Generation Life is not just in January

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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Brad Pike is certain his presence on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood is causing some raised eyebrows from people inside the fence.

The 16-year-old has gone with his grandfather several times to the sidewalk, offering prayers that those coming for an abortion would seek a different choice. On a recent Saturday morning, he and about two dozen friends from the youth group at Holy Infant in Ballwin made a visit. The teens were there to send a message that they're pro-life beyond the March for Life.

Generation Life, he said, is not just in January.

"It makes a total statement, with how busy our schedules are that we're willing to make the time to be there," said the St. Louis University High School junior. "I'm sure it makes them wonder why it's that important for us to be there."

And important it is. Every January, thousands of teens from the Archdiocese of St. Louis travel to Washington, D.C., in January for the March for Life, which commemorates the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Many of them make the pilgrimage with their Catholic high schools or youth groups, with the majority of them attending the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry's Generation Life pilgrimage.

But as they hear year after year, being a part of Generation Life means living a pro-life message beyond the January march. And that's what the Holy Infant teens were aiming to do. The effort was a collaboration between the youth ministry group and the parish's pro-life committee.

"This is not just one day, it's not just one trip to Washington, D.C., in January," said pastor Father Ed Stanger. "They realize that they have the power and the privilege to stand up for life throughout the year. And it's an essential part of our youth ministry — to know they stand for something greater than themselves: for the dignity and sanctity of all human life."

Parishioner Adam Szabo heard an invitation in a parish men's group for volunteers to pray on the sidewalk. He ended up joining the pro-life committee and collaborated with several others, including youth minister Dan Angel and parishioner Amber Hurst, to get the teens involved.

"We thought, what if we do a youth day and make it to where they really own it?" said Szabo. "Now you're looking at the result of it here on the sidewalk."

For many of the teens, it was their first time praying on the sidewalk outside of Planned Parenthood. Grace Dougherty and Jillian Baker said they feel their witness makes a powerful statement, and it's just as important to be active in the pro-life movement in the local community. "If I'm going to call myself a pro-lifer, my actions speak louder than words," said Grace, a senior at Marquette High School in Chesterfield.

"We have to remember that Planned Parenthood is open all year round — we can't forget that, and not just (get involved) when it's convenient at the march," said Jillian, also a Marquette senior.

A few days before their visit, the teens got a pep talk from Brad Baumgarten, a sidewalk counselor with Coalition for Life. He told them being pro-life can be awkward, but encouraged them to embrace that awkwardness, because it's worth it. "We're going against society and what society tells us to do," he said. "People don't know what to say, because they know what's at stake — life is as stake."

He also stressed the impact their youthful presence has on the sidewalk. "You guys, believe it or not, will change the world," Baumgarten said. "You have got to be the hope for the future."

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