In August 2010, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge established the Diocesan Pro-Life Office, appointing Mrs. Jackie Bonk to the position of Director. Mrs. Bonk’s responsibilities included developing, designing and facilitating the implementation of pastoral pro-life activities in the Diocese, as well as the education and invitation of the faithful to participate in protecting the sanctity of all human life.
In January 2011, a Steering Committee was formed to assist the Pro-Life Office in creating a strategic plan to guide the initiatives and structure for the newly created office. Bishop Burbidge appointed twelve members to the committee with Mrs. Bonk serving as chairperson. The Committee, which comprised Priests, Diocesan staff and laity, held monthly meetings during 2011, fashioning mission and vision statements and establishing the main priorities of the Pro-Life Office. They include abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, death penalty, immigration, homelessness, hunger and poverty.
“The members have incredible gifts that brought a valuable diversity to the committee,” said Mrs. Bonk. “Their depth of knowledge and commitment on the dignity of life from the moment of conception to the end of life is why we were able to address such a wide range of Pro-Life issues.”
To clearly address those issues, the Steering Committee established three sub-groups: the Education Subcommittee, the Public Policy Subcommittee and the Outreach and Pastoral Care Subcommittee. It also proposed the promotion and teaching of Blessed John Paul II’s ”Theology of the Body”; the formation of parish level Respect Life Committees; and collaboration with Knights of Columbus to encourage education, outreach and advocacy with regard to life and human dignity issues.
Mrs. Carrie Griffith, a member of the Steering Committee said, “I feel one of the most significant initiatives being undertaken by the Pro-Life Office is its effort to promote a deeper understanding of God’s plan for life and love to young people, their parents and their teachers. Our children are the future,” Mrs. Griffith said. “They will create the culture of tomorrow. The Church's teaching on human sexuality, so beautifully elucidated by Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, offers a compelling antidote to an anti-life culture.”
As part of its function, the office will begin assisting parishioners to better understand Catholic teaching on life issues. “The Pro-Life office is in the process of launching a registration drive for Catholic Voice NC,” said Larry Henson, Steering Committee member. “This campaign alone will do a lot to help us become informed on these issues and to give us the opportunity to contact our political leaders when critical legislative activity is taking place.”
“All of the issues are important, from conception to end of life,” said Jackie Tucci, Director of the Pro-Life Advocate Ministry at St. Peter Catholic Church in Greenville. “We are planning lectures at our parish to support and explain the Catholic position on life issues.”
One of the Committee’s most beneficial projects was in the development and editing of an end of life resource booklet entitled: Comfort and Compassion, a Catholic Declaration on Life and Death (PDF). Chapters include topics on “Medically Assisted Nutrition and Hydration,” “Pain Management – Palliative Care,” “Advanced Directive,” and a clarifying explanation of “Do Not Resuscitate.” The nine page booklet is easy to download and print.