Bishop Christian Riesbeck delivers the homily at the Pro-life Mass at Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral May 8. Photo by Deborah Gyapong.

Eliminate crisis, not pregnancy

  • May 14, 2014

OTTAWA - When Ottawa Auxiliary Bishop Christian Riesbeck became the pastor of a parish in Houston, he came face to face with a difficult pastoral challenge — the pregnancy of a young girl.

The mother and aunt of the girl, who was barely 13-years-old, approached him and “asked if an exception could be made in her case because of her age — they wanted to abort the child,” he said in a homily at the Pro-life Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral May 8, in conjunction with the National March for Life.

“I wanted to cry,” Riesbeck said. “I tried to be as compassionate as I could — helping her acknowledge the child in her womb and encouraging her to love that child and allow the child to see the light of day,” he said. “I promised her the help she needed in her situation.”

Since Riesbeck was new to the Houston diocese, the Companions of the Cross priest “had to scramble to find out what was available so I could direct her to the right place for help.”

Riesbeck said this experience made him realize the parish needed to do more to help young women. He and his parishioners decided to start a Project Gabriel outreach for women and families facing crisis pregnancies. They installed two big signs on the property, one in English the other in Spanish, with a contact number.

“Thanks be to God we received a lot of ‘business,’ ” said the bishop. “And the whole parish got on board. We had many drives for baby food, diapers, cribs — there was always a generous response from the parishioners and we were doing our part to help pregnant women in need.”

Riesbeck challenged the view put forward by abortion supporters that respect for women means giving them a “choice” to “kill their babies and subject themselves to harmful physical and psychological effects.”

“This does not respect women,” he said. “If we really respect them, we will come to their assistance if they are in a difficult situation, and see to it that they have what they need to give life to their child.

“If a woman is in a ‘crisis pregnancy’ let’s help her by eliminating the crisis, not by eliminating the pregnancy,” he said. “Most women who procure abortions do not do so because of ‘freedom of choice’ but rather because they feel they have no freedom and no choice. They feel trapped, abandoned, desperate, afraid and pressured, and sadly they feel that there is no one they can turn to except the abortionist.”

Riesbeck expressed gratitude to the various individuals and groups in the pro-life movement who provide services, who lobby and run educational organizations.

“As a Church, we need to be compassionate with those who are contemplating an abortion and reach out to those who have had abortions,” he said. “To them we say, ‘The doors of the Church are open.’

“We will never reject or condemn or cast them out. We welcome them back to the peace, the mercy, the forgiveness of Christ. To be pro-life means to be pro-woman.”

He went on to say that “Every child saved is a victory worthy of gratitude. We don’t always see the fruits of our efforts, but if we are following God’s will and the promptings of the Holy Spirit on our hearts, we are making a difference and allowing God to use as His instruments.”

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