Lighting candles to overcome the darkness


Bishop Ricken

Happy New Year! I pray that each of you had a blessed Christmas and that your new year is off to a good start.

The beginning of the year is always a time for reflection, for looking back on the year that was and looking ahead to what the new year will bring. As I look ahead, it is not easy to ignore the darkness in our world. One area of darkness that remains is the scourge of abortion. Next week will be the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion and has since resulted in millions of unborn lives taken in the womb.

But I do not like to curse the darkness. I prefer to light a candle and invite the presence of Christ to overcome the darkness. And even here, there is light!

Late last year, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case. This case from the State of Mississippi challenges the decision of Roe v. Wade and many experts think there is a real possibility that Roe v. Wade will be overturned or severely altered, significantly changing the legal framework for abortion in this country. The decision about life would then be returned to the states, which is constitutionally where it belongs. I urge you to pray and fast for a life-affirming outcome in the Dobbs case.

Too often, pregnant women facing difficult pregnancies are pushed to consider abortion as their only viable option. They may not know that it is wrong or realize the lifelong pain that comes with their decision. Thankfully, God is merciful! For those who have had an abortion, remember that God desires to forgive and heal you. Receive and take hold of that mercy and then help a young mom who is in the same place you were. Help them to avoid this “choice.”

This brings me to another candle which is shedding light on the important ways that we can support moms in need. As we look ahead to the possibility of legalized abortion being significantly reduced or eliminated, we know that there will still be women who face a pregnancy under difficult circumstances.

Last year, the bishops of the United States launched a very important initiative called “Walking with Moms in Need.” The bishops recognized that, even if abortion were to become illegal, there will still be women facing difficult pregnancies who will need love and support to help them choose life. Walking with Moms in Need is designed to prepare all of us to accompany women by identifying the resources already available in our communities, and building systems of support where they don’t already exist. It is time for the Catholic Church and all people of good will to stand up and help light a candle of hope by taking concrete actions that truly give women the support they need to choose life.

The final candle I want to highlight is our Disciples for Life Conference which will take place on Saturday, Jan. 22. This is our annual pro-life conference and this year’s theme is “Walking with Moms in Need.” The conference will be a great opportunity to learn how you can help mothers.

We will hear from Tori Petersen, a national pro-life speaker, who will share an inspiring story on the power of choosing life and the Gospel call to accompany others. We will have a panel discussion, highlighting some of the wonderful organizations around our diocese that are dedicated to supporting moms in need before, during and after pregnancy. We will wrap our day with a Q&A session with me, followed by a pro-life rosary and celebration of our annual Respect Life Mass. We even have a special morning session for our youth and young adults of the pro-life generation!

I am really looking forward to the Disciples for Life Conference this year, and I hope you will join me. It is a joy to be able to bring individuals and ministries together to learn, to encourage one another, and to listen to the Holy Spirit for the next best steps in protecting and saving the most innocent of human beings, the child in the womb. The conference is free, and you can join us in person at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help or virtually. To get more information about the conference and to register, go to

Friends, as we enter this new year, let us remember that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5). May each of us light our candles and shine Christ’s hope into our world!

Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.