Generation Life teens emerge as light from the darkness

Andrea Koenemann is preparing for her third trip to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., this week, and she's as anxious and excited as ever to share that journey with her friends.

Koenemann was one of about 400 teens, decked out in sweats and warm boots, who met at St. Cletus Parish in St. Charles Jan. 19 for a Mass and send-off before boarding buses to make the 20-hour overnight journey to Washington. St. Cletus was one of five satellite locations across the archdiocese that held send-off Masses for all 1,600 teens participating in Generation Life, the annual pilgrimage sponsored by the archdiocesan Catholic Youth Apostolate's Office of Youth Ministry.

"It's always a great experience to see teens standing up for life," said Koenemann, a senior at Barat Academy, who was traveling with her parish group at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in St. Charles. "I see this as an opportunity, and if anyone has it, they should definitely do it. Seeing everyone come together as one, I know we can make a difference."

This year marks the 41st anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, the Supreme Court decision that rendered it unconstitutional to ban abortion. Since the 1973 decision, upwards of 56 million lives have been lost through abortion. This year's march in Washington, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people, will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 22, the anniversary date of the Roe decision.

Father Christopher Martin, director of the archdiocesan Office of Vocations, celebrated Mass at St. Cletus for eight parish groups and two school groups. During his homily he spoke about overcoming a fear of the dark. In contrast, light has the ability to reveal many things to others, and he told the teens to reflect on being a light for others while attending the march.

"You become a light in the darkness," he said. "To the nations, to your friends, to your peers and to your generation."

The priest reminded teens that attending the march is not a reason to go "get into an argument" about abortion. Rather, "evangelization is always an invitation to love and to be loved — to share truth and beauty. That's why we go."

Jim and Colleen Rau came to Mass to send off their two daughters, Kelly, a senior, and Karen, a sophomore, at St. Dominic High School in O'Fallon. Both have been on the march before, said their parents, and both come back energized to help build a culture of life throughout the year.

"We see that they become advocates for life around them," said Colleen Rau, who noted that the girls are active in the school's pro-life club, and volunteer in different initiatives, including a program to help the poor build homes and a parish program that adopts families in need.

"They're affirming that all life is valuable," said Rau. "I have a lot of hope for the future, seeing all of this."

Madison Knabe, who was with her parish group at St. Ferdinand in Florissant, said she was anxious about her first pilgrimage. The freshman at Incarnate Word Academy said she didn't know what to expect, but she simply wants to "make a difference. It's easier talking about this being at a Catholic school, but not everyone feels the same way — we can tell because there are too many abortion still going on. Everyone deserves a chance at life." 

Be sure to follow Generation Life this week at and on Twitter with the #GenLifeSTL hashtag.

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