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Students urged to be pro-life leaders

By Carol Zimmermann
January 24th, 2006
Catholic News Service (

WASHINGTON (CNS) College and high school students attending a morning Mass Jan. 23 prior to the annual March for Life in Washington were urged to "shepherd a new generation."

"God is calling you to heal divisions," said Jesuit Father Steve Spahn, associate pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Washington, to the crowd of a few hundred students from Jesuit high schools and colleges across the country.

As the students shuffled into St. Aloysius Church in Washington, they placed their backpacks, and the occasional sleeping bag and pillow, on the floor in the back of the church. Many wore sweatshirts with their school name or a pro-life message.

In his homily, Father Spahn spoke to the young congregation about inconsistencies in today's modern world, where a death-row inmate can be given special care just moments before receiving a fatal injection or when doctors who take oaths to do no harm perform abortions or promote euthanasia.

"What gives me hope is you," he told the youths, telling them that they have the "feeling for life" even if they might not always be able to articulate it.

"So many have been anesthetized to that feeling, don't let that happen to you," he said, adding, "God has touched your hearts, your generation in a special way."

The same message was reiterated in closing comments by Jesuit Father Bradley Schaeffer, president of the Jesuit Conference, who told the march participants that they have a vision "grounded in the tradition of the church to choose life."

"Your mission," he said, "is to proclaim that vision to those who would not see it," by example, by listening and by advocating for those who have no voice. "Your voice needs to be heard and will be heard," he added.

Father Schaeffer said that the week before the march he prayed at the tomb of Pope John Paul II for the youths of the United States who would be in Washington, that they would "change hearts and minds and that the culture of life would prevail over the culture of death."

He reminded his listeners of the pope's message to young people at the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver. The pontiff urged youths "to place their talent, enthusiasm, compassion and fortitude at the service of life."

Jena Hollinshead, a freshman at St. Louis University, who came to the march with a busload of 55 students, did not seem daunted by the challenge for young people to be more involved in the pro-life movement.

"It's our job to do that," she said matter-of-factly on her way to the free breakfast offered to the students after Mass.

Hollinshead, a member of SLU Students for Life, said the group is currently working to get a pregnancy resource center on campus to help women in crisis pregnancies. The group is pro-life on many issues, not just abortion, she added.

The college student, attending her first march in Washington, said she does not have a hard time discussing hot-button topics such as abortion because, as she put it: "A lot of students are pro-life."

And for those who aren't, the message on her T-shirt, which she designed, pretty much addressed them: "I choose life and until you do too, I'll just have to P.U.S.H -- Pray Until Something Happens."

Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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