DYER, Ind. – Hundreds of students from Catholic schools across Northwest Indiana and Chicago’s South Suburbs gathered at Franciscan Health Dyer Wednesday morning for the annual Respect Life Celebration.
The event, co-hosted by Franciscan Health and the Diocese of Gary during Respect Life Month, aims to celebrate all life with an emphasis on individual life, with the goal of drawing attention to the lives lost to abortion.
The Most Rev. Robert McClory, bishop of the Diocese of Gary, presided over the prayer service. Bishop McClory referenced the popularity of gender reveal parties as an example of families and the community at large recognizing a relationship with the unborn.
“Jesus gave us the biggest reveal on the night before he gave his Passion,” McClory said. “Here’s the reveal of Jesus: love one another. We’re all in solidarity with one another. Coming here today means you are showing your support, that from the womb to the tomb, you are supporting persons in need.”
The theme for this year’s Respect Life Month is “Radical Solidarity,” particularly with mothers in need. Sister Mary Augustine, OSF, vice president of mission integration for Franciscan Health Dyer and Franciscan Health Munster, said the saving women and babies from abortion requires love and support.
“St. John Paul II called this, ‘ radical solidarity,’” she said. “Being in radical solidarity with women who are pregnant or raising children in difficult circumstances means putting our love for them into action and putting their needs before our own.”
Alice Tuuk, RN, with the Franciscan Health Family Birth Center Dyer and neonatal intensive care unit, referenced a former patient who was an immigrant who came to the U.S. to deliver her baby and seek a new life as an example of the healthcare ministry’s radical solidarity with mothers in need.
“Many staff members were so thoughtful and gave her gifts and we made sure she had a safe place to stay,” Tuuk said. “As Christ loved us, we, too, should love others.”
Students in attendance placed crosses on the lawn of the hospital at 24 Joliet St., just east of the Indiana/Illinois border on U.S. 30 in Dyer, to represent lives lost to abortion.
The Rev. Theodore Mens, chaplain of Spiritual Care Services for Franciscan Health Munster, said when the Respect Life event began 30 years ago this fall, students placed 3,000 crosses on the hospital lawn to represent the lives lost annually to abortion.
“Now that abortion is illegal, the numbers are less, but there is still work to be done,” Mens said.
The event included Catholic school students from Andrean High School in Merrillville, Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond, Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Ill., Marquette High School in Michigan City, Our Lady of Grace School in Highland, St. Francis Center in Dyer and St. Mary School in Griffith.
This year’s celebration marked the first time the event took place in person since the pandemic forced it to go virtual in 2019.