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October 15, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 25

ARTICLES

Pro-life billboard in Hampton Roads promotes fatherhood

The Diocese of Richmond’s Office of Justice and Peace has granted St. Matthew Catholic Church in Virginia Beach a Respect Life Fund grant to help launch a pro-life billboard and media campaign in Hampton Roads which promotes responsible fatherhood.

Several groups have combined efforts to inaugurate this campaign. They include the Virginia Coalition For Life, the Knights of Columbus Council 4632, St. Matthew Respect Life Ministry, the Knights of Columbus of St. Matthew’s, and The Radiance Foundation, an independent pro-life organization.

There are two images being used for the campaign of a father kissing the pregnant womb of the mother, displaying the phrase “Fatherhood Begins in the Womb.”

Father John Abe, pastor of St. Matthew’s, said this particular “Fatherhood” campaign displays what is meant to be a striking and poignant image that illuminates the crisis of fatherlessness in America and the evils of abortion.

“It shows recognition of life in the womb and that he is a father already,” Father Abe explained. “We’re using a positive image of what’s going on when people conceive a child — that life is there and with that comes responsibility. Fathering is a vocation.”

Christine Martinez, a member of St. Matthew’s Respect Life Ministry, agrees. She fears the epidemic of fatherlessness in America, but is hopeful that this campaign will educate those who see the images, particularly the younger generations.

“The images really highlight the dignity of father, mother, and child,” says Mrs. Martinez.

Twenty-one billboards are now up on major roads in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake with the campaign which began October 1. It will run through the entire month of October, designated as Respect Life Month.

The campaign placed large posters on many Hampton Roads Transit buses, and in all the Light Rail shelters. Other printed materials, including posters, bumper stickers, postcards, and door hangers, are also available for distribution in churches and on college campuses.

The billboards and other literature all display the link to the website, Too Many Aborted, the media initiative arm of the Radiance Foundation in Virginia Beach. Co-founder Ryan Bomberger said the organization has run several other media campaigns in various U.S. cities, putting up over 400 billboards, none of which were removed, despite fierce opposition from pro-abortion groups, such as Planned Parenthood.

Bomberger said that conversations have been going on for years to bring this type of pro-life campaign to the area. In particular, he has been communicating with the Virginia Coalition for Life for over a year, and partnering with St. Matthew’s this year. The various groups involved collectively brought forth the initial funds to start the campaign, and then upon receiving a grant from the Diocese’s Office of Justice and Peace, they made arrangements to launch the campaign for Respect Life Month.

Application for the grant was through the annual Diocesan Respect Life Fund which awards grants to Catholic parishes and organizations to aid in their life-affirming activities that protect and promote the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.

Jay Brown, director of OJP, said, “We want to see the culture of life move forward in our diocese, and we hope that the Respect Life Fund continues to be one of the ways that OJP supports parishes to be more involved in pro-life ministry.”

Large media campaigns such as these are capable of presenting people with a message that they are not accustomed to seeing.

“It’s a way of promoting at a very public level the importance of being respectful of life at all its stages,” Mr. Bomberger said. “The overall hope for this campaign is that it reaches many people and educates them on the realities of human dignity.”

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