Published January 25, 2007
Stephanie Wood’s father, Steve, was never more of a hero to her than when he was being carried into the back of a police van after being arrested.
A leader in Operation Rescue, an organization dedicated to the fight against abortion, Steve Wood was arrested after peacefully refusing to move from blocking the doors to an abortion clinic. His daughter was 7 years old at the time and was in awe of what was happening.
“They were taking him out on this stretcher and he looked over at me and he winked. Though he looked like he was at his weakest, he was my hero because in that moment he most resembled Christ. He was willing to lay it all down for those babies,” she said. “Even as young as I was, I knew in that moment that I wanted to spend my life serving God.”
Stephanie Wood recalled this story at the Cathedral of Christ the King on Jan. 19, as part of the parish’s two-week pro-life series.
In her talk to a room full of people of all ages, she presented ideas for building up a future generation of those who will fight for life.
Wood, 25, who hosts a worldwide radio show for youth on EWTN’s radio network, also produces a youth-oriented Catholic Web site at NextWaveFaithful.com.
“I’m so excited to be here because I believe so strongly in this. I am so passionate about raising up the next generation of the pro-life movement.”
In order to help teens recognize the need to fight for life, Wood said, it’s first important to realize where teens are in their faith journey.
“It’s never been harder to be a teen than today, in 2007,” she said.
She pointed to the influence of media, the decline in teenagers and families who attend church, and the divorce rate and rate of broken homes.
“It’s so important for teens to realize how important it is to rise up and be a witness for God, but it’s difficult,” she said. “But I believe with my whole heart and my whole soul that the way to end abortion, what we really have to do, is turn the heart of a generation toward God.”
Using a Power Point presentation, Wood used statistics to show the number of teens who are struggling with premarital sex, drugs and alcohol.
“This is the bad news,” she said. “But I’m not a pessimist. I wouldn’t be a youth minister if I didn’t believe that these teens could rise up and live for God.”
In Wood’s ministry, she tries to target young adults, those 18 to 29 specifically, to “really reach out and let them know they’re part of the family of God. I think that’s key.”
Young people, she said, are searching for meaning and truth, and for a purpose in life.
“The good news is that there are a lot of polls that show that teens are more interested in religion than their parents are. These teens identify more with their grandparents’ generation when it comes to the way they view religion,” she said.
To encourage future generations to become active in the pro-life movement, it’s first necessary to make them understand how abortion has affected them.
“They have to understand that this is their fight. One-third of their generation has been killed by abortion. This is our generation’s civil rights movement. It’s our generation that is missing, and we need to take that personally and have holy, righteous anger about that.”
In practical ways, she suggested taking teens to abortion clinics to pray or encouraging them to start pro-life groups at their schools. Teens who are shy, she said, could start by wearing pro-life T-shirts to school.
But Wood believes the number one way to encourage a future generation of pro-lifers is to teach the message of chastity.
“Chastity is so important to the pro-life movement. After all, Roe v. Wade was fueled by the sexual revolution of the 1960s.”
Chastity is about more than just abstaining from premarital sex, Wood said. It’s also about abstaining from media that portrays sinful disconnections from God.
“Satan is using the media very well to reach our teenagers. He’s doing a good job.”
Above all, parents must set an example by standing up for life themselves.
“Do not be discouraged. Young people are watching you, and they will rise up with courage because of your courage and they will fight this fight with you.”
Noreen Coughlin, a former youth minister who attended Wood’s talk, said it was a good opportunity for her to reconnect with the importance of teens in the future of the pro-life movement.
“The teens are the real face of this, and we need to work to reach them where they are right now,” she said.
She said she would often take teens to abortion clinics to pray.
“You’re challenging them. You’re creating a Catholic consciousness. That’s what it’s all about,” Coughlin said.
At the end of the event, Nick O’Connor, long-time pro-life leader at the Cathedral, was presented with a plaque to honor his 20 years of service.
Msgr. Thomas Kenny, rector of the Cathedral, thanked O’Connor for his service from his “wonderfully appreciative, admiring and loving parish family.”
A donation was made to the Hapeville Crisis Pregnancy Center in O’Connor’s name.
“Only God knows how far the ripple of your ministry will reach,” Msgr. Kenny said.