directly or indirectly by abortion. They may be resistant because of pain, fear or ignorance."
Turner distributed a booklet containing practical ways to explain and defend pro-life truths versus the five most common pro-abortion arguments. She also explained the importance of proper facial gestures, using a calm and measured voice, and engaging people with appropriate words, because language in the abortion debate has been twisted to deceive people.
For example, she said, when abortion proponents say "fetus," which depersonalizes and objectifies an unborn baby, we should use the more accurate terms "unborn child" or "baby."
"Ultimately, this is a human rights question," Turner said. "In a society unable to think long-term, how will we, as a human race, find the capacity to care for each other?"
Shelley Glanton brought all of the issues back to the heart, to conclude the conference. Profoundly wounded by two abortions of her own, she shared her stages of healing, from denial and self-destructive behaviors, to confession, and finally to a Rachel's Vineyard retreat.
"As followers of Christ," Glanton said, "we must never forget the child who was lost, and we must recognize the mother's need for healing."
As a mother of two living children, and as a registered nurse, Third Order Lay Dominican, and lay associate for Priests for Life, Glanton remains especially active in Rachel's Vineyard and with the Silent No More campaign.
Explaining that her own healing is an ongoing spiritual journey, Glanton's final thoughts summarized the whole conference: "I'm no hero. I'm privileged and honored and blessed to be a servant of God. I will be silent no more."
— Suzanne Konopka, correspondent
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy