Father Ryan was ‘consummate gentleman’

By Laura Keener, Editor.

Father James Ryan, a beloved priest of the Diocese of Covington for 44 years, died Sept. 7. He was 75 years old.

Father Ryan was the oldest of four children — Barbara, Robert and Kathleen — of James and Lois (Vaught) Ryan. When he was six years old his parents died in a tragic accident. His father had touched a live wire while adjusting the TV antenna on the rooftop of their home. Mrs. Ryan ran to his assistance and grabbed the ladder — neither survived. The children went to live and attended school at St. Joseph Orphanage, Cold Spring, and their uncle, Father Robert Ryan, who was still in seminary at the time, became their legal guardian.

Following graduation from Covington Latin School, Father Ryan attended college at St. Pius X Seminary, Erlanger. After graduation Father Ryan went to Catholic University to continue his seminary studies. After a semester there he chose to take some time off and worked at the Enquirer for a year. He attended Xavier University, Cincinnati, and earned a master’s degree in education. He taught Latin and history for four years at St. Thomas High School, Ft. Thomas. He returned to the seminary at Mount St. Mary Seminary, Cincinnati, and in 1971 received a maser’s degree in theology.

Bishop Richard Ackerman ordained him a priest for the diocese May 17, 1975 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington.

His first assignment following ordination was teaching at Covington Latin School. He became headmaster of Covington Latin School in 1983. In the spring of 1987, Bishop William Hughes accepted his resignation from that position and he resumed teaching full-time at the school that Fall.

Mark Guilfoyle, partner, DBL Law and a former Covington Latin School student, said that Father Ryan was a favorite among the students.

“He was an academic but he also had a great sense of humor and he was great teacher. What he did a Latin School was really special, he impacted and changed a lot of lives and I count myself among those,” Mr. Guilfoyle said.

As headmaster, Father Ryan established the development office at Covington Latin School and the formation of a long-range planning group and expanded the Religious Formation and Fine Arts requirements.

“He was everything you want to see in a priest,” Mr. Guilfoyle said. “He was erudite but yet he could speak a common language that everyone could understand. He was a great homilist, very devoted to his vocation and a real model for people in how to live their lives.”

What was most impressive about Father Ryan, Mr. Guilfoyle said, was his depth of knowledge on almost any subject. “You could ask him about any subject and he would have a depth of knowledge that would take your breath away … He was just an extraordinary person who heard the call, answered the call and lived the call; that’s the kind of example Catholics need to have and he gave it to us in spades.”

In 1990 Father Ryan attended Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and earned a master’s degree in canon law. In 1992 he served full-time as judge at the diocesan Tribunal Office; and a few years later part-time, after becoming pastor in 1994 at St. Philip Parish, Melbourne, taking up the pastorate from his late uncle, Father Robert Ryan.

Other pastorates included St. Joseph Parish, Camp Springs (1998–1999), and St. Henry Parish, Elsmere (1999–2015).

In 2002 Father Ryan was appointed to the Diocese of Covington College of Consultors.

He retired in 2015, taking up residence at Blessed Sacrament Parish, Ft. Mitchell, where Father Daniel Vogelpohl, also a member of the ordination class of 1975, is pastor.

“We were ordained together and have been close friends ever since. We taught high school together, we have traveled extensively together, and, in his retirement, we have ministered together at Blessed Sacrament,” Father Vogelpohl said.

Father Vogelpohl shared some of his fondest memories of Father Ryan in his parish bulletin the Sunday after Father Ryan’s death.

“Father Ryan was more intellectual than physical. On his first bicycle trip to Europe with the Latin School in 1977, it only took three days for him to shove his bicycle over a cliff and replace it with a moped,” Father Vogelpohl wrote.

“Father Ryan thoroughly enjoyed classical music. WGUC is the only station his car radio was ever tuned to. He subscribed to the Cincinnati Symphony for years … when listening to classical music on the radio he would often hum along with the score. He could identify nearly every musical piece in the standard classical repertoire,” he said.

“Father Ryan loved the Church,” Father Vogelpohl wrote. “He particularly loved the liturgy and ceremonies of the Church. When he celebrated Mass he was always attentive to what he was doing and had a deep appreciation of what the ritual meant … He always tried to engender that same appreciation for the liturgy in the hearts of all the participants. He particularly loved major liturgies of the Church. He thrived on ‘smells and bells’ and ‘pomp and circumstance.’”

In 2016 Father Ryan was appointed chaplain at St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

Over the years he was also chaplain to the Notre Dame Sisters, Covington, and the Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery, Villa Hills. In a 2015 article celebrating his 40 years as a priest, Father Ryan said, “The happiest thing a priest does is celebrate the Mass … I’ve been very blessed to be able to do that at the places I’ve lived, but also, with the Sisters…”

In 2017 he returned part-time to the diocesan Tribunal, being appointed Judicial Vicar pro-tempore.

“When he came in he came in cheerful; he would stop at every door and greet everyone,” said Sister Margaret Stallmeyer, director, Tribunal Office.

Sister Margaret said that whenever she called Father Ryan she always found a welcome ear and she enjoyed his thoughtful and wise counsel.

“You knew he loved being a priest and doing what he did. When you think of all the different volunteer things that he did he never seemed overburdened. I feel very privileged that I have had these two years working with him. He was a good priest … He’s the kind of person that you think when I retire I want to do it like he did.”

Bishop Daniel Conlon, of the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois, a friend of Father Ryan’s, was the homilist at his funeral Mass, Sept. 17, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington.

“Father Ryan was a faithful priest, serving the Lord by serving his people. He was also authentic,” Bishop Conlon said. “His priestly ministry came from the heart. He truly enjoyed being with people. His beliefs coincided with those of the Church. He respected the bishops and pastors he served under.”

Father Ryan is survived by his sisters Barbara Gregory and Kathleen Ealy (Lee) and sister-in-law, Mary Beth Feldhake Ryan.

“Jim’s years of priestly service to the Diocese of Covington were marked with dedication and blessed with much success,” his sisters wrote. “What Jim wrote following our Uncle Father Bob Ryan’s funeral applies equally to him. ‘His fondest wish and most ardent prayer would be that the Church always be blessed with an abundance of dedicated priests and religious. To which we can only add Amen!’ Jim would say, whether it be to a religious, married or single life, your call is a gift. Thank you to him and to each of you who are called, chosen and faithful to your vocation. Don’t we all hope, when our time comes, to hear the voice of God say, ‘Alleluia, welcome home good and faithful servant!’”

Father Ryan is interred at St. Stephen Cemetery, Ft. Thomas.

“The death of Father James Ryan leaves a void in our presbyterate that will not soon be filled,” said Bishop Roger Foys. “Father Ryan was the consummate gentleman, exhibiting kindness and compassion toward all he met. Whether as teacher, administrator or pastor, he took up each assignment with enthusiasm and grace. His sharp mind and quick wit were obvious even in a casual conversation. He was a witness and example to all priests — young and old — of what a good priest should be. As we mourn his loss to us on earth we rejoice that he will be received now by the Lord he loved and served so well.”


Scholarship Tax Credits

How to answer pro-choice arguments: Part 3 — Hard cases

By: Caitlin Shaughnessy Dwyer.

This is the conclusion of a three-part series about a simple strategy that can help make difficult conversations about abortion a little easier. The strategy is centered on asking one simple question: “If you were convinced that the unborn child is a human life, would you still support abortion?”

In Part 1, we explored how to converse about the science of fetal development. In Part 2, we outlined how to speak about the legal and philosophical concept of personhood. In this article, we address how to engage people who support their pro-choice position by citing certain “hard cases” like extreme poverty, rape or the endangerment of the mother’s life.

Many abortion proponents contend that a baby places too great a burden on mothers living in extreme poverty. A woman should not be “forced” to have a baby under these circumstances. The mother “needs” the abortion to survive.

One approach to this topic is what pro-life apologist Trent Horn calls TOAT: “trot out a toddler.” This technique demonstrates the illogic of the pro-choice argument by applying that illogic to a toddler, rather than to an unborn child.

In this case you could say, “I agree with you that many women find themselves pregnant in very difficult circumstances. In fact, many women are parenting in poverty. I think society has a duty to help these parents and children. But do you think that if the parents of a toddler do not have the financial resources to take care of their child they should be able to terminate that child’s life?”

The answer, of course, is no. You can then ask, “What is the difference between an unborn baby and a toddler?” The person will most likely point to an arbitrary distinction in size, development, location or degree of independence, and you can highlight the problems with those distinctions, as explained in Part 2.

Another method would be to cite the long-held principle from criminal law that necessity is not a defense to murder. Queen vs. Dudley and Stephens (1884), a classic case taught in law schools to illustrate this principle, concerns sailors lost at sea who cannibalized their cabin boy to stay alive. When rescued, they defended their misdeed as “necessary.” However, they were tried and convicted of murder. The key holding from the court was that one person’s subjective “need” can not negate another person’s objective, inherent and unchanging right to life.

Roe v Wade inexplicably departed from this principle by ignoring the personhood of the unborn (see Part 2). Politely invite your listener to consider whether the mother’s subjective needs are truly a valid reason to override the objective personhood rights of an innocent unborn child and validate ending her child’s life.

Another difficult objection concerns rape and incest. An essential starting point for discussion of this issue is sincere empathy for the wronged women involved and recognition of the horrific nature of the crimes committed against them.

After acknowledging this reality, you could explain that, in the immediate aftermath of rape, it is morally permissible in Catholic teaching to try to avoid pregnancy through the use of high dose progestin. A woman can (and should) go to a hospital after she is assaulted. As part of her exam, doctors can determine whether or not the woman has recently ovulated. If she has not ovulated (and therefore pregnancy is not yet possible), this hormone can be given to suppress ovulation in order to avoid pregnancy.

Nevertheless, there are some instances when rape or incest produces pregnancy. According to the Guttmacher Institute, about 1.5 percent of abortions each year is sought due to rape or incest. Notice that this is a very small percentage and it is highly questionable to legitimize all elective abortions in the name of the small number of abortions sought for these difficult reasons.

In addressing these instances, it may be helpful to first point out that nothing can undo the violence committed against these women. An abortion cannot erase the crime.

Second, you could ask: “If your father committed a violent crime, would it be permissible to punish you for his crime with the death penalty?” This would, of course, be completely unjust, which is the point: The question highlights the injustice of aborting the innocent child conceived in rape or incest.

The circumstances of a child’s conception do not alter the fact that he or she is a human being. As Trent Horn puts it, “Rape is a horrifying evil, but should our answer to the evil of rape be to commit further evil against an innocent person?”

Finally, let’s address cases in which abortion is sought to safeguard the life of the mother. First, you can note that cases in which a mother’s life is truly at risk are extremely rare.

Second, you can point out that, even when the mother’s life is at risk, there are still two patients present, both of whom are entitled to the highest standard of medical care. The Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” applies to both. The physician should render every effort to preserve the life of each patient, and should never intentionally end the child’s life to protect the mother’s life.

Third, you can acknowledge that in certain instances it is morally permissible to allow the termination of the unborn child’s life, but only if that result is an unintended effect of administering life-saving treatment to the mother — also known as the principle of Double Effect.

In sum, there are many ways to discuss “hard cases” with an abortion proponent — ways that express empathy without sacrificing reason, logic or moral principle. While it is useful to have an answer to these tough questions ready at hand, it is important not to allow them to distract us from the fundamental question in the abortion debate, namely, “Who are the unborn?” Always direct the conversation back to that question, because the correct answer — living human beings with the inviolable rights of personhood — is the linchpin to the entire topic and the key to a persuasive defense of the right to life

Caitlin Shaughnessy Dwyer is an instructor of Theology at Thomas More University. She and her family are members of St. Pius X Parish, Edgewood.

The principle of Double Effect

The doctrine of “double effect” is rooted in the fundamental moral principle that one can never intentionally choose evil in order to try to achieve good. However, a person can choose a good action that has a bad effect if three factors are met:

(1) the person does not directly will (i.e. “intend”) the bad effect;

(2) the bad effect is not the direct means to the good achieved;

(3) the good achieved is proportionate to the bad effect.

For example, if a pregnant woman is dying of uterine cancer, a doctor could remove her cancerous uterus even if the unintended side effect is the death of the child. The chosen act (removing the diseased organ) is good; the bad effect (the death of the child) does not directly lead to the good effect (mother’s life saved); and the good achieved (a life saved) is proportionate to the bad effect (a life lost).

Catholic Soup podcast provides spiritual food, comfort to people

By David Cooley.

There is a new podcast broadcasting out of St. Anne Retreat Center, Melbourne, that has been feeding people with theological insights and warming them up to the truth, goodness and beauty of the Catholic Church. Msgr. William Cleves, pastor, Holy Spirit Parish, Newport, and Deacon David Profitt, director, St. Anne Retreat Center, have just wrapped up their 24th episode of “Catholic Soup.” They have many followers and are heard all over the country.

The idea came from Deacon Profitt, who said he always wanted to do a podcast but didn’t want to do one alone.

“I am a firm believer in expanding the way in which we evangelize,” said Deacon Profitt. “When Msgr. Cleves was open to doing the podcast, I felt like it was the perfect combination. We feel like this is a great avenue to reach more people.”

When Deacon Profitt and Msgr. Cleves sit down together on a Monday and hit the record button they don’t know what they are going to say. This is something that they both say keeps it fun and authentic.

“Dave and I have known each other for a while and I think we are kindred spirits. I think this was a meeting of the minds,” said Msgr. Cleves. “I’m the kind of guy that if you put me in front of a class of people I just get energized. I wanted to get involved with the retreat center out here because I saw the potential. It has been my experience that Catholic people have a genuine hunger that is deep and lasting for understanding the faith as adults.”

And that hunger that Msgr. Cleves refers to is where the podcast gets its name.

“It’s catchy,” Deacon Profitt said. “Soup can be meaty, spicy or simple but it’s comfort food. We want to give people comfort; as Msgr. Cleves said, feed them.”

In addition to the Catholic Soup podcast, Msgr. Cleves offers a series of Catholic talks on Mondays at the retreat center called Catholic Café, as well as a philosophy class on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month.

“Dave and I got together and brainstormed what we could do. I would love to get to the point where we see something happening here morning, afternoon and night,” said Msgr. Cleves. “I think we work well together, we understand each other and we have got this passion for seeing the Good News spread as much as possible. We are going to keep doing this for as long as we can.”

Msgr. Cleves and Deacon Profitt said that their topics come from anywhere and everywhere and that they trust the Holy Spirit to guide them.

“It might be something that happened in the news or something in one of our lives,” said Msgr. Cleves.

“I’m usually inspired by something Msgr. Cleves says — it might be something that he mentions in a homily or it might be something that came from casual conversation,” said Deacon Profitt. “A number of times inspiration came from something he said at Catholic Café that get my wheels turning. From there, once we begin talking the Spirit takes over and we just go wherever it leads us.”

Deacon Profitt said that he hopes listeners discover or re-discover the beauty of the Catholic faith and how much peace and joy it can bring into their lives.

“I think we overcomplicate the faith sometimes; we make it inaccessible for people — we get distracted in the thick of thin things,” Deacon Profitt said. “We want people to understand that the truth, goodness and beauty of our Catholic faith is there, we just have to get to it.”

“I think in terms of planting seeds,” said Msgr. Cleves. “St. Paul says that wonderful thing about how he planted a seed, Apollos watered it, and somebody else is going to reap. We are planting seeds out there. Those seeds will grow under the guidance of the Spirit.”

The two hosts are hoping to expand the podcast in the future to include featured guests.

Anyone interested in listening to Catholic Soup can visit the St. Anne Retreat Center website, www.stanneretreatcenter.org, or find it on most podcast platforms.

Father Comer invites all Catholics to ‘Know Your Faith’

By David Cooley.

Father Michael Comer, pastor, Mother of God Parish, Covington, will be offering, for the next two years, a new series of talks entitled, “Know Your Faith — An RCIA for Catholics.” The sessions begin Aug. 22, at Mother of God Church, and will continue each Thursday, offered at two different times — 11 a.m. and then repeated at 6:30 p.m. The two-year series will take a thorough look at four major aspects of the Catholic faith — doctrine (the Creed), worship (the sacraments), morality (the 10 Commandments) and prayer (the “Our Father”). All are welcome to attend, learn more and deepen their faith. Admission is free.

Calling it an “RCIA for Catholics,” Father Comer is hoping that believers not only learn more about the faith but also the reasons why Catholics believe what they believe. Father Comer has been teaching in speaker series format for over 20 years and he said that this is an ideal platform to increase understanding.

“I see so many people leaving the Catholic Church. I understand that there are a lot of good reasons why people are upset with the Church and disenchanted with the Church. However, if they really understood what the Catholic Church is and what we believe, it would be much more difficult for them to leave,” said Father Comer. “They would recognize the beauty of the Church and the truth of the Church.”

According to Father Comer, Catholics are woefully uninformed about what the Catholic Church actually believes and teaches.

“They don’t know why the Church teaches what it does and they certainly don’t understand what difference these beliefs make in their lives,” he said. “I want to try and help them to grow in their understanding so that they can live their Catholic faith more fully, be more equipped to withstand attacks on the faith, and be confident to hand on the faith to their children and others.”

The series of talks is open to anyone and everyone, Father Comer said. It is for anyone who recognizes a need to understand their faith better, and it is also for anyone who is questioning their faith or doubting their faith.

“My hope is that, if there are people out there who are really struggling with their faith and their membership in the Church, they will come and that this will help them to see some good reasons why they might choose to stay,” he said.

Father Comer presented a series like this about 10 years ago at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Burlington, and he believes that there is a renewed need for this type of program in the present climate.

While it is a two-year series, there will be some exceptions to the weekly schedule — considering holidays, retreats, etc. — a schedule will be made available online. Father Comer will be using the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults during the series. Everyone is encouraged to bring a copy of the U.S. catechism, but it is not required. Attendees are encouraged to come when they can — if they miss a session it is no big deal; if they’d like to catch up, each session will be recorded and made available on the parish’s website.

The first series of talks will present the doctrinal teaching of the Church, using the Nicene Creed as the outline for studying teachings. If you are unable to attend in person, sessions will be streamed live on http://www.mother-of-god.org. For more information, call (859) 291-2288.

How to answer pro-choice arguments: Part 2 — philosophy and law

By Caitlin Shaughnessy Dwyer.

This article is the second of a three-part series. The first article focused on scientific answers. The last article will address “hard cases.”

Last month, our Part 1 article discussed a simple strategy that can help make difficult conversations about abortion a little easier. The strategy is to begin by asking the simple question: “If you were convinced that the unborn child is a human life, would you still support abortion?”

Part 1 explored how to converse with someone who answers “No.” Now we will examine what happens if your conversation partner answers “Yes”— meaning that, even if she accepted the unborn child as a human life, she would still support abortion. In that event, you are entering into a very different conversation — one that is not about fetal development, but about the philosophical and legal question of personhood.

A starting point here is to ask “are all human beings also persons?” This is important because many abortion advocates will answer “no.” In contrast to pro-lifers, who posit that all human beings are also “persons” with basic rights — including the right to life — many abortion advocates contend that, in order to be a “person,” membership in the human species is not enough; whether a human is a person depends (they posit) on the human’s size, age, location or degree of independence.

Consider asking: “Can you share with me why you think that the unborn are not human persons who have basic rights like the right to life?” As mentioned in the previous article, these are Golden Rule moments: really listen, and show that you are seeking to understand by repeating back her explanation of the definition of personhood.

Once you have listened to the explanation, express that you would like to share your understanding that all human beings are also persons because personhood is not dependent on size, stage of development, location or degree of dependence on another person. Rather, it is something you are — just by being human.

Note that this type of philosophical assertion cannot be proven or disproven with physical evidence like a scientific claim. Rather, we can prove or disprove the truth of philosophical statements another way — we can discern whether they are based on sound principles and logic. Many pro-choice arguments for the unborn child’s lack of personhood are based on unsound logic, such as a confusion of degree and kind. You can invite your listener to reflect on these inconsistencies by asking questions tailored to her particular objection to the personhood of the unborn (size, age, location or degree of independence).

Let’s start with size. You could say, “I agree that a baby at the embryo phase is very small. However, what does how big you are have to do with what you are?” You could go on to give an example such as: “Lebron James is 6’8” and Bruno Mars is only 5’5. Does that make Lebron more of a person than Bruno?” Of course it doesn’t. To say personhood is a function of size is to confuse degree (how big a human is) with kind (what he is).

Let’s move on to age/stage of development. You could say, “I agree that a baby at the embryo stage is younger and less developed than a newborn baby. But does your age or stage of development determine what you are?” You can give an example like: “A mother is more developed than her young daughter. Does that make her more of a person?” Obviously, the answer is no. They are both persons — they are just at different stages of development — again, a confusion of degree and kind.

Next, let’s discuss location. You could say, “I agree that emerging from the womb is a big change in location. It marks a very special occasion and that’s why we celebrate birthdays. But what does where you are have to do with what you are?” Then illustrate: “Could my personhood status change if I changed locations, such as if I traveled to another country?” No. Personhood is not a function of location.

Finally, let’s touch on degree of independence. You could say, “I agree that an unborn child is dependent on the mother. But what does how dependent you are have to do with what you are?” Again, make it concrete: “Say I went to the moon. I would be completely dependent on a space suit. I could not survive in that environment without help. Would that make me a non-person?” Of course not. You could also note that many sick, elderly and handicapped people are very dependent on others. And children themselves remain dependent on their parents for years after birth. Yet these are all persons with rights. In reality, all of us are dependent on others in some way — to grow our food, produce our vehicles and fuel, to educate us. As John Donne said, “No man is an island.”

These questions and examples can help clearly illustrate that size, phase of development, location and dependence are arbitrary distinctions rather than a sound basis on which to establish personhood. It is more logically consistent to say that all human beings are persons with rights.

You might point out that, surprisingly, Roe v. Wade casually brushed aside the critically important question of whether the unborn are persons by simply asserting, without any reasoning, that they are not persons. Yet even the Roe majority conceded the centrality of the personhood issue, admitting that if the majority was wrong, and the unborn were in fact persons, they would have a constitutional right to life. “If this suggestion of personhood is established,” the Roe majority admitted, “[Roe’s] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment.”

The value in engaging in this type of conversation is that it invites others to think critically about the question that Roe so problematically sidestepped — are the unborn persons? The unborn must be persons, because they are human beings, and human beings’ personhood is not dependent on their size, age, location or dependence. And because they are persons, abortion is, by definition, the intentional ending of the life of an innocent person — a practice that reasonable people can agree is simply not justified.

Caitlin Shaughnessy Dwyer is an instructor of theology at Thomas More University. She and her family are members of St. Pius X Church, Edgewood.


“The fight for the right to life is not the cause of a special few, but the cause of every man, woman and child who cares not only about his or her own family, but the whole family of man.” — Dr. Mildred Jefferson, the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, and the first woman to graduate in surgery from Harvard Medical School; was elected president of the National Right to Life Committee in 1973


“If we take any living member of the species homo sapiens and put them outside the realm of legal protection, we undercut the case against discrimination for everyone else. The basis for equal treatment under the law is that being a member of the species is sufficient to be a member of the human community, without consideration for race, gender, disability, age, stage of development, state of dependency, place of residence or amount of property ownership. Abortion dynamites the foundation of feminism, and poisons the well against civil rights for African Americans, the elderly, the disabled and others.” — Feminists for Life


God of life and love, you created us in your image and sent your Son to bring us life. Instill in us a respect for all life, from conception to natural death. Empower us to work for justice for the poor. Nourish us that we may bring food to the hungry. Inspire us to cherish the fragile life of the unborn. Strengthen us to bring comfort to the chronically ill. Teach us to treat the aging with dignity and respect. Bring us one day into the glory of everlasting life. We ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Catholic HEART — experiencing Christ through liturgy and service

By David Cooley.

Around 140 youth and youth ministers from across the country came to the Diocese of Covington to serve the local community June 30–July 6. Bishop Brossart High School in Alexandria was home base for Catholic HEART WorkCamp, an international youth-friendly, Christ-centered organization dedicated to service, connection and loving others, headquartered in Orlando, Florida.

This is the second time Bishop Brossart High School served as a host site; the first time was in 2017. Each summer more than 13,000 youth go on mission trips through this organization around the country to restore homes, feed the hungry, lift the spirits of children, bring joy to the elderly and disabled, and offer assistance while partnering with social agencies.

The missionary campers stayed in the school facility at Bishop Brossart for the week. They began each day with Mass and then broke into teams, working at many different sites throughout the region. The group collectively worked more than 5,750 hours during the week. They served in soup kitchens, food pantries and worked for organizations like HONK (Housing Opportunities of Northern Kentucky), People Working Cooperatively and the Rose Garden Home Mission. Groups painted at St. Anthony School, Taylor Mill, organized crafts and activities for the aged and infirm at Carmel Manor, assisted elderly neighbors at their homes, helped with minor construction projects and cleaned properties.

In addition to service projects each day, the evenings were filled with music, skits, games and spiritual enrichment. Donna Heim, former Bishop Brossart religion teacher and Catholic minister at NKU’s Newman Center, managed the work camp.

“These campers worked hard. What I love about Catholic HEART is that it is the epitome of what it means to be Catholic packed into one week,” said Mrs. Heim. “It is like a service-learning retreat; not just serving people but also loving them as Christ does.”

Mrs. Heim said that the experience has a very positive impact on the campers and those they serve.

“It’s a win-win situation,” she said. “The campers get to experience the joy of serving others, homes in the community get restored and the people served feel loved and develop a relationship with the campers.”

Father Robert Rottgers, pastor, St. Philip Parish, Melbourne, served as the chaplain for the camp; Lee Roessler Band led the worship music; and Charles Marks, junior high teacher at St. Thomas School, Ft. Thomas, gave three presentations on the theme — “Radiance” — and how Christians are called to shine with the light of Christ. As part of the experience, adoration was offered as well as reconciliation during evening ceremonies.

Students from Bishop Brossart High School also took part in the week, serving as a hospitality committee for those visiting and living at the school. Three recent graduates — JD Schumacher, Justin Kiefer and Samantha (Sam) Webster — served those who were serving others.

“It was a great experience; not only do I think that we helped them but this experience also helped me in my faith. When you are in an environment like that it is hard not to take a step forward. Everyone there was working toward the same thing,” said Mr. Schumacher. “It was just awesome.”

Mr. Kiefer said that his favorite part was the fellowship he experienced with the campers from all over the country and worshiping Christ together.

“During the week I had an experience that really changed me. It isn’t something that I can explain but I feel it,” he said. Mr. Kiefer was inspired and is hoping to become a member of the trained Catholic HEART Workcamp team next year.

Service is very important to Miss Webster, who is also thinking about applying to become a member of the national team next year.

“Catholic HEART Workcamp allowed me to see a larger community of youth that were super passionate about helping the community and those around them. I’m struck by the joy and the passion and the faith that the whole experience brought to everyone involved,” she said.

“This is a great way to go around and spread Christ’s message and show everyone love and compassion, and teach other young people how valuable and how important service is for ourselves and our community — locally and globally.”

Mrs. Heim said that a lot of young people come to camp because they like to volunteer and serve, but she noticed something more happening below the surface.

“It seemed to me that many of them have not had that personal encounter with Christ. They know of him but they didn’t know him in such a personal way; I have seen this camp change that. Through the worship and the liturgy, tied in with the service, they experienced something that they hadn’t experienced before,” she said.

“This is what we are all about — the sacraments, the power of a community united around Christ, serving our brothers and sisters in need, worshiping together and enjoying each other’s company. It is one of those ideal moments in time when you can see what the Church is, what people do in Christ’s name.”

How to answer pro-choice arguments: Part 1 — ‘Science’

By Caitlin Shaughnessy Dwyer.

This article is the first of a three-part series. Future articles will address logic, the law, and “hard cases.”

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Are you comfortable talking about being pro-life? Many of us aren’t. We may be convinced that abortion is wrong, but when it comes to sharing our convictions with others, we tend to clam up. We want to say something, but we don’t know where to begin.

There is a simple strategy that you can use to make these difficult conversations easier. If someone expresses that she is pro-choice or undecided, you can ask the following question: “If you were convinced that the unborn child is a human life, would you still support abortion?”

This question does two things. First, it invites the person to examine her ​own​ position. She must decide: is abortion still ok if the unborn child is a human life? ​Second​, it cuts your own work in the conversation in half:

— If the person answers “No” — meaning that if she accepted the unborn child as a human life, she would ​not ​support abortion — then you have a conversation about ​science​ on your hands.

— If she answers, “Yes” — meaning that, even if she accepted the unborn child as a human life, she would still support abortion — then you are entering into a conversation about the legal and philosophical question of ​personhood:​ Which human beings are ​persons​ who have basic rights?

This article will focus on the scientific conversation, while a forthcoming article will focus on personhood.

If your listener agrees she would not support abortion if she were convinced the unborn child is a human life, tell her you are going to share why you are convinced that the unborn child ​is a human life from the first moment of fertilization.

First, the unborn child is ​human because he has human DNA. There is universal scientific consensus regarding this fact: a complete ​human genome made up of a unique set of 46 chromosomes (23 from each parent) is present at fertilization. The child is not a chicken, or a rabbit. He is not one kind of thing that turns into another kind of thing. He is always human.

Second, the unborn child is ​alive because he exhibits the characteristics of life that scientists generally use to determine whether an entity is living. You don’t have to remember all of these, but I’m going to list them here for reference:

  1. made of one of more cells;
  2. has DNA;
  3. metabolizes;
  4. maintains homeostasis;
  5. is responsive to environment;
  6. grows and develops; and
  7. reproduces (meaning an entity that can reproduce even if reproduction isn’t possible until adulthood).

An unborn child meets all criteria.

At this point, you can pause and ask, “When do you think life begins?”

This is a Golden Rule moment: treat this person the way you would want to be treated. Really listen, and show that you are listening to her and seeking to understand her thoughts by repeating back her definition of when life begins.

She may present an objection to your argument, such as, “Ok, it’s alive, but at the beginning it’s just a clump of cells! My skin cell is alive and human, but it’s not a ​human being​.” Here, it is helpful to explain that the unborn child is an ​organism​, a self-directing entity that coordinates its own growth and including the right to development and will mature into an adult member of its species if given a proper environment and adequate nutrition. A skin cell cannot mature into an adult human.

It would also be helpful to share basic facts of fetal development. Begin by explaining that words like “zygote,” “morula,” “embryo” and “fetus” are terms used to describe ​phases of development of a human child before birth (just like we use “newborn,” “toddler,” and “adolescent” after birth). This is an important clarification because some people use these words as though they were describing different ​non-human kinds of beings.​ A baby is human and exhibits the characteristics of life at each phase of development.

During the first few days of development (zygote and morula phase), the baby is already communicating with the mother by sending her body chemical signals. These signals tell the mom’s body to keep making progesterone, so that she will not menstruate and lose the endometrial lining that the baby needs to successfully implant. The baby also sends signals to suppress the mother’s local immune system so that her body will allow the baby to implant (the baby has different DNA than the mom and our bodies tend to attack or reject foreign DNA).

During the embryo stage (2-8 weeks), the baby’s heart starts to beat at just 21 days after conception. Many women do not even know they are pregnant at this point. At six weeks, brain waves can be detected. By 8.5 weeks, every organ is in place and unique fingerprints have formed. At this age, babies react to touch and there is some evidence that babies can feel pain.

During the fetal stage (9 weeks until birth), the baby continues to grow and develop, and by 20 weeks, there is compelling evidence that babies can feel pain. For this reason, twelve states have banned abortion after 20 weeks citing fetal pain.

You might ask if the person has ever seen an ultrasound, and if not, offer to pull one up on YouTube.

Another objection that your listener might present is the claim that the baby is just part of the woman’s body. The points that we have already covered above can help you respond to this; you can point out again that the baby has ​unique DNA. If he were part of the mother’s body, they would both share the same DNA. The baby also has his own heart with his own blood (often a different blood type than the mother). He has his own brain that directs his own movements and bodily functions. He is a unique,​ distinct​ human being.

Finally, when having these conversations, always remember that the goal is not to “win” the argument, but to speak the truth in love for the genuine good of the other. Ask questions, listen, and lovingly respond through the guidance of the Spirit. The person will not only remember ​what you said, but ​how y​ou said it. Your message about dignity, given in a way that respects her dignity, will resonate in her heart.

Caitlin Shaughnessy Dwyer is an Instructor of Theology at Thomas More University. She and her family are members of St. Pius X Church in Edgewood. This “We Choose Life” article first appeared in the July 19, 2019, edition of the Messenger.

General Tips:

  1. Ask questions. Begin by making lots of statements about your own position can be off-putting. Asking good questions can invite a person to more carefully reflect on her own position. A question could be as simple as, “Could you share with me why you think that?”
  2. Plant the seed; don’t give a lecture. The article provided today is not meant to be a script and you don’t need to cover every point to have an impactful conversation. You can ask a question, listen, then share what you think might be helpful based on the person’s response. If the conversation is going well you can ask, listen and share again. If the person is not receptive, you might try to engage in dialogue again another day.
  3. Empathize and find common ground wherever you can.
  4. Be calm, humble, kind, respectful and joy-filled. So much about the message is conveyed by the demeanor of the messenger!

“To accept the fact that, after fertilization has taken place, a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion … It is plain experimental evidence.” – Dr. Jerome Lejeune, discoverer of Trisomy 21 as the genetic basis of Down Syndrome

“​It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.” – Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard Medical School


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