Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
Bishop Luis Zarama speaks to the Pro-Life Lock In participants, sitting to his right, during his Jan. 22 homily.


Lock-In Gives Pro-Life Teens Space To Reflect

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published February 2, 2012

Piles of pillows, sleeping bags and backpacks sat on the gym sidelines at Our Lady of Mercy High School on Sunday, Jan. 22, where some 40 teens planned to sleep on the floor overnight.

First there was Mass and Eucharistic adoration, mixed with learning about political activism and how to talk with people who favor abortion rights. And since these were teens, of course there was lots of pizza and late night snacks.

“It’s cool to see people come together to stand up for what they believe in,” said Christina Couvillion, 14, a high school freshman and a member of St. George Church, Newnan.

The lock-in brought together teenagers from around the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Many came from the host school, Our Lady of Mercy High School, along with teens from Good Shepherd Church, Cumming, All Saints Church, Dunwoody, and other Catholic churches.

Michael Gagnon, standing, background right center, shares the agenda and guidelines for the evening with the group. To the left of Gagnon is his co-facilitator Christina Davis, the youth minister at St. Pius X Church, Conyers. Gagnon is the director of youth and young adult Ministry Church of the Good Shepherd, Cumming. Photo By Michael Alexander

“It’s really hard to get everybody to Washington, D.C.,” said Mary Boyert, the director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Ministry, so this event gives young people a sense of what happens at the national event on a smaller scale.

The overnight event started the pro-life observances in the Atlanta Archdiocese, that would be capped with the standing-room-only Mass for the Unborn Jan. 23 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta, followed by a march near the Georgia Statehouse that drew thousands to protest the Jan. 22, 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that legalized abortion in America.

Before Mass in the school chapel with Bishop Luis R. Zarama began, the boisterous crowd cheered announcements. In his homily, Atlanta’s auxiliary bishop saluted their energy and told them that respecting life means respecting themselves and God’s plans for them.

“Embrace life. God is life. You are people of life. Find the treasure of the beauty of that life, deep in your heart. Embrace yourself in the way Jesus is embracing you,” he said.

Emily Ferreira of Our Lady of Mercy High School, Fayetteville, attends the Pro-Life Lock In at her school the night before the Mass for the Unborn at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta. Photo By Michael Alexander

He said God isn’t “pro-life” but rather God is “life” from conception to natural death and all that happens in between.

People learn in living that love comes to mean sacrifice and young people are not exempt from that demand of sacrifice, whether in their homes or the classroom, he said. The hard sacrifice brings love and beauty to life, he said.

“Share in the goodness of life. I’m not saying ‘preach,’” he said, adding that the way to show love is to show concern for others.

There were close to 40 boxes of  Papa John’s pizza covered in cheese, pepperoni and other toppings waiting in the school cafeteria. A special table was also set up to put snacks to share.

Couvillion, who sings in the choir in the Heritage School, has walked in the annual respect for life march in downtown Atlanta for three years. She takes a day off from her private school to attend. She said each year is a little different, giving her new ideas.

“It still changes you every time. It make you think about new things about life,” she said.

Emily Ferreira, 14, is a freshman at Our Lady of Mercy High School and attends St. Matthew Church, Tyrone. Ferreira, who plays outfield on the varsity softball team, said the school community is very active on the issue.

“I find it amazing our school hosts this amazing event. It means a lot to me to know there are people who know to stand up for what’s right,” she said.

For her, the term pro-life has a broad definition, not just concerning women and pregnancies.

“It’s not just babies. It’s people who are sent to death,” she said.

Sean Wayne, 20, took a year off from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, to serve as a Regnum Christi missionary.

He said hearing the bishop’s remarks made him rethink how he describes his views. “He inspired me to say I’m a person of life now instead of pro-life.”

Wayne, who plans to study international business, said he is part of a “huge minority” among his peers on the issue of abortion.

Father Jimmy Adams, the chaplain at Our Lady of Mercy High School, standing left, introduced Father Timothy Hepburn, far right, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the night’s first speaker in the school’s media center. Photo By Michael Alexander

“They don’t understand what life is, they don’t understand what love is,” he said.

He said changing the culture won’t be quick and easy. But it’ll happen by people making examples of their lives, he said.

“It’s going to be a ripple effect,” he said.

During the evening, the teens heard from speakers who work with women facing a crisis pregnancy and from statehouse lobbyists. They had the chance to write letters to elected officials. The students also shared tips about what pro-life clubs are doing in their parishes and schools.

All the young people at the high school had been born long after the Supreme Court decision. And they heard the chaperones tell them to set their goals on talking to their friends about pro-life issues.

“One heart at a time is all you have to worry about. If you can change one heart, even if it’s your heart, you’ve changed the world,” said Mike Gagnon, a youth minister from Good Shepherd Church, Cumming.