Archdiocese has new pro-life coordinator

By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor

Ed Harpring, coordinator of pro-life ministries for the Archdiocese of Louisville (Photo by Marnie McAllister)
Ed Harpring, coordinator of pro-life ministries for the Archdiocese of Louisville (Photo by Marnie McAllister)

As the new coordinator of pro-life ministries for the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ed Harpring hopes to draw more people into the pro-life work of the church.

Specifically, he wants to raise awareness about life issues and call people to action — an approach shaped by his three-decade career in sales.

“Sales is about networking, making contacts, presentations. In a sense this is marketing,” he said of his new position. “The big picture vision is awareness, education and activity in order to get people from the pews into some kind of ministry that they’re called into.”

His long-range vision includes the pos-sibility of a large gathering, a sort of pro-life fair, where those interested in pro-life work can learn about the different opportunities available, he said during an interview at his Maloney Center office Monday, Jan. 13.

He envisions booths and workshops where people can learn about work to curb abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty and human trafficking and where people can learn about how to aid immigrants and refugees, mothers in crisis pregnancies, elderly victims of abuse and others whose life and dignity is threatened.

He’s meeting with representatives of Catholic Charities, the Office of Evangelization and others in the archdiocese to see how they can work together to educate people and encourage this kind of work.

The father of four is a long-time volunteer on pro-life causes and said his transition from sales to ministry was providential.

“For the last six or seven years I’ve wanted to do something different,” he said. “I didn’t know what that meant. I was (also) interested in Catholic Charities and working with immigrants — something where I felt I was doing something good for others.”

He’s no stranger to the desire to help people professionally, though it’s been a long time since he indulged it.

Harpring studied guidance and counseling in college, but after a few years living on the salary of a social worker and planning for a family, he took his first job in sales.

Social work continued to be a part of his life, though, on a volunteer basis. He has been involved with his parish’s social concerns committee for about 25 years and he and his wife Cathy have chaired the committee at St. Barnabas for nearly 15 years.

He also has served as a “sidewalk counselor” at Louisville’s abortion clinic for three decades. Sidewalk counselors are volunteers who try to speak to women entering the clinic about alternatives to abortion.

He also serves on the board of the Little Way Pregnancy Resource Center and is active with the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, 40 Days for Life and Catholic Charities’ Mother-Infant Care Program.

Harpring said his predecessor in the archdiocese’s pro-life ministry, Sharon Schuhmann, laid a foundation that will help him continue the work.

“Sharon did a tremendous job building a pathway and it can go on and on,” he said. Schuhmann is now the pastoral associate at St. Stephen Martyr Church.

As the archdiocese’s pro-life coordinator, Schuhmann organized archdiocesan young people to make annual trips to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. And Harpring is continuing that tradition.

Next week, he’ll be travelling to the nation’s capital with about three dozen people from the archdiocese — teens from parish youth groups and their chaperones.

They’ll sleep on the bus the night of Jan. 21 and arrive in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 22 where they’ll attend a morning Youth Rally and Mass for Life at the D.C. Armory. Then they’ll walk from the National Mall to the Supreme Court in protest of the 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade, a decision that legalized abortion in the United States. Afterward, the group will sleep on the bus on the return trip to Louisville the morning of Jan. 23.

Harpring expects it to be a sleepless experience, but one that will energize the participants.

“Why do people go to the March for Life? Partly to make their voices known and partly because it’s a shot in the arm,” he noted. “You can see people who are energized.

“I think we can do that here, to get a higher level of energy and participation and get more volunteer help,” Harpring said.

He sees a great potential for new energy, especially among teens.

“The youth will take off if we can give them the ideas,” he said. “They have the energy, the creativity. We just need to open the doors for them and let them know we want them involved.”

Harpring said he plans to meet with respect life coordinators from parishes around the archdiocese during the month of February. He hopes to hear their ideas and share his own ideas for fostering new energy and participation in pro-life work.

He envisions, he said, “a sense of the Body of Christ, all the parts working together.”

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