TEMPE — Life matters. Defending it is something young people are called to do.
That’s one of the key messages some 300 teenagers and young adults from throughout the Diocese of Phoenix heard at a Jan. 24 rally at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center.
The crowd of young people not only listened, they also interacted with keynote speaker Stephanie Gray. The 30-something co-founder of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, challenged them to watch a video that goes beyond the debate surrounding abortion and shows what actually happens.
The graphic video shows unborn babies at various stages of development alongside a horrifying view of actual abortions, as tiny feet and limbs are torn. In the final frame, an aborted 24-week-old fetus is placed on a bloody sheet and wrapped up like a package.
Gray, who co-founded CCBR as a 20-year-old and later wrote “A Physician’s Guide to Discussing Abortion,” profiled three young people who didn’t let age or the fact that “I am only one” deter them from making a difference. One was a 6-year-old kindergartner who braved the torments of angry parents at a newly desegregated school.
Another was just 8 when she launched a foundation dedicated to being the voice of the homeless. The third was 12 when he started a loose change campaign to help end human trafficking and wound up collecting some $10,000 his first year.
“Heroes and role models as young as them set for us a very powerful example of how we should live our lives,” Gray told a crowd gathered in the grass between the Newman Center and the Old Church.
Living in a way that is focused on serving others doesn’t have to be radical or profound, she said. It means looking for opportunities in the midst of obstacles and doing the right thing even when it’s hard.
Do the right thing
In the effort to build a culture of life, the pre-born are the “others” Gray urged the crowd to help. She used a mix of mock dialogue, personal experience, intellectual questions, and even a toddler’s relentlessly favorite question — why — to share ideas of how to speak with someone who doesn’t see a pre-born life as having value.
“If you think about the unplanned pregnancy and its circumstances, there’s no denying it might be difficult,” Gray said. Abortion won’t ever address the ultimate problem, whether it’s the trauma of a rape or the “frog of a boyfriend,” Gray added.
“I can’t tell her it’s going to be easy, but I can tell her there are people who do the right thing even when it’s hard…The pro-life cause is not our cause. It’s the baby’s cause,” Gray said.
Her words moved many in the crowd, including Nayeli Ramirez, a 21-year-old Arizona State Univeristy freshman from Goodyear. Ramirez said that taking part in the rally and the eucharistic procession up “A” Mountain helps put a face on a touchy campus subject.
Ramirez, who is also a student at the University of Mary, plans to participate in the 40 Days for Life prayer campaign and will ask for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“This shouldn’t be the first and only time I voice my opinion on this subject,” Ramirez said.
Others appeared to feel the same way. Students carried “Defend life” posters with them during the procession up the mountain. Not everyone received one, so when two west Valley parishioners gave theirs away, the two recipients promised they would do something good with it.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who led the procession and Eucharistic adoration, said seeing the crowd of young people gave him hope. He believed that some in the crowd will live to see the end of abortion in the United States.
“It will happen through the amazing grace of God… who loves every person involved with this great evil,” the bishop said.