By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

CHERRY HILL, N.J. – After a historic, three-day convocation titled “Life, Justice and Family: Partners in the New Evangelization,” Cardinal Justin Rigali rallied those in attendance to return to their dioceses with new insights on promoting human life and dignity. He further challenged them to serve “in new, creative ways not imagined before.”{{more}}

More than 200 family life, social justice and respect life leaders from across the country participated in the event held July 25-27 at the Crowne Plaza on Marlton Pike. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Diocese of Camden, the Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities sponsored the convocation.

It addressed the tragic consequences of treating a human being as a means to an end, and tackled such issues such as abortion, contraception, domestic violence, euthanasia, child soldiers and environmental degradation.

The weekend’s presentations had intriguing premises – “Toxins, the Environment and the Child in the Womb” is just one example – and a panel discussion on the final day explored ways to collaborate across dioceses.

“It has been a weekend for uncovering and pondering the great treasure of Catholic teaching,” Cardinal Rigali, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said in his closing homily on July 27.

Several speakers were from the Philadelphia Archdiocese, including Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, a neuroscientist and staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, and Helen Alvaré, a native of St. Philomena Parish in Lansdowne who is now an associate professor of law at George Mason University School of Law in Fairfax, Va.

“There is always a taste for the truth – and we in the pro-life movement live and die for this,” Alvaré said in her address, “The Human Condition.”

“We in our faith are promoting the dignity of the human person by still fighting, fighting, fighting for legislation on poverty, on health care, on immigration, on the environment, on respect for the unborn, for the disabled, the elderly. We are holding up a flame of truth which does not get extinguished.”

Marie Smith, director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues in Washington, D.C., spoke about “The State of Human Rights in the World.”

She addressed practices such as sex-selection abortions and infanticide, domestic violence, sex trafficking, the “branding of women” with contraceptive devices such as implants and the patch, and elder abuse and euthanasia.

Bishop Joseph A. Galante of Camden said Catholics can look for guidance to Church teachings contained in the Gospels, the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the “sound and profound encyclicals” and other writings of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Speaking on the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”) Bishop Galante said many “failed to appreciate the depth of its teachings on marriage.” He called on the convocation participants to “read, discuss, explain, understand and live these writings.”

Dominic Lombardi, director of the archdiocesan Family Life Office, said he left the conference with great hope.

“What was at the core of the conference was the insight into the human person who, created in God’s image and likeness, finds his or her destiny in God, Who is love,” he said. “What was striking … was the presence of hope which characterizes the teaching of the Church: hope for the human person and hope for the world.”

That hope “is at the heart of the family, the foundational human community founded upon the union of man and woman in marriage,” Lombardi added.

It was also a theme of the concluding presentation of Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, who identified the central role of the family in building a civilization of love.

For more information, contact the Family Life Office at (215) 587-5639 or visit the Web site

Catholic News Service contributed to this story.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or