Note: This article first appeared in 1996. The project described still continues today. Priests for Life is not an affiliate of any other pro-life group, but works together with all of them on joint projects such as this.
Jan. 22 marks the 23rd anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized abortion in the United States. In the years since then, millions of pro-lifers have tried to reverse the decision by appealing to the hearts and minds of the American people.
While the struggle to end abortion has been difficult and disheartening at times, there is good news. Despite a secular press that is decidedly pro-abortion, pro-lifers have found several ways to broadcast news about the anti-abortion movement.
One excellent way that informs, inspires and encourages people to become more involved in this pressing issue is found in a relatively new service called the Pro-life Bulletin Board. It is provided jointly by Priests for Life and the American Life League (ALL).
The Pro-life Bulletin Board is actually an insert, sent free of charge to anyone who wishes to subscribe. It is mailed "camera ready," meaning that the insert is ready to be printed or copied as is.
"Anyone who wants to subscribe needs only to write and ask to be put on the mailing list," said Noelle MacKenzie, ALL editorial assistant.
MacKenzie noted that most subscriptions come by word of mouth. People usually read an ad put out by ALL, see something in the literature produced by Priests for Life or learn about the service from a parish that is using it.
Potential subscribers usually respond by writing to ALL and requesting, a sample copy, designating either a Catholic or Protestant version. If they like the sample and ask for it again, they will be automatically included on the Pro-life Bulletin Board mailing list.
''I usually get about two or three requests a day for samples,'' said MacKenzie. "It is a constant thing."
Among the current subscribers are Catholic parishes, Protestant congregations, pro-life groups and crisis pregnancy centers.
Currently, ALL sends out 110 Catholic versions and 12 Protestant versions each month. This doesn't reflect the actual number of copies of the insert produced, because the person requesting the insert often makes many more copies of it for other churches or organizations.
Spreading the Word
"One contact person wrote to say that they use excerpts for one-third of the parishes in Louisiana, said MacKenzie.
"Someone else sends it out to 208 other parishes."
The Pro-life Bulletin Board was started in October 1994. Fr Frank Pavone, the director of Priests for Life, explained that the idea was first developed by a Florida woman who began making inserts for her local parishes.
''I had already been preparing bulletins for priests around the country through Priests for Life," said Fr. Pavone. "When I heard of the idea, I contacted Judie Brown (president of ALL); and we both thought it was a great idea and agreed to prepare the bulletin inserts nationally on a regular basis."
The insert is one page, with printing on both sides. The front side is written by Brown; it usually contains news items, prayers and suggestions for parish projects. The information is succinct and current. It is also easy to read and remember.
The news items, for example, might describe recent legislation in Congress pertaining to pro-life issues. The addresses of senators and House representatives are included, enabling people to readily write to their legislators.
The insert also provides ideas of how a parish can become actively involved in pro-life issues. These suggestions provide an excellent opportunity for both clergy and parishioners to undertake something constructive instead of remaining overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems or wondering helplessly what they can do about them.
The reverse side of the insert's Catholic version is written by Fr. Pavone. The Protestant version is written by Baptist Pastor Michael Petty. Their pieces tend to be meditations or reflections on pro-life themes. Fr. Pavone also provides a spiritual perspective on why it is important for people to be active, in the pro-life movement.
Both Fr. Pavone and MacKenzie say the response to the insert has been very positive and exciting. They note it provides a valuable resource for both priests and parishioners because it offers handy, up-to date information on important issues. The insert is a great way to galvanize people in a parish and get them more informed and actively involved in crucial pro-life issues.
The Pro-life Bulletin Board is offered ready to print and free of charge. For a nominal fee, it can be sent directly to parish bulletin printers. It can also be copied and distributed to others without prior notification to ALL or Priests for Life.
The insert can also have a wider application beyond being printed in the parish bulletin. It can be used as a basis for a sermon; distributed to schools; or used for instruction in RCIA, baptism or confirmation classes.
Uniting for Change
Parishioners can be invaluable in getting out the pro-life message by taking the insert home and giving it to other people, particularly those who are unlikely or unable to go to church.
Parishes are free to write to ALL with their own suggestions about engaging in pro-life efforts. Their ideas will be included among the items noted in the insert. This reciprocity allows the insert to function as a national network, uniting people in their efforts to fight abortion.
Most importantly, the Pro-life Bulletin Board can be used to save lives. Fr. Pavone said that he knows of at least one parish where an insert in the bulletin convinced two women who were pregnant and considering abortion to change their minds.
"This is saving life''' he said. "And, if we consider the value, then it is worth the time and trouble of getting the insert into the parish."
Getting the pro-life message out is the goal of the Pro-life Bulletin Board. MacKenzie said that ALL hopes that the service will grow and that more parishes will utilize it.
"It is very clear to me," said Pavone, "that the more people hear the truth of this issue, the more they respond."
Receiving this necessary information at a providential time can make a crucial difference in the lives of the men, women and children involved in abortion.
Fr Frank Pavone can be reached at: Priests for Life, PO Box 236695 Cocoa, FL 32923.
Anne McFadden is a freelance writer who lives in Southern California.