BY KATHY SCHMUGGE
AIKEN — “Eucharist is life,” Franciscan Father Paul Williams said at the 2005 Family Life Conference.
As keynote speaker for “Made in God’s Image: From Womb to Tomb,” he gave a chronological sequence of salvation history from Christ in the womb of Mary to Christ today in the Eucharist.
It was the right way to begin the conference, since he illustrated the inseparable connection between all life and the Eucharist.
Father Williams is the vicar of African-American ministry and pastor at St. Martin de Porres Church in Columbia.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.’” Father Williams said.
Many in the crowd walked away when Christ said those words because they were difficult to accept, but Father Williams urged the conference participants to be steadfast and to be courageous people of life.
In the next presentation, “Human Life Begins at Conception, a Scriptural Basis,” Dr. Eugene Binet showed how the earliest recorded history, including the Old Testament, upheld the value of human life. Binet is president of the Catholic Action Council in Augusta, Ga. He gave the example of the New Testament scene when John the Baptist, as a fetus, leaps in his mother’s womb when his Savior, Jesus, an embryo, was a few steps away.
Building on Binet’s premise that life begins at the moment of conception, Dr. Peter Bleyer explained how artificial contraception is then immoral because it prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine wall. This makes it an abortifacient, a fact few women know about oral contraceptives.
Bleyer’s wife, Susanna, is also a family practice doctor. She gave a talk on the moral alternative to contraception, Natural Family Planning (NFP). This is a proven and reliable method of spacing births or achieving pregnancy.
“NFP is not the rhythm method,” she said.
She tried to dispel the widespread misconception about modern NFP by giving an overview of the various methods available that have over 95 percent reliability.
Later that afternoon, Dr. Eric Norton, a medical consultant for the Creighton Model of NFP, spoke on the new advances in assisting infertile couples and diagnosing some female disorders.
Dr. Mark O’Rourke, an oncologist in Greenville, clarified the often cloudy debate regarding embryonic stem-cell research and adult stem-cell research. He explained that adult stem cells can be harvested in ways that do not require the destruction of human life, and that all advances in stem-cell research have been with adult stem cells.
“Embryonic stem cells may have medical potential, but you have to kill to get these stem cells,” he said. “Adult stem cells have proven medical uses but do not require killing another human being.”
With over 20 years of experience working with post-abortive women, Dr. Martha Shuping, a psychiatrist, shared a wealth of knowledge about the devastating effects of abortion — emotionally, physically and psychologically.
She has been able to witness in her practice and in some of the post-abortion programs how families can find healing after an abortion.
Lisa Militello, a nationally known speaker and youth minister at St. Joseph Church in Columbia, shared her own painful experience with abortion. She urged adults to nurture pro-life youth by making the message real for them.
“They may go to Mass once a week but everything else is more important,” she said. The youth minister emphasized fellowship, communication, and service projects as a way to nurture Catholic youth and help them take theology and make it a reality.
Holly Gatling and Wayne Cockfield from South Carolina Citizens for Life gave two presentations. One was an update on the Terri Schiavo case and how her death has set a dangerous precedent for people with disabilities and the elderly.
They encouraged people to stay informed and to let their elected officials know their beliefs, to help prevent a similar crisis.
Gatling and Cockfield recommended the legal document “Will to Live,” an alternative to a living will that preserves the wishes of the individual and has fewer medical loopholes that could deny a person food and water.
Brenda Cerkez, executive director of Family Honor, hosted an exhibit table at the conference. She said the speakers kept the crowd energized and asking good questions.
“Even for those of us who have been to many different pro-life or pro family conferences over the years, each speaker offered something new — a new perspective on a topic, new resources or new information,” she said.