The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Catherine Phillips dedicated to respecting life

New respect life director says pro-life work starts with 'dignity and respect'

Published: November 8, 2016   
Aprille Hanson
Catherine Phillips, a member of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Booneville, is the new Respect Life director for the Diocese of Little Rock. Phillips said pro-life work is about treating others with “dignity and respect.”

Catherine Phillips, the new respect life director for the Diocese of Little Rock, said she has been pro-life since before she was born. After all, life starts at conception. And for Phillips, respect for all life is as much an attitude as it is a call to action for Catholics and all people of good will.

“I firmly believe that we are formed pro-life by God, in whose likeness we are created,” said Phillips, 54, a member of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Booneville. “It is against our God-given human nature to be anything but pro-life — and yet we choose differently … There is much good, pro-life work being done in our diocese. I hope to work with many people who are already engaged in these activities and to encourage others to become more involved. I pray that God will use the ministry of this diocesan office to deepen respect for every human life.”

The Respect Life Office follows the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, which is centered on four key areas: public information and education, pastoral care, public policy and prayer and worship.

“Real pro-life work is about treating each person we encounter with dignity and respect,” she said.

Phillips, who has worked in education, the medical field and directed youth ministry and faith formation at her parish for 10 years, has contemplated the challenge of Pope Francis in “Evangelii Gaudium” who Bishop Anthony B. Taylor cited in his 2015 Mass for Life homily: “The defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every human right ... a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development ... Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the whims of the powers that be.”

Phillips said, “When babies in their mothers’ wombs are not protected by law, it becomes inevitable that there will be an increased threat to other people who are considered ‘disposable’ by a throw-away culture. I am most excited to be part of a Church that proclaims that every person deserves unconditional love and respect — including a person living with a terminal diagnosis, a person who has committed a horrible crime or a person who is rejected because society claims that a disability prevents the possibility of ‘meaningful life.’”

Though the married mother of five is an advocate for life, the most profound experience she had about the value of life was the death of her son Daniel, a first-year diocesan seminarian. He was killed in a car accident Dec. 18, 2012, near Danville.

“Daniel’s death sharpened the reality that our time to live on earth is so fleeting, and still so wonderful. This one experience defines my pro-life action in this way: it is how we live each moment that matters,” Phillips said. “Every day, we have the opportunity to build relationships and to show the love of Christ to others. If I pray outside an abortion clinic three hours each month, but then treat someone in my parish rudely, have I truly upheld the dignity of each person? My pro-life witness falls short if I fail to acknowledge the lonely person sitting near me in church or ignore someone who needs a job or exclude a pregnant teenager.”

The Respect Life Office promotes several activities and ministries throughout the year, including Project Rachel, where women who have had an abortion can find hope and healing, 40 Days for Life, a prayerful vigil at abortion centers, Respect Life Sunday, each October, and the prayer vigil and Mass for Life at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock in January.

Phillips said she’s intrigued by the “Moved by Mercy” theme of this year’s National Catholic Respect Life Program, in which Cardinal Timothy Dolan calls for all lives to be “cherished and protected.”

“I pray that all of us will seek God’s mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation and become a people of love who truly respect the life and dignity of each human person,” she said.

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