Cheryl Calire, director of the diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities, sat among 150 of her colleagues in a leadership conference held in Charleston, S.C., in late July. The conference, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, allowed pro-life directors to share information and bring those practices back to their own dioceses.
"The whole purpose of us getting together is to exchange ideas, best practices, and to actually learn a little more about some of the things that are coming down the pike, so to speak, in regards to the pro-life issues," said Calire.
The conference addressed the topics of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision and its implications for religious freedom, networking with Catholic medical professionals, starting a Project Rachel ministry and pastoral resources for miscarriages.
USCCB president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., delivered a keynote address on the use of the "Four Cs," - courage, compassion, civility and calm - that pro-life advocates need to use while delivering their message.
"(His message was about) taking each one of those things and saying, hopefully, that it's happening in your diocese, but if it's not, those are the messages that we want to bring across," Calire said. "Although it is a difficult thing to stand up for and talk about, if we do it in the right manner, people tend to listen to what you want to say, if you say it with compassion, and you talk in a civil manner. Most people want to be educated on the issue or learn why you feel a certain way about something."
One workshop that piqued Calire's interest dealt with maternity homes that are popping up around the country. Mary Peterson, from Heartbeat International, spoke on extending care beyond phone calls and baby clothes, and providing a temporary home for mothers to live in while learning to take care of their children.
Calire has been looking into closed rectories and convents for a project she calls "Mother Teresa's Home, which would provide shelter for a mother and child while the mother works on her studies or takes parenting classes.
"I was really interested in attending that particular session because that's something that has been on my heart for quite some time, to take what we do at St. Gianna (Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center) to the next level, to be able to have a transitional home for women who are in crisis for short periods of time, who don't have a place to stay for one reason or another. It was good to hear that there is more activity cropping up across the country in regards to that."
Calire, herself, spoke on a panel regarding digital media, with USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat Anne McGuire and Greg Walgenback from the Diocese of Orange, Calif.
Calire was invited to speak after members of the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat came to Buffalo for Project Rachel training last May. They were so impressed by the digital network Calire had created through Facebook and email lists that they asked her to speak on the value of digital and social media. She uses Twitter during the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., to make sure people unable to attend receive the information back home.
"I said, 'We try to make sure we're getting the message out.' By getting the message out, it also lets them have access and be able to contact us and know that we are out there," she explained.
Calire keeps a high profile in her home diocese, by talking to the press and appearing on television to promote the pro-life cause. She has taken training with Catholic Voices USA that coached her on talking with the media.
"So, I've done a little bit more than some directors have done in regards to media, press release, speaking to the news, speaking on radio," she said. "A lot of directors shy away from that because they don't have a comfort level with it. Nor did I when I first started. But, if you study your materials and what they're going to be talking to you about, and you know what you're speaking about, that comes with all of that."
The Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, under the guidance and direction of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, works to teach respect for all human life from conception to natural death, and organize for its protection.