The leader of Utah’s 300,000-plus Catholics is calling on his flock to pray for 40 straight days to support the dignity of human life.

But Bishop Oscar A. Solis’ new initiative is about more than seeking an end to abortion. The head of the Diocese of Salt Lake City also worries about euthanasia and the less-than-charitable attitudes emerging in some quarters toward the poor, the homeless, immigrants, refugees and the mentally challenged.

“He wants to bring the diocese together to highlight respect for life issues — to protect life in all its stages, from within the womb to a natural death,” explained Veola Burchett, director of the diocese’s Office of Marriage and Family Life.

The Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion and euthanasia is well known. But the Salt Lake City diocese also remains a primary provider of support services in helping the homeless and in relocating refugees. And Catholic clerics have become leading voices — in the Beehive State and beyond — in calling for compassionate U.S. immigration reforms that keep families together.

“This is an era not only of a lot of abortions,” Burchett says, “but other assaults on the sanctity of life.”

Solis is urging Catholics to recite every day “A Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe,” known as the “patroness of the unborn.”

“We implore your intercession for every child at risk of abortion. Help expectant parents to welcome from God the priceless gift of their child’s life,” the prayer reads. “... Teach us to cherish and to care for family and friends until God calls them home. Help us never to see others as burdens.”

The prayer also pleads for divine guidance for public officials so that they will “defend each and every human life through just laws.”

The Prayer for Life push began Dec. 14 and ends with a Mass for the Unborn on Jan. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in Salt Lake City’s Cathedral of the Madeleine, 309 E. South Temple.

Catholics unable to attend services due to infirmity or lack of mobility are asked to participate at home.

“This seems especially appropriate at this time of the Advent season,” Burchett says, “when we are awaiting [celebration of] the birth of Christ, the light of the world.”

Other events connected to the diocesan campaign include:

• A Jan. 20 Walk for Life, sponsored by the Pro-Life Utah coalition, beginning at 11 a.m. at Salt Lake City’s Washington Square, 450 S. 200 East. (Visit March4LifeUtah.org for more information).

• A Jan. 21 Diocesan Bilingual Rosary for Life at Mount Calvary Cemetery, 275 U St., at 2 p.m. in front of the Monument for the Unborn.

• A Jan. 27 Diocesan Respect for the Dignity of Life workshop at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church, 7405 S. Redwood Road, West Jordan, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Visit the calendar on the www.dioslc.org website for registration information).