.- Country music star and Catholic convert Collin Raye is set to be the new spokesman of the Life and Hope Network founded by Terri Schiavo's family.
“I'm really excited to be a part of it,” Raye told CNA. “I'm amazed that they chose me.”
In a Sept. 14 interview, Raye – who has has sold over eight million albums and has been nominated five times as country music’s Male Vocalist of the Year – said he was thrilled when the network approached him.
The organization started after Terri Schiavo, a severely disabled woman, died of starvation in March of 2005, two weeks after her husband won the right in court to remove her feeding tube.
Today, over 1,000 families have contacted the network to ask for assistance and the group has shared its mission in nine countries and 42 states.
“What the Life and Hope network does is provide an already pretty impressive network list of attorneys and doctors that are available and are committed to stopping things from happening again like what happened to Terri,” Raye explained.
“And unfortunately that's a daily occurrence,” he said. “I thought Terri's case was much more exclusive than it actually is, but it happens all the time.”
“So many Americans don't know that the euthanasia movement is so prevalent,” Raye said, adding that the network “is absolutely vital … for the protection of the cognitively impaired that are in danger of being killed.”
Raye, 51, shared a dramatic personal experience that has influenced his decision to be spokesman for the organization.
In 1985, his wife Connie delivered their son three months early, after she simultaneously endured a stroke and heart attack as he was being born.
“She wound up being in a coma for eight weeks,” he said. “During those eight weeks, I heard everything. We were already getting this pressure.”
Raye remembers the medical team working on his wife's case telling him “you really need to start looking at an institution” to take care of her, and “if we take her off her respirator she's just going to die – you might want to consider doing that.”
But Raye refused to listen to the doctors' advice and said that today, Connie “is alive and well.”
He noted, however, the disturbing fact that as her husband, he would have had the ability to end her life. “If her mother would have fought me on it, it wouldn't have mattered, I would have the legal right.”
“And let's face it, the sanctity of marriage in our country is not what it once was – divorce is extremely common,” he added. “So is it right that that spouse, or soon to be ex-spouse, has the right to decide whether you live or die?”
For a victim's other family members to have “zero” input, Raye said, “that to me is despicable. It's a heinous crime that makes no sense.”
Raye said that he credits his Catholic faith, which he converted to at the age of 23, as another motivation for working with the Life and Hope Network.
He remembers growing up in the “Bible belt” of northeastern Texas and said that although he had a strong Christian faith, as he grew up, he felt there was something missing.
Before Raye went on to chart 16 number-one hits and 24 top-ten hits later in his career, he recalled being 18 years-old and playing at clubs in Portland, Oregon where his dad lived at the time.
He got to know a couple who regularly attended his shows and noticed one day that the woman wore a crucifix on her necklace.
After finding out that they were Catholic, Raye asked the surprised couple if he could attend Mass with them. They happily agreed.
“I started asking questions and every answer I got made sense to me,” he said. “Next thing I knew I was in RCIA and I wanted to be a Catholic.”
Raye likens his discovery of the Catholic faith to stumbling upon “a treasure.”
“I do not know what my life would have been like since that time had I not had that to cling to, to lean on, to feed off of,” he said. “I love going to Mass, I love going to confession – it all makes beautiful sense to me.”
Raye recently saw the couple – who became his godparents – at one of his shows in Portland.
“I got to spend the day with them,” he said. “I just thanked them up and down and said I was so grateful that I went to Mass with them that day because my life has been so much more blessed.”