ST. FRANCIS — At least 40 Milwaukee Archdiocesan parishes have ordered some 20,000 postcards as part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ national postcard campaign urging Congress to maintain widely-supported pro-life policies and to oppose the federal funding and promotion of abortion, according to Robert Shelledy, coordinator of archdiocesan Social Justice Ministry.

Of those, Shelledy knows that 6,500 individual postcards have been mailed, he said in a telephone interview with your Catholic Herald last Friday. But Shelledy added that the numbers might be much higher as not all parishes report their involvement to him.

“We have invited all the parishes in the archdiocese to participate in the campaign and have contacted all the respect life contacts we have in parishes with information about the campaign,” said Shelledy of the effort launched in December and then relaunched in late January by the USCCB and coordinated by its partner organization, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA).

While the effort addresses a potential “Freedom of Choice Act,” which opponents fear would be “the most radical and divisive pro-abortion bill ever introduced in Congress,” Shelledy noted he’s also concerned with other measures.

“Although FOCA is the most egregious of many anti-life measures, I am more concerned about the likelihood of several other anti-life issues, including a reversal of the ban on federal funding of some embryonic stem-cell research; the repealing of the Hyde amendment which bars federal funding of abortions, and, what has already come to pass, the reversal of the Mexico City policy,” said Shelledy.

The Mexico City policy required non-governmental organizations to “agree as a condition of their receipt of (U.S.) federal funds” that they would “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” President Barack Obama signed legislation Jan. 23 to reverse the policy, a move that clears the way for the federal government to provide aid to programs that promote or perform abortion overseas.

One of the side benefits of the postcard campaign, said Shelledy, is that it’s inviting people to get involved in pro-life efforts.

Preprinted cards made available by the USCCB are to be signed and mailed to an individual’s two senators and U.S. representative encouraging them to “oppose FOCA or any similar measure, and retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion.”

“We’re encouraging people, in addition to the postcard, to write personal letters and make phone calls (to the elected officials) as they tend to be more effective,” said Shelledy, adding, “You and I know when we get a form letter we treat it differently than when we get a hand written letter.”

Parishes are approaching the effort differently, noted Shelledy. Some have made the postcards available in parish bulletins, others place them in pews, while still others have set up tables in the narthex.

“The bottom line, parishes have been very enthusiastic in terms of participation in this,” noting he’s been pleased with the response, considering the initial kickoff was made shortly before Christmas, a busy time for people and parishes. On Jan. 24-25, the USCCB announced it would be an ongoing effort.

“It’s important for Catholics, in particular, to be engaged on these issues, making sure our public officials know where we stand in opposition to abortion,” said Shelledy, adding it’s also important to get involved with organizations that support pregnant women and children or organizations that facilitate adoption, such as the Pregnancy Help Center, Rosalie Manor, Catholic Charities.

“We have made a little bit of progress over these many years in opposing abortion in the sense that the number of abortions nationally and locally has been declining – it’s still too high – but at least it’s heading in the right direction,” he said, “It’s important to let officials know that’s the direction we want to see things heading. It’s important to maintain what are widely supported pro-life policies and we don’t want the federal government to start promoting or funding abortion.”