Published October 23, 2008
For the second year, Our Lady of Mercy High School brought the issue of life to the forefront in October, holding a pro-life week with a series of events, including a silent witness by one-quarter of the student body to visually dramatize the abortion rate in the United States in a human way.
On Oct. 2 some 60 students who volunteered to participate wore T-shirts marked front and back with an X, sat in a special section at a school Mass and at lunch, and did not speak all day. They wanted to make the point of how significant it is that about one-quarter of all pregnancies in the country end in abortion, taking away individuals who would otherwise be someone’s friend, classmate, teammate, peer, boyfriend or girlfriend.
Demonstrating “how vast the numbers are … just takes me by surprise. It is talked about a lot, but you don’t really understand until you see how large it is,” said Richard Barfield, 16, a junior and one of the students who represented the absent lives.
He said he used to be reluctant to express a position on abortion because he is a man.
“Now I realize I have an opinion just as much as women do. I like being a guy taking part in this,” he said.
When the silent group was called to the stage at the end of an assembly, “it brought a lot of people to tears when they saw how many of us wouldn’t be there,” said Kalie Ludvigsen, 17, also a junior.
She used her artistic talents to design a sidewalk mural for the week and a pro-life T-shirt that was sold. On the front it had the words Mercy for Life. The back said “Attention America” with a sketch of a box of tissues and below it a photograph of an unborn child. The message was: This is tissue. This is not.
“I am strongly pro-life,” the student said.
A pro-life club at Our Lady of Mercy attracts over 45 students to meetings, said Sierra Correa, an art teacher who is one of the faculty advisors and who helped plan the week held Sept. 29-Oct. 3. Religion teacher Mark Tolcher also advises the group.
Senior Taylor Cortez, the current club president, said she has been active for three years after coming to OLM from public school. She says as a lifelong Catholic she has always believed abortion was morally wrong.
“That is how I grew up. That is what I believe in. I have always thought taking part and fighting for it was an important thing to do. … I never back down from a debate,” Cortez said.
But her passion to express her views also comes from knowing people who have experienced abortion, she said.
“I know people that have had abortions. … That would have affected me regardless of whether or not I was Catholic,” she said. “People really, really close to me have struggled with it. I think it is a really, really common thing that people choose to overlook.”
In addition to the demonstration on Oct. 2, the week began with a national pro-life speaker Scott Klusendorf, who lives in the Atlanta area, giving a presentation to the school of 260 students. Klusendorf trains speakers around the country to address the topic effectively and compassionately and has spoken at Billy Graham and Focus on the Family events. His talk generated even more interest in the pro-life club, said the faculty advisor.
“He had a huge impact on the students and seemed to increase the number of kids who wanted to get involved in the club,” Correa said.
“We also had a student read a pro-life fact on the announcements every day, and a different student read a pro-life prayer on the announcements as well. The facts and prayers had to do with abortion, euthanasia, the elderly, violence and war.”
Just four years out of college herself, the Maryland University graduate said she knows what lies ahead for high school students when they graduate. Correa said she became active in college after a presentation at the Catholic student center showed her scientific and philosophical arguments against abortion as well as a few graphic images.
“The images made the issue much more real for us,” she said. “In college I eventually became president of the student pro-life group and vice president of American Collegians for Life.”
“I know that many colleges work very hard to promote the pro-choice philosophy, so one of my goals at OLM is to help students learn how to defend their pro-life positions before they go off to college,” the teacher said.
In addition to pro-life week, juniors and seniors at OLM for several years have raised money to go to Washington, D.C., in January for the national March for Life. They have also held car washes and other fundraisers to assist the pregnancy center in Hapeville. Students also practiced for and held a debate taking the pro-life position before the entire student body against a taped Canadian debate team arguing the other side.