By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published February 6, 2020
ATLANTA—More than 300 Catholic middle and high school students filled Kenny Hall at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta for the first “Youth Rally 4 Life” Jan. 22.
“It’s a gift to us that you’re here,” said Joey Martineck, director of Respect Life Ministry for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. “God has something to speak to you today in this rally.”
The event was held immediately following the annual Mass for the Unborn on the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which legalized abortion. The Eucharistic celebration was in honor of all lives lost due to abortion.
In his homily, Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, diocesan administrator for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, encouraged people to continue fighting for the lives of unborn children.
“When we stand together against this evil, a mark is made, a movement is felt and things do change, even if not yet to the degree that we would like to see,” he said.
The Respect Life Ministry for the Atlanta Archdiocese organized the Mass and youth rally, which included music and theatrical performances. Jacob Nels, speaker and sidewalk counselor for Equal Rights Institute, led a presentation for the students on how to handle difficult abortion conversations with those who have different perspectives.
Mee Meh, a junior at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, appreciated Nels’ presentation. “Even though we support pro-life, sometimes we don’t know how to answer the question we are faced with,” said Meh. “I really liked how they prepared us.”
Shannon Gerard, prolife advocate for the Atlanta Archdiocese, shared statistics about abortion at the rally.
Abortion deserves our attention for three reasons—frequency, proximity and severity, said Gerard, who also discussed the various stages of life during pregnancy.
“Even though all the science is known by medical professionals, the United States still performs abortions for any reason up until birth,” she said.
The Students for Life Club, of St. John Neumann Regional School, was among the groups represented at the Mass and rally. Students for Life had 25 seventh and eighth grade students participating. Members meet monthly not just to learn about the church’s belief on all matters of life but also to take action. As a club, they have participated in Respect Life Month with daily prayer and artwork shared with the community. They visited the seniors at Sunrise Home for the Elderly for games and caroling at Christmas and will end the school year with a baby shower of gifts for Birthright.
Sharing her story
Liz Youngs, a speaker for the youth rally, shared her own experience with abortion. Growing up in a Catholic family, Youngs received her sacraments, but started to make “bad choices” in her teen years. After high school, she had two long-term boyfriends, which resulted in three abortions during those relationships.
“An abortion doesn’t erase the fact a pregnant woman is already a mother,” said Youngs. “An abortion only makes her the mother of a dead child. It wounds her, and it kills them.”
After experiencing feelings of loss and a downward spiral, Youngs returned to her Catholic faith and found programs to help heal the pain and grief of her abortions.
Inspired by her experience, she tells her story to reveal the truth about the effects of abortion. Youngs shares her experience through the Silent No More Awareness campaign, various Catholic events and on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. She is also a volunteer for Rachel’s Vineyard retreats and SaveOne Bible studies, two programs that were helpful in her own journey.
“My story is filled with terrible choices, sin, brokenness and ugly truths,” said Youngs. “Yet my story is also filled with God’s tremendous love, and his mercy and forgiveness, and a grace that saved my life.”
“It made me think about not having my siblings,” said Juliana Contreras, a sophomore at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, reflecting on Youngs story.
There are five children in Contreras’ family and she wonders how different life would be without them.
“As Catholics, we are committed to rendering mercy to the most vulnerable, to the weak, those without a voice, those whose hope may be thin,” said Bishop Konzen. “May the prayers and witness of each one here help to rescue with mercy those who long to know his love and his truth,” he said.