Pro-life activities in conjunction with the annual March for Life are typically large-scale at Lancaster Catholic High School. Traditionally, school administrators and teachers accompany several dozen students to the nation’s capital, where their purple and gold garb stands out in a sea of pro-life proponents. In school, students who don’t attend the March assemble for a pro-life speaker delivering an impactful message on the value of human life.
“It’s a total effort of witness and evangelization,” Timothy Hamer, school President, said of the complementary events. The March is significant for Hamer, whose mother worked alongside Nellie Gray, the event’s founder in 1974. Up until this year, Hamer hadn’t missed a March.
This year, he joined fellow administrators, teachers and staff in involving students in pro-life activities on a smaller – but just as powerful – scale. Lancaster Catholic’s annual Pro-Life Day was observed across two days of in-class discussion on life issues and opportunities for individual prayer.
“The model for our Pro-Life Day this year isn’t big, glorious or flashy; in fact, it reflects the whole ministry plan this year around the pandemic. We’re a lot less Martha and a lot less Mary,” said Art Bamert, Director of Campus Ministry.
The focus on Jan. 28 and 29 involved the entire 550-member student body. Individual classes prayed the Rosary for the intention of respect for life, and religion classes became settings for discussion of life issues and the Church’s teaching on them. There was also all-day Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and daily Mass in the school chapel.
“I think this plan ends up being more effective because you have discussion in class led by teachers who know their students,” Bamert said. “The discussion you’re going to have in the Foundations religion class will be very different than the discussion in Honors Theology. In reality, the teachers can meet students where they’re at. It’s a model that follows the classic Catholic evangelization model of meeting people where they are.”
In Honors Theology, for example, school chaplain Father Steven Arena led a discussion on bioethics. He spoke to students about Iceland’s nearly 100 percent abortion rate of babies with Down syndrome under the guise of eradicating the genetic disorder.
Intentional, personal discussion of life issues will answer students’ questions, win the hearts of those who support abortion, and reaffirm those committed in the pro-life movement, Bamert said.
“A large portion of our student body is pro-life, but, as a whole, the generation questions it. We also have a percentage of non-Catholic students, so we have those who are adamantly pro-life, and some who are on the opposite side of the issue for various reasons, and it creates a challenge. Our response, in both cases, is more prayer,” he said.
It’s why Lancaster Catholic offered all-day Adoration and the in-class Rosary, in addition to the daily Rosary and Holy Hour that have been taking place before the start of the school day.
“The most powerful thing you can have is prayer,” Bamert said. “The quieter, Mary-like approach of prayer and small discussions will win hearts one at a time. We’re making it about individual conversations. I’m hopeful that it’s going to produce more fruit. If we can change the minds of 20 kids, or reaffirm 20 kids in their pro-life beliefs, they’re going to talk to others about the spectrum of pro-life issues, from abortion and eugenics to contraception and bioethics.”
Senior Kaitlin Smith, one of the leaders of Lancaster Catholic’s Respect Life Club, said she appreciated the school’s immersive efforts.
“I was in public school before I came here, and it’s a little bit different because you’re not used to being surrounded by people who have the same ideology as you,” she said.
She joined the Respect Life Club as a way to give back to the local community while putting her pro-life beliefs into action. In addition to participation in the annual March for Life, club activities throughout the year include blood drives, Thanksgiving food drives and – prior to the pandemic – visits to the elderly in nursing homes.
Smith said she is grateful for the school’s infusion of pro-life activities, not only on Jan. 28 and 29, but throughout the year.
“It shows that our school puts an emphasis on pro-life values and wants us to be informed on the values we believe in. We have an opportunity to reflect on these values and what our actions in our daily lives show in that regard,” she said.
(Learn more about Lancaster Catholic High School at www.lchsyes.org.)
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness