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Pro-life ministry reaches youth at Covenant House

The idea of respecting life from conception has been the Respect Life Committee at St. Charles Borromeo’s focus since it was formed approximately four years ago when inaugural leader Cherie Decker returned on fire from the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

While the group began with life in the womb, it has expanded to include all aspects of life until natural death and even developed a committee on human trafficking.

Recently, members prepared and served dinner to homeless, runaway and at-risk young adults between the ages of 16-22 who seek help at Covenant House in New Orleans.

“It’s awesome to have you here,” Caroline Keyes, volunteer coordinator at Covenant House, told the group. “Having you here makes it easier for us,” considering breakfast and lunch are subsidized by the state, but dinner is on Covenant House’s dime.

“We don’t proselytize, but if they ask you questions about religion, please answer,” she gave as an instruction for the Catholic group.

Ten or so members manned the cafeteria-style line to feed the young adults.

“We speak with our heart,” said Tanya Ory, one of St. Charles Borromeo’s Respect Life committee volunteers. Ory had made two pans of what her daughter dubbed the “Christian Casserole” of baked ziti that she regularly prepares for those in need in the parish.

The young adults were fed not only the casserole but also got all the works: salad, green beans, bread, dessert and punch.

“We serve you out of love,” Father Tom McCann, pastor at St. Charles Borromeo, said to the diners as they started eating. “We know the goodness in each and every one of you. Don’t forget the Lord in you.”

Father McCann is proud of the work of the 35-plus member Respect Life committee, led today by Kim Bourgeois.

“We’re just trying to show everybody the dignity of human life and to try to serve that human life as best we can and to bring hope as Christ would have,” he said.

Jim Kelly, executive director at Covenant House, said the relationship between Covenant House and the Archdiocese of New Orleans is ongoing. And, contributions like time and food from parishes such as St. Charles Borromeo mean a lot. Young adults eat a lot, he joked, and it allows Covenant House to allocate money to other areas of ministry. St. Peter Claver Parish also had recently donated gift cards and toiletry bags for the youth.

“It’s also great for the kids,” Kelly said. “They see volunteers not being paid anything. They are there for them. You cannot underestimate this unconditional love. That’s a very important part of the healing process. They think, ‘I am worth it.’”

Those on the receiving end were appreciative of the hot meal.

“It’s great,” said one young man. “I got to have seconds, and I see them do it out of the kindness of their hearts.”

Kelly said Catholic Charities partners with Covenant House on human trafficking and homeless funding issues and will operate a new Head Start program on campus. Covenant House currently sees an average of 150 young adults a day, so needs are great. (Covenant House is in need of adult male and female underwear in all sizes.)

St. Charles Borromeo also recently asked its parishioners to contribute to a drive for items that help human trafficking victims. They collected a truckload from the first drive, and distributed them to a safe house for those who had been trafficked.

“Our parish is overwhelmingly generous,” Ory said. “We have a second shipment waiting to go.”

The Respect Life committee also has prayed at the Metairie abortion clinic and now focuses on the newly opened Planned Parenthood on Claiborne near Napoleon avenues the second Saturday of every month.

“We are trying to expand in other areas that fall under the respect life umbrella,” Ory said. “We make awareness in our parish of human trafficking and end-of-life issues, not just abortion.”

The next big event for the group will be 40 Days for Life in October.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion

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