Respect Life Month begins with 'Be not afraid' theme

October is Respect Life Month, and throughout the diocese people are gathering to spread the message of love and respect for life at every stage.

The annual observance began Oct. 1 with Respect Life Mass at Raleigh’s Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral.

Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama presided and delivered the homily (watch video below).

Speaking to a full cathedral, he described the relationship between his sister and his aging father. Although he didn’t often show affection, the bishop’s father’s health was declining, and he was forced to open himself up to love and affection more as he needed to rely upon his daughter.

Bishop Zarama asked the congregants to first open themselves up to the love of Christ in order to teach others how to respect life.

“The journey begins in our own hearts,” Bishop Zarama said. “[God] will help us to see how great, how beautiful is our hearts and why he loves us. Shining with that gift, we will preach, with our presence, the gospel of life because we experience life, we experience love, and we experience the presence of Jesus in our hearts.”

It was a message welcomed by many, including Ellen Mayhew from Birthchoice, a pro-life, crisis pregnancy clinic in Raleigh.

“We need to make the public aware,” she said. “We need to speak out. We need to speak up, and we need to let people know.”

How the local Church observes Respect Life Month

In addition to the annual Mass, other events and programs were scheduled to support the God-given dignity of every person.

The national 40 Days for Life prayer vigil started Sept. 27 and continues through Nov. 4. The campaign of focused prayer takes place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Drake Circle in Raleigh each day. A similar campaign was planned in Fayetteville at the Planned Parenthood on Yadkin Road.

Those interested in joining the organized prayer effort may send an email to (in Raleigh area) or (in the Fayetteville area)

The Benefit for Life Gala, which provides vital aid to the pro-life organizations, takes place Friday Oct. 6 at the North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh. Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama will be the guest of honor; Damon Owens, of JoyTOB, will present a keynote address.

All observances this year carry the theme “Be not afraid.” It’s a message for any person who struggles with an unplanned pregnancy, but it’s also a message for the Catholic faithful called to defend life at every stage.

Organizations that work year-round

Locally, there are many organizations that work year-round to help women and men during unplanned pregnancies and after their children are born.  

Birthchoice is a Catholic pregnancy center that provides free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds to women who are at risk of abortion. At Birthchoice, clients receive information, support and guidance. The organization also pairs clients with area agencies to help women and men transition to parenthood.

Project Gabriel, for example, serves Birthchoice clients before and after their child’s birth with necessities such as food, clothing and housing.

Project Rachel is an organization that reaches out to those wounded by abortion. Project Rachel provides support and retreats to counsel those who feel emotional trauma and often suffer in silence.