By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published December 8, 2011
Teens at St. Michael Parish are busy this season. Not just with preparations for upcoming holidays but also with their involvement in the national pro-life movement.
Beginning in September, the youth group at the Gainesville parish became involved by holding a drive to collect baby items for Catholic and pro-life pregnancy crisis centers as part of a national Life Teen “Baby Drive,” in which nearly 2,500 parishes gathered bottles, food, diapers, strollers, clothing and more to support their local pro-life centers and organizations.
According to Andy McRoberts, parish youth director, more than 60 youth group members set up camp outside the church with information cards for the local pregnancy crisis center, Gainesville Care Center. Handing out the information and encouraging people to contribute, the group collected nearly 600 baby items as well as donations, which were distributed among the Gainesville Care Center, St. Vincent de Paul Society and the John Paul II Spanish Mission.
At the beginning of October, nearly 60 St. Michael youth group members also took part in a parish-wide Life Chain, joining more than 200 other parishioners in a one-hour prayer vigil in the heart of Gainesville.
“For the teenagers this was the first time they had taken part in this kind of event outside of church grounds and (they) were very nervous, but we kept the prayers strong as we held the pro-life placards and received a good supportive response from the Gainesville public driving past,” said McRoberts.
“Father Jaime Barona, our pastor here at St. Michael, has a great vision for the future of the youth in our parish,” wrote McRoberts by email. “He has invested a lot of time and resources into our youth program. We identified a great need in our community for education regarding teenage pregnancies and the abortion issue, which is so prevalent and unspoken in many cases in today’s youth culture.”
As a continuing effort, a small group of teens and parishioners will travel to Washington, D.C., in January to participate in the national pro-life march. Some 70 other youngsters from the parish will attend archdiocesan pro-life events.
“As youth director here at St. Michael, I am fully aware of the trials and pressures today’s youth face every day regarding this issue,” wrote McRoberts. “For our outreach program to succeed we sent our youth to the streets, to the world, to proclaim what they have learned and what they truly believe through Catholic education. If our actions prevented an unwanted crisis pregnancy or turned around an abortion decision to a life-giving decision, then we are doing the work of God in our Life Teen missionary activities.”