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Authentic love, authentic freedom

| Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Dear fellow students,

One of Notre Dame’s strengths is its commitment to service. Every week, we see a video of Notre Dame students and faculty fighting for goodness in our world. During fall break, countless of our students travel to Appalachia to serve a region in crisis. Over the summer, students engage in summer service learning programs, both domestically and abroad. With each of these, students return to Notre Dame changed and fulfilled. We as a community recognize the value of service, and, more importantly, understand how the act of service itself is both life-giving and fulfilling.  

However, this service extends beyond just our academic breaks. We don’t have the opportunity to serve an impoverished community everyday, but we do give of ourselves daily in other ways. This self-gift is the true substance of any act of service, and it is witnessed every day in acts of charity and love. It can be said that all of life, therefore, reaches its fullest form when it is experienced in acts of love and sacrifice. Ironically, it is when we are most willing to abandon ourselves that we become most fully ourselves.   

This week, we invite you to explore this more deeply with us as we celebrate Respect Life Week 2019. Our theme this year is “Authentic Love, Authentic Freedom,” during which we will respond to “the call for a ‘sincere gift of self’ as the fullest way to realize our personal freedom” (Pope St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae 145.) True freedom, modeled after Jesus’ self-gift for us on the cross, is realized not in the glorification of our individuality, but in our ability to love and serve others. This is a truth we know as Catholics, but also something each person can recognize as good when putting others before oneself, and so is a message for all. Love is not easy, and it is often inconvenient, which is what makes it an incredible gift!

Such a gift is precisely the way in which we recognize the dignity of every human person — when we make decisions to support and respect human life — not just because it is beneficial or convenient for our own purposes, but because every human being has value. This value does not come from our achievements, characteristics, abilities, health, wealth, beauty or any other category often used to define status in our contemporary world, but precisely because we are human. 

The pro-life position is grounded in this line of thinking, and responds to the call to respect this value first and foremost when life is at its weakest and most vulnerable stage. While unplanned pregnancy is not an easy or comfortable situation, we recognize that a response of self-gift which welcomes a new life into the world, on the part of the whole community, is the authentic route to freedom. Abortion, often described as a means of liberation, in reality enslaves us to our own desires and preferences and perpetuates systems of oppression in which women are seen merely as objects to be used.

Respect Life Week will feature prayer, service and educational events as we seek to make this goal a reality in support of the dignity of all human life, especially in terms of creating a world where abortion, which marginalizes the weakest and most vulnerable amongst us, is both illegal and unnecessary. We recognize that this theme is bold, and so we welcome you into conversation with us.

Please join us in dialogue at our keynote lecture on Women’s Liberation with Helen Alvare, J.D. on Sept. 30, or our panel on the state of women’s healthcare in South Bend on Oct. 2. Or, partner with us in visiting the South Bend Women’s Care Center, in writing letters to women seeking to leave their jobs in the abortion industry and in donating women’s hygiene products to the homeless. We invite you to pray with us at the South Quad Rose Garden, commemorating lives lost in abortion and the women affected, at South Bend’s abortion clinic and during a special Rosary for Life at the Grotto. A full schedule can be found on our website. We hope to see you there!

In life and love,

Noelle Johnson

president, ND Right to Life



Spencer Bindel

vice president of programming, ND Right to Life



Sept. 28

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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