PROVIDENCE—When the Human Life Guild was first introduced in the Diocese of Providence in the fall of 2005 the interest to join was overwhelming. Trays of mail arrived daily with membership forms from Catholics throughout the diocese expressing a desire to rally for life.
In the early stages of the organization there were approximately 1500 members. Today there are more than 2600 dedicated to the mission, according to Life & Family Office Coordinator, Carol Owens.
“We are simply asking Catholics to promote and defend life in every thought, word, deed and prayer,” said Owens. “The Human Life Guild is an opportunity to educate, to offer and to participate in pastoral care programs, to be the voice of the voiceless becoming involved in public policy and to especially bring Catholics together to pray.”
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin is pleased that the Human Life Guild has been so successful in its mission, both here and at its place of origin in the Midwest.
It was in 1999, as shepherd of the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, that Bishop Tobin founded the Human Life Guild, a group that helps Catholics respond to God’s call to protect life at all stages. For more than a decade, the Guild has continued to be a successful vehicle for promoting life in Northeast Ohio.
Melinda Knight has been the director of the Human Life Guild since 2002. With close to 2000 current members active in the Diocese of Youngstown, Knight shared that it is the “great curiosity” of life issues that draw people to the organization.
“There have just been so many more bioethical issues that have come up in the last 10 years that people have questions,” she said. “This has been an impetus for the growth of the Human Life Guild. There are so many voices out there and we feel that it’s really important to get the Catholic perspective front and center.”
Bishop Tobin hoped and prayed that the guild would continue in Youngstown after he left, and it has – successfully educating Catholics of the current life-related issues that challenge society, and encouraging the faithful to defend human life at every stage.
“I think it’s an excellent opportunity and I think it has produced some good things in Youngstown,” the bishop said. “I’m very proud that the seed that we planted has continued to grow.”
Knight explained that people are very proud to be members of the Human Life Guild, adding that there is something for everyone.
“The four pillars of the Human Life Guild are prayer, public advocacy, education and outreach,” she said. “There is a way for everyone to participate. It was such a wonderful project that Bishop Tobin started here. We are very grateful.”
When Bishop Tobin was chosen as Bishop of Providence in 2005, he was enthusiastic about continuing the guild’s mission in Rhode Island
“I thought we had great success with the Human Life Guild in Youngstown, so I was very eager to establish it in Providence as well,” he said. “I’m very proud of that program and I think it works because the concept is really simple. The Human Life Guild is just an organization of people who have expressed their desire to be involved in the respect life movement. The beauty of it is the simplicity.”
Nancy Buffery recently joined the Human Life Guild about 18 months ago after she was asked to co-chair the pro-life committee at SS. Rose and Clement Parish in Warwick. She shared that the guild is a perfect way to keep all those committed to defending the sanctity of human life informed on what is going on in the pro-life arena.
“The programs and education materials that the Human Life Guild … makes available to its members are valuable tools to help us educate others,” said Buffery. “They also strengthen our commitment to public witness and prayer. It is very affirming to come together at functions, like the Human Life Guild Day, with others who have the same beliefs that you do and are out there with you trying to turn our culture back to one that respects all human life, coming together to pray, share and learn, enrich and fortify us for continuing in our efforts.”
Bishop Tobin said that the Guild provides the diocese a way to reach out to members and help organize their commitment to human life.
“In many ways people who are committed to defending human life sometimes are the silent majority,” the bishop explained. “I think there are tons of people out there, especially in our own church, who understand and respect the sanctity of human life, but they don’t have a way to express it. The Human Life Guild is a way to express it and to be more involved in the movement.”
For the future, the bishop hopes that the Human Life Guild will continue to grow and become more active.
“I would like the members of the Human Life Guild to become more visible, and more vocal in responding to some of the current issues on the agenda,” said Bishop Tobin. “In promoting respect for human life and publicly we can challenge crimes against human life. The Human Life Guild gives us one way of doing that and that’s why we rely on it so strongly.”