Events marking the 48th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion looked a little different this year. The March for Life rally in Washington, D.C. was rescheduled as a virtual event. Many groups cancelled their trips to the nation’s capital, including thousands of teens who usually would have attended the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ Generation Life pilgrimage.
Instead, local efforts focused on building a culture of life right here at home. Generation Life’s theme this year was “Love in Action” and included livestreamed programming Jan. 27 and 30. Youth groups were encouraged to put love into action through service to the local community throughout the week.
Here’s what speakers had to say at Generation Life:
Catholic speaker Chris Padgett shared a story about his daughter Sarah’s teenage pregnancy, calling it an example of loving people where they are. “I told her, ‘Praise God for your baby — your timing is horrible — but praise God for your baby,’” he said. Preaching the Gospel is part of Jesus’ Great Commissioning of His disciples (Matthew 28:16-20), which Padgett includes encountering Christ and sharing that encounter with others.
Learn more about Sarah’s story: bit.ly/3thJFtq
“Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service” was initiated by the U.S. bishops to help parishes communicate the support services available to women who are thinking about whether to carry their child to term. The year of service began in March 2020, the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”). Parishes have taken inventories of pro-life services in their communities, increasing awareness of those resources. The initiative “is a beautiful message of mercy, unity and hope,” said Mary Varni, program manager with the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate.
Pro-life resources in the St. Louis area: bit.ly/3oDUHWn
If we are to make God’s love real in the world, then we have to love our neighbor as ourselves, said Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski in his first address to Generation Life participants. What does it mean to be pro-life in the wake of the Roe decision? We must be bold and advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves — pre-born children in particular. “We have to be the voice of the voiceless,” he said. It’s easy to say we’re going to love others, but loving others takes work. Archbishop Rozanski encouraged young people to use their specific gifts and talents to bring forth God’s love in the world. That could be something as simple as a kind word to another person, or to talk to someone who experiences loneliness.
Citing the words of Dr. Seuss, “a person’s a person no matter how small,” said
Rebecca Navarro-McKelvey, founder and president of Garden of Innocents, a nonprofit organization that provides loving and dignified memorial and burial services for unclaimed children and infants in the custody of medical examiner offices in the City of St Louis and surrounding areas. The volunteer-led organization provides burial clothing, flowers, casket, funeral programming and music, among other services. Children are buried in a special section at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis. Bearing witness by being present at funeral services for these little ones “is a service to others,” said Navarro-McKelvey, who encouraged young people to become involved.
Learn more about the Garden of Innocents: www.gardenofinnocents.org
Recognizing the inherent dignity of the human person is a hallmark of the pro-life movement, which St. John Paul II wrote about in “Evangelium Vitae.” In that document, he also described a culture of death, in which life is expendable. “This is a helpful way to talk about racism,” said
William Critchley-Menor, a Jesuit scholastic (seminarian) in St. Louis. “It’s marked by a culture of death, where certain lives matter less than other lives. … It’s a culture like this that allows things like this to be normalized. We need to stand up and say that this life matters.” He encouraged teens to learn more about the history of racism in their local community and to listen to the experiences of people of color.
Learn more: Slavery, History, Memory and Reconciliation Project: bit.ly/3czTa14; Archdiocesan Peace and Justice Commission: archstl.org/peace-and-justice-commission
• The 40 Days for Life spring campaign begins Feb. 17. The effort includes 40 days of prayer and fasting, vigil outside of an abortion clinic and community involvement. See coalitionforlifestl.com/40-days-for-life/
• March on the Arch is a prayer walk hosted by Coalition for Life St. Louis on Saturday, March 6. Learn more at coalitionforlifestl.com/march-2/
• The monthly Helpers of God’s Precious Infants Mass is organized by the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate. The next Masses are scheduled on Saturday, Feb. 20 and March 20, with Mass at 8 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, followed by a Rosary procession to Planned Parenthood.
• Support local pro-life organizations through Love in Action by serving our neighbors. See genlifestl.com/event-info/#love-in-action for suggestions on how to get involved.