The Missionaries of the Gospel of Life: Activities and
Christ, now raised from the dead, will never die again; death
has no more power over Him! (see Rom. 6:9).
From the beginning of Christianity, his disciples have
proclaimed, “Christ is Risen!” and have thereby announced the
end of the kingdom of death and the inauguration of the new
People of Life, the Church, which is by God’s design to embrace
all humanity into one family.
Because Jesus Christ is Life (see John 11:17-27; 14:1-6) and
brings Life (see John 1:1-5; 10:7-15), His Gospel is the Gospel
of Life. “The Gospel of God's love for man, the Gospel of
the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single
and indivisible Gospel” (Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, n.
The Church, called to invite and lead all people to salvation in
Christ, proclaims and opens the door to that life which is
eternal. The gift of eternal life, however, presupposes the
natural gift of human life itself. In our day, this most basic
good and most fundamental right is under unprecedented attack,
particularly by abortion, which claims the most defenseless
human victims, and in greater numbers than any other form of
violence. It is the defense of the natural right to life that
gives rise to our particular charism.
The People of Life understand that the command to “love one
another” knows of no exceptions, and that no Christian can be
indifferent to attacks on human life. Nourished by the Biblical
call to rescue the vulnerable and defend the defenseless, many
have committed themselves to defend the lives of the poorest of
the poor – the unborn – and of others whose very right to life
is denied. Many, moreover, feel called by God to do this work of
justice on a full-time basis.
“Where life is involved, the service of charity must be
profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and
discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every
stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good”
(EV, n.87). It is precisely that consistency that calls for a
new Culture of Life, in which the unborn child is treated with
the same care and protection as the born. The consistent ethic
of life, properly understood, recognizes that some rights are
more fundamental than others, and that life itself is the
condition for all the rest.
Within the consistent ethic, we are pastors and servants to the
unborn, a collective and visible voice for the voiceless
millions who have been killed and are yet in danger of being
killed by abortion. We call for the establishment of full
recognition of their rights and protection of their lives. We do
this fully realizing that without such recognition and
protection, every noble effort to establish justice in the human
community is undermined, every affirmation of human dignity is
contradicted, and peace between families, communities and
nations is threatened. As Pope John Paul II declared in
Christifideles Laici, “…[T]he common outcry, which is justly
made on behalf of human rights -- for example, the right to
health, to home, to work, to family, to culture -- is false and
illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental
right and the condition of all other personal rights, is not
defended with maximum determination” (n.38) and as Blessed
Teresa of Calcutta said, “The greatest destroyer of peace
today is abortion” (Speech to National Prayer Breakfast,
Washington DC, February 3, 1994).
God is therefore raising up in the Church priests and laity for
whom the primary focus of their lives and spirituality is to
restore recognition of the right to life where it is directly
denied. This is a response to the call issued in Evangelium
Vitae: “What is urgently called for is a general mobilization of
consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great
campaign in support of life. All together, we must build a new
culture of life” (EV, n.95).
Maintaining the focus of the mission
Because the theme of “life” is so fundamental, it is also very
broad, and is therefore subject to the possibility of becoming
diluted or over-extended. The Missionaries of the Gospel of
Life, as an Association and in the lives of its individual
members, are always to maintain the clear focus of the
Association on the defense of the unborn. There are other key
“life issues” in which we specialize, but service to the unborn
is always primary.
We understand and present the defense of the unborn and the
vulnerable in the context of justice. Members will be eager, in
their presentations and in the exercise of their ministry, to
work to overcome the false division between “social justice”
ministries and “right to life” ministries, ever mindful that the
right to life is the core of social justice and impels the whole
Church toward works of social justice. The Association will be
particularly committed to fostering a proper understanding of
the consistent ethic of life.
We foster esteem and active collaboration with other right to
life organizations and with social justice ministries both
within and outside the Church.
Aims of the Association
Missionaries of the Gospel of Life seek to give witness before
the Church and the world to the priority of the right to life as
the foundation of all other rights, and to the absolute claims
to respect and protection that this right makes upon every
individual and community in the human family.
In that context, we seek to respond to the call to holiness, and
live out our vocation concretely by striving:
- To bear public witness, in every sector of society, to
the sanctity of each human life, and to defend human life
against direct attacks by abortion, and other evils such as
infanticide, destruction of embryos in the name of research,
- To be a prophetic voice within the Church, in order that
pastoral programs, preaching, teaching, and the allocation
of time and resources in every sector of the Church reflect
the “urgent priority and attention” that the tragedy of
abortion deserves (see US Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for
Pro-Life Activities: A Campaign in Support of Life,
- To provide ongoing education, motivation, and resources
for the clergy and all who minister in the Church, helping
them to network with each other and equipping them with the
necessary tools to preach and teach the pro-life message, to
counsel those tempted to abort or who have aborted, and
organize their people for pro-life activities;
- To minister to the entire pro-life movement by offering
spiritual support, guidance, teaching and direction.
In short, we minister to the unborn child and to the pro-life
Because cultures and their laws change, the particular shape of
the attacks on the right to life will change from generation to
generation. However, as long as humanity exists, its youngest,
most vulnerable members will always need care and protection,
and those who bring them to birth will always need courage.
Despite the legal status of abortion, which has been condemned
from the beginning of the Church, the Association will always
play a role in advocating for the unborn. Moreover, the Gospel
of Christ will always be the Gospel of Life, and as direct
attacks on the right to life take various forms throughout
history, the Association will bear witness to the Gospel and
summon believers to respond to its demands as the needs of the
Means to Achieve our Aims
These goals are accomplished by traveling into local communities
to strengthen the work of the Church as it relates to the right
to life, to minister to the pro-life movement, and to reach out
to the wider community by means of media and other forms of
The Missionaries of the Gospel of Life seek to grow in the
likeness of Christ as they build a Culture of Life. To that end,
our spirituality is marked by the following characteristics:
The Word of Life, found in the pages of the Sacred Text, is to
be a constant source of meditation and instruction, as well as
the most frequently used pastoral tool for preaching and
teaching. Members are to be intimately familiar with the pages
of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, and are to always
deepen their ability to articulate for the people the Biblical
message about the sanctity of life, as it is found in every part
of the Bible.
Counteracting the culture of death demands a prophetic
spirituality. Our teaching is not our own, and like the
prophets, we nurture the spirit of humility and awe that God
should deign to speak His eternal word through mortal, sinful
instruments like ourselves. Yet, as Jesus did, we teach “with
authority,” because the Word we preach is His. The Gospel,
always respectful of culture and expressing itself in
diversified cultural contexts, likewise challenges and
transforms culture. The prophet does not tell the future as much
as he tells the present, that is, interprets for people
what God says about what is going on in the world. We speak a
word that is counter-cultural. It is a prophetic word that
challenges society to recognize the unborn as brothers and
sisters, and to therefore repent of practices and policies that
destroy them or put them at risk.
Because prophets are always persecuted, and because the abortion
issue is particularly volatile, we foster a particular
attentiveness to accepting the inevitable reality of
persecution. Rooted in the Beatitudes, we seek the spirit of the
apostles who “rejoiced at having been counted worthy to suffer
for the sake of the Name” (Acts 5:41).
We foster a liturgical spirituality that “thinks and feels” with
the ebb and flow of the Church’s liturgical year. Our observance
of liturgical seasons and feasts is carried out with a special
attentiveness to the lessons those seasons and feasts present
regarding the sanctity of life. The Association observes with
special solemnity certain special feast days particularly
associated with this theme and outlined in the Statutes.
The Eucharist is Life itself, and therefore our spirituality is
centered on the Bread of Life. The members will meditate
frequently and preach often about the intimate links between our
faith in the Eucharist and our commitment to the defense of
Members share the deep longing of Christ that His disciples
would be one, and we see in the Christian response to abortion
one of the most practical and effective arenas for authentic
ecumenical collaboration. We are ecumenical to the very fabric
of our being, always thinking, speaking, and working in ways
that welcome our brothers and sisters of other denominations. We
also work in an inter-religious spirit, joining with people of
good will from all religions.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, is a model for all
mothers in her “Fiat” to the gift of life. Members of the
Association foster a devotion to her and present her as a source
of comfort, inspiration, and instruction to the faithful.
In the light of our spirituality, there are certain key
virtues that we seek to foster in ourselves and others. These
A spirit of joy.
Life is joyful, and defending life is a mission that should be
carried out with joy. We seek to foster, in ourselves and
others, a “joyful sorrow,” that is, a spirit that is always
mourning because of its keen awareness of the ongoing, unseen
destruction of human life, and at the same time, is always
serene and rejoicing that death has been conquered by Jesus
Christ, who is Risen and is with us at all times.
A serene confidence.
“Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for life is already
decided” (Pope John Paul II, Homily at World Youth Day, Denver,
CO, August 15, 1993). We do, at the same time, have to work
anxiously to be faithful to our own role in proclaiming,
celebrating and serving that victory. Despite all outward
appearances of the power of the culture of death, we foster, in
ourselves and others, a supreme and uninterrupted confidence
that the tools of grace with which God has equipped the People
of Life are far more powerful and eternally victorious.
A deep compassion.
At times, we have all “aborted” God’s will in our lives. We
never look down on those who have committed the sin of abortion
or who promote it. They are not the enemy, but rather are
captive to the enemy. We seek to free them, as their
brothers and sisters who are no strangers to temptation, error,
This compassion is translated into a constant and effective
invitation to the healing and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, and
tireless efforts for the conversion of those who promote the
culture of death. We also seek to assist those who have
repented, including former abortionists, to re-integrate
themselves into wholesome, life-giving activities and attitudes.
A radical solidarity
Pope John Paul II declared that the pro-life stance is one “of
radical solidarity with the woman” (Crossing the
Threshold of Hope, p.206-207). We do not seek to point
fingers of condemnation, but rather to extend hands of mercy
that lift out of despair those who are tempted to abort a child,
or who endure the pain of having done so.
This radical solidarity stands at the same time with the child,
in the awareness that it makes no sense to choose one against
the other, but rather only to respond to mother and child by
loving them both.
A strong courage
”The spirit God has given us is no cowardly spirit,” St. Paul
tells Timothy (2Tim.1:7). Our work requires constant courage,
which is nurtured at the feet of our Lord, in the pages of
Scripture, in incessant prayer, and by the example of numerous
saints and other historical figures who have fought against the
injustices of their times.
A constant readiness for public
We do not shrink from the public spotlight, which is often where
we need to be in order to give voice to the voiceless and to
reach the numbers of people we need to reach in the short time
we have to reverse the culture of death. “Let your light shine
before others,” the Lord said, always reminding us that the
glory goes to the Father (see Mt.5:16). Members will form their
spirit according to the plea of the Prophet, “Cry out
full-throated and unsparingly; lift up your voice like a trumpet
A passion for justice.
The sacrifices needed to build a Culture of Life can only be
sustained when there is a deep passion for justice. Christians
believe in righteous anger, which was exhibited by the Lord and
His saints in the face of evil. We are angry at what the culture
of death does each day. We strive to submit our anger to the
Holy Spirit of God, not asking Him to extinguish it but
rather to channel it into a wholesome, energized
passion which, always docile to the promptings of the Spirit and
obedient to authority, sustains us in the task at hand. This is
the basis for our total commitment to non-violence in
the cause of life.
These associates participate in four overarching spiritual
disciplines for personal formation, and to “flesh out” the
spirituality and virtues of the Association. These disciplines
are prayer, study, community, and witness.
The priests of the Association will participate in the various
activities outlined below, often together with the lay
Associates, in response to invitations they receive from
dioceses, parishes, and pro-life organizations.
Parish visits – At the
invitation of the local pastor, we visit parishes to preach the
pro-life message at Masses, parish missions, or other parish
gatherings in liturgical or educational settings. We meet with,
train and strengthen local parish ministers in the pro-life
dimensions of their work.
Assistance to clergy – We
provide spiritual and practical assistance to the clergy of all
denominations in the pro-life dimensions of their ministry.
Training seminars – We
present training seminars about all aspects of the pro-life
movement to priests, deacons, seminarians, laity, and ecumenical
Retreats – We offer pro-life
retreats, which give participants an opportunity to see in their
relationship with God the call to defend life, and to root all
their pro-life activities in their relationship with God.
Presence at ministerial conferences
– We are present, as members, participants, and exhibitors, at
conferences at which specialists in different aspects of Church
life and ministry gather. Our presence provides pro-life
resources, networking and education to them.
Pro-life events – We
participate in the events of local, national, and international
pro-life organizations and Churches. We are invited to speak and
pray at their conventions, banquets, seminars, prayer vigils,
and abortion mill protests, to strategize with or minister to
their members, and to provide a clerical presence where it is
Alternatives to Abortion and Healing
After Abortion – We foster, promote, and interact with
the many ministries, both within and beyond the Catholic Church,
that provide alternatives to abortion and healing after
abortion. We assist the Churches to connect their congregations
with such resources. Our priests assist directly in training and
carrying out counseling both before and after abortion, and in
conducting retreats for those wounded by abortion, including all
the family members of the aborted child. We also minister to
medical personnel and their assistants who previously performed
the abortion procedure and have repented.
Media activity – We produce
and appear on radio and television broadcasts for local,
national, and international media outlets to articulate the
pro-life message and comment upon developments relevant to it.
Fostering political responsibility
– Through non-partisan activities, we assist Churches and
pro-life organizations to mobilize, equip, and educate their
people to carry out their political responsibilities. This
includes such activities as voter registration, distribution of
non-partisan voter guides, and get-out-the-vote drives.
Schools – We speak at schools
of every level to deliver the pro-life message to students and
to equip and encourage the faculty and administration in this
dimension of their work.
Participation in leaders’ meetings
– On a local, national, and international level, we participate
in various meetings with leaders of all religious, political,
and cultural backgrounds to develop strategy for the pro-life
Individual counseling of members in government, media, and other
leadership roles – We hold personal and confidential meetings
with leaders to discuss their attitudes and actions regarding
the right to life, and provide important opportunities for
conversion, guidance, and encouragement.
Dialogue – We foster
respectful dialogue with those who promote the Culture of Death,
in such a way that, without compromising our message, we can
enable them to realize that they too share in the dignity proper
to every human life. By rediscovering their own dignity, they
may be able to rediscover that of the unborn child.
We also promote that dialogue of salvation which the Church
carries out with all who do not embrace the Christian faith or
any faith at all. Many people of good will share our concern
about the right to life, and we collaborate actively with them
in its defense.
Liturgy and Prayer
Liturgical seasons and feasts
In accordance with its liturgical spirituality, the Association
observes the seasons and feasts of the Church calendar, drawing
from all of them the insights they bring regarding the sanctity
of human life. There are certain liturgical days which are
particularly suited to the Association’s focus on the centrality
of the gift of life, and its special commitment to the unborn.
We assist others to study the meaning of these feasts and
celebrate them in their local communities with a pro-life focus.
Easter, the primary feast day
for the entire Church, is especially appropriate as the
Association’s primary feast day, because it is the Day of the
Victory of Life. The Easter Triduum is celebrated with special
care and meditation on the implications for building a Culture
The Annunciation (March 25) is
observed with special joy as the feast on which God became an
unborn child, thus sanctifying all life in the womb as he
sanctified it at every stage. In the same manner, we celebrate
Christmas with a deep awareness that it is the feast of the
Incarnation, and therefore inherently proclaims the truth of the
sanctity of all human life.
The Immaculate Conception (December 8)
likewise carries the clear message of God’s relationship with
human life at its earliest stages, and the Association
celebrates this feast with that truth in mind.
The Holy Family is celebrated shortly after
Christmas. The family is the sanctuary of life, and the
Association draws from this feast a renewed commitment to defend
and promote strong families.
St. Joseph (March 19), the
“Just Man,” who had the role of protecting the Holy Family,
embodies the example for all fathers to follow. The lack of
willingness of the father of an unborn child is frequently the
cause of abortion. Honoring St. Joseph and teaching the faithful
his example can inspire men to carry out their proper role in
The Holy Innocents are honored every December
28, and the Association will mark this day with special
memorials to the countless innocents slain by abortion.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose image brought
about an end to the practice of human sacrifice among the
Aztecs, is the Patroness of the Unborn. On her feast day,
December 12, we commend to her care all unborn children and
those who defend them.
Other particularly significant feasts on the calendar of saints
April 13 – Blessed Margaret of Castello, OP,
Patron of the Unwanted
April 28 – St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who gave
her life for her unborn child. Patron of Mothers and Physicians.
September 5 – (Blessed) Mother Teresa of
October 5 – St. Mary Faustina Kowalska, Patron
Saint of Mercy, who was given the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to
pray in particular in reparation for abortion.
October 16 – St. Gerard Majella, Patron Saint
of Pregnant Mothers and of Childbirth.
In the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, pro-lifers
should keep in mind the historical and intrinsic connection
between this devotion and the need to invoke God’s mercy for the
sin of abortion, as revealed in the Diary of St. Faustina. It is
also helpful to keep in mind the special Apostolic Blessing of
Pope John Paul II for those who say the chaplet for this
In their daily prayers and Masses, members should keep in their
intentions the benefactors of the Association and the many
prayer intentions that are sent in from the general public,
especially those related to women tempted to abort, to families
who have lost children to abortion, and to aborted babies
Priests of the Association are to offer Mass regularly for the
intention of an end to abortion and euthanasia. Likewise, Masses
for the intentions and mission of the Association, and for its
benefactors and their intentions, are to be offered frequently.
Because our Association serves the Church in all dimensions of
its pro-life mission, including prayer, members are encouraged
to compose prayers related to the right to life. Many of these
prayers may prove useful for pastors and group leaders as they
serve their people.
Study and Reading
The teachings that shape the life and mission of our Association
come above all from the Word of God as found in Scripture and
Tradition, and safeguarded and taught by the Magisterium of the
Church. Among the documents of the Magisterium, we give primary
emphasis to Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae
(The Gospel of Life), for which the Association is named.
We see John Paul II as the Pope of Life, and his encyclical, as
well as the witness of his life, lay out the contours of our
mission and spirituality.
The teachings and example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, a
strong voice for the unborn and vulnerable, are a special source
of instruction and inspiration for us. In her meetings with Fr.
Frank Pavone, Mother Teresa provided personal input and
encouragement to the work of Priests for Life.
We also study and promote the educational materials provided by
Fr. Frank Pavone and his pastoral team.
We gather for our library all materials published on the topic
of abortion by those who oppose it and by those who support it,
and study this material. We also gather and make available to
the public any pro-life statements by bishops’ conferences or
individual bishops anywhere in the world.
Membership in the Association
Lay persons who are already members of another Association may
also join our Lay Associates program, as long as the demands of
both programs are not contradictory.
The National Coordinator for the Lay Associates sees to it that
regular communication occurs between the Association and those
training for and accepted as Lay Associates. The Coordinator
will make recommendations to the National Director for the
acceptance of Lay Associates, who will then make their
profession of promises in the presence of one of the clerical
members of the Association. The National Director may allow a
Lay Associate to make his or her promises in the presence of
another priest (such as a pastor or spiritual director of the
In the course of their travels, members of our Pastoral Team
will meet with the lay associates throughout the nation. The
Coordinator will likewise see to it that they are given
information about specific pro-life projects and priorities in
which they will be encouraged to participate in accordance with
their individual circumstances.
The Structure of the Association
within the Body of Christ
In Communion with the Church
The Association does not seek to replace existing structures in
the Church or the wider society that are engaged in the pro-life
mission, but rather to infuse them with renewed vigor
and effectiveness. Where it is appropriate, our teams of
priests, deacons, and laity will assist in the building of local
efforts and the training of those who carry out those efforts.
There are many priests, deacons and laity in the Church who do
pro-life work. Our mission is neither to take their work from
them nor to claim that we do it better, but rather to encourage
them in that work and help it to flourish. For us, however,
pro-life work is not merely an assignment or one aspect of
ministry. It is, rather, a life’s work, a vocation within a
vocation. We have the support of a community whose members are
committed to a distinctive common mission around the nation.
The Association carries out its work in collaboration with each
local diocese, seeking to advance the pastoral plans that have
already been developed by the local diocese to meet its
particular needs regarding the pro-life mission.
At the same time, we provide to local efforts a national
perspective, and the benefit of our experience in developing
strategies and networking with all the existing resources of the
pro-life movement. We bring these new resources to the local
diocese, so that a fruitful process of dialogue, mutual learning
and encouragement, and growth in effectiveness may occur.
The Proper Relationship of Clergy and Laity
The priests and deacons of our Association recognize that the
laity are called to defend human life by their very humanity,
and participate in the Gospel witness to life by virtue of their
baptism and confirmation. The laity have a particular call to
sanctify the temporal order. We seek, therefore, not to replace
the work of the laity but rather to foster it. We assist all
priests to recognize and “stir into flame” the gifts that the
Spirit generously bestows upon the lay faithful.
The clergy in our association are pastors to the pro-life
movement. Our mission is to awaken consciences to the need to
defend life, and once they are awakened, to provide ongoing
motivation, inspiration, teaching, and guidance. Through our
ministry, the lay faithful, in their pro-life activity, will
constantly nourish themselves at the source of this activity –
the Lord and Giver of Life – and through their activity will
always return to Him as the ultimate goal of all human effort.
One joins the Association by means of the profession of two
-- commitment to the defense of the right to
-- availability for the mission of the Association.
The promises are directed toward both the interior commitment
to justice and charity which embraces our weakest brothers and
sisters in the name of the Lord, and to the external fulfillment
of the demands of those virtues. The external activity that is
promised is always to be a fruit of the interior life which
members are committed to pursue.
Profession of the promises of the Association is made in the
presence of the National Director or his appointed delegate.
The formula of promises for the lay associates shall be as
"I, _____________, in the presence of God the
Father, the Creator of all Life, Jesus Christ the Son, the
Resurrection and the Life, and the Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver
of Life, in the presence of Father ________ (National Director)
and of this gathering of the People of Life, do joyfully
promise, for the rest of my life,
to live as a Lay Missionary of the Gospel of Life. I promise to
defend my brothers and sisters whose right to life is under
direct attack, and to be, especially for the unborn, the voice
they do not have. . I promise to pursue union with God in all
things, and holiness of life which will foster my love for the
weakest among us. I further promise to engage in pro-life work,
according to the spirituality and virtues of the Missionaries of
the Gospel of Life, and to collaborate with their work to the
best of my ability and within the context of my own vocation. I
am confident that the Victory of Life has already been won
through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, and as the Church
proclaims, celebrates, and serves the Gospel of Life, Christ
will transform the Culture of Death into the Culture of Life."