40 Days photo
Members of St. Cecilia's Respect Life Committee were part of this protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic during  40 Days for Life.
40 Days photo
Members of St. Cecilia's Respect Life Committee were part of this protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic during  40 Days for Life.
Across the Archdiocese of Portland, parishioners are building a commitment to the cause of life.

Respect Life Committees, run by volunteer parishioners, have been popping up in churches across the archdiocese, committed to keeping the cause of pro-life on the minds of not only Catholics, but the greater community.

With the help of Matt Cato, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace at the Archdiocese of Portland, the parish groups have also been meeting quarterly to get ideas, build support and learn from one another.

"Our goal is to be so integral to parish and community life, that it becomes natural to think that every human life is sacred," said Janice Donahue, a member of the Respect Life Committee at Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie.

Donahue got involved in the pro-life movement after high school in 1971, joining Youth for Life in California, and being inspired by her parish priest and his devotion to Humane Vitae.

Marriage, children and life took her away from volunteering until several years ago when after attending the annual Right to Life rally on the Oregon capitol steps, she felt inspired to get more involved. She helped form a Respect Life Committee at her parish, Christ the King, along with Father Don Buxman, pastor at the time.

The committee has put blurbs in the bulletin reminding parishioners of pro-life causes and events, and passed out flyers and literature.

In May they completed a Holy Family Garden, featuring a statue of the Holy Family, surrounded by flowers and biblical quotes, reminding passersby to remain faithful to the model of life laid out by Christ, his virgin mother and God.

At St. Cecilia in Beaverton, the Respect Life Committee has been around since 2001. Father Joe Betschart, then pastor, asked parishioners to help him start the group. It's been rolling ever since.

The group has several annual events including a baby bottle fundraiser, where people put change, cash and checks in a giant baby bottle. The funds are split between two pro-life ministries picked by the committee. They normally raise around $5,000.

The committee also sponsors a prayer service near Jan. 22 every year, marking the memorial for Roe v. Wade.

"God has blessed us with people who have energy to do things," said Bianca Nerenberg, a member of St. Cecilia and the Respect Life Committee.

Every Friday, members of the committee, go out to Planned Parenthood from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. During the 40 Days for Life (which began last Friday) committee members will be there from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Mary Riegert, a member of the St. Cecilia committee takes comfort that the work at the clinics that provide abortion is doing good in the world. She's even held crying men in her arms who are bringing their girlfriends in for an abortion, offering comfort.

"People are so happy to share in this ministry and help. We have to promote it and make people aware," said Riegert.

At St. Michael the Archangel Parish downtown, the Respect Life Committee is relatively new.

As a group, they had their first meeting in September, and plan on meeting the first Wednesday of every month. The meetings include prayer and discussion. The committee has six members so far.

"As a group we have chosen our first issue to be something that affects many people right here in Oregon and Washington, physician assisted suicide," said Brian Morris, member of the committee. "We really want to find a way to get back to get these issues in front of people; our parish and local communities about what respect life is all about."

Donahue from Christ the King knows that the message of life of these committees is countercultural to what society purports to be important, but she says she's hopeful that folks committed to pro-life causes will prevail, and that the committees and their work will continue to grow.

"We know we're standing with God," said Janice Donahue from Christ the King. "Although it can be hard when it feels like you're the lonely voice out in the desert."