Bonnie Thom is the new director for the Respect Life office. (Catholic Herald photo by Janelle Roe)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

The new director of the Diocese of Superior’s Respect Life office hopes to promote a kaleidoscopic view of respect for life, “a consistent ethic of life” in the words of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“A lot of people, when they think of Respect Life, they think of anti-abortion issues. Respect Life actually covers a lot more than that. I have a passion for all the life issues,” said Bonnie Thom, who joined the Chancery staff in June.

Thom and her husband, Tim, live in Poplar; they are members of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior. The couple has four children: Matthew, 23; Jacob, 19; Adam, 16; and Elleana, 14.

Raised near Grand Rapids in northern Minnesota, Thom earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Morehead State University. She also has lay ministry and servant leadership certification through the Diocese of Superior, as well as leadership training in catechetical ministry.

Growing up, Thom had twin passions. She loved her faith, and she wanted to understand others.

“I’ve always been intrigued with human behavior,” she said.

The combination developed into a career serving people who were disabled, dependant or struggling with mental health issues. She worked for Trinity Services in Joliet, Illinois, an organization that emphasized their clients were individuals, “not defined by their disability.”

“I always knew they had value and dignity,” she added.

In the diocese

Thom took over directing the Office of Respect Life from Chancellor Deb Lieberg, who took on the role of executive secretary to Bishop James P. Powers after longtime secretary Pat Wildenberg retired.

In her new role, Thom said she really wants to focus on the pastoral plan for pro-life activities from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. When she looks at the problems in society – bullying, suicide, euthanasia, abortion, sexual abuse and more – Thom sees a frustrating lack of respect for life.

“I don’t know that people are being treated the way they should be treated,” she said.

Her first request is that Catholics across the diocese will offer a lot of prayer for the Office of Respect Life; her first major undertaking is the “God’s Gift: There’s a Hole in Our Soul” event, which takes place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at the WITC Conference Center, Superior. [*Editor’s note: After press time, the Catholic Herald was informed this event had been cancelled.]

Keynote speaker Fr. David Neuschwander is talking on the first vocation, which is to love, Thom said. Fr. Neuschwander is the associate pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King and its cluster parishes.

Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel, a post-abortion healing ministry, will speak on the biology of Theology of the Body, which covers the chemistry of attraction, contraception, and more.

The talk is very science-based, Thom added. “It’s kind of like science is supporting us in our beliefs of Theology of the Body.”

During Thorn’s second talk, there will be a breakout session for adolescents focused on biology. Thorn’s “Hole in our Soul” presentation will help parents see how some of their past decisions may be affecting their children.
The God’s Gift events have traditionally been targeted at teens and students, but Thom encourages everyone to attend.

“I think it’s for all people,” she said.

Looking into the future, Thom’s goals for Respect Life include launching Project Rachel in the diocese, an effort currently “very much in the infant stages,” according to Thom. The ministry involves training people to offer post-abortion counseling to men and women.

Also, Thom said, overall, “We need healing in our church.”

When she hears about the sexual abuse scandals in the Church, Thom’s response is, “The sanctity of life, I think, has gotten lost.”

Morality is going down in society overall, said Thom, and it is “creeping into the Church.”

For Catholics to move past this crisis, Thom feels they must first learn to forgive.

“Forgiveness is part of our healing process,” she added.