Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

After 45 years of legalized abortion, what more can be said that hasn’t already been stated? We could take heart in the fact that the number of abortions has gone down over the years. But with the number of abortions still hovering at over 1 million each year, that statistic doesn’t give much consolation.

We are speaking of the most defenseless, weak and fragile human beings on the planet. Their survival depends totally on their mother’s decision to “choose.” And while a small child, if born, cannot even take care of themselves, it is so evident that they are as much a part of the human family as we are.

Ask any parent about the experience of the birth of their child and you are in for a story. An absolute, miraculous exhilaration consumes them at the moment of birth. Knowing this child is a creation of God — one they were able to participate in creating — is overwhelming. And this story can be told in detail even decades later because the memory is so intense.

Even for those of us who have not experienced this firsthand, we have witnessed the tremendous power that babies have for calling forth our impulses to care, to protect, to nurture, to love.

As a priest these last 47 years who has baptized countless babies, I have seen the awe and wonder that new life elicits. Parents, grandparents, godparents and siblings look at this baby with infinite hope. Hope springs from the dreams, possibilities and potential of this new life. Yes, we know there will be hardship and difficulties along the way. But just as we picture Mary and Joseph at the manger looking at the baby Jesus with understanding of the miracle before them, parents intuitively experience that same understanding of their precious child.

Newborn Declan Ryan Lardy featured on the 2018 Pro-Life poster. (Photo by Beth Leipholtz)

This hope is universal and does not depend on the color of our skin or our country of origin. Each person is a distinctive reflection of the infinite richness of God, the Lord and Giver of Life; and every person counts, from the moment of their conception and for every moment thereafter.

There is no one, regardless of their development or abilities, who does not matter in the eyes of God. No matter how short or how long a person lives, God longs to embrace them forever in heaven.

All the more do we need to hear the encouraging words about Christian hope from Pope Francis:
“Although she constantly holds up the call to perfection and asks for a fuller response to God, ‘the Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them hope and confidence, like the beacon of a lighthouse in a port or a torch carried among the people to enlighten those who have lost their way or who are in the midst of a storm.’ Let us not forget that the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital” (“Amoris Laetitia,” No. 291).

So while we endure yet another year in which the horror of abortion continues in our country, we go forward in hope. We support the courageous work of the true “field hospitals” of crisis pregnancy centers. And we are thankful for the voices in the midst of the storm — our young and old who stand for life, and our lighthouse of leaders in the church and in society who are trying at every turn to carry the torch for the most vulnerable in society.

May the Holy Spirit bring upon our world a renewed hope for life, peace and reverence for the dignity of the human person, from the moment of conception to a natural death.
Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud