A high school senior with the life of the unborn forefront on her mind helped make pro-life history over the weekend as the first annual Catholic School Life Rally produced attention from politicians, news stations, Operation Rescue, and pro-choice protestors.
The rally was a project of the 10-member senior class at St. John’s Catholic High School in tiny Beloit, KS. The rally location was the infamous clinic in Wichita where George Tiller performed many late-term abortions before his murder temporarily closed the clinic. Despite temperatures that were often about 12 degrees, with the wind blowing mercilessly, the teenagers stood and prayed while about 10-20 pro-choicers met them, protesting the protest. Katie notes that the pro-choicers had mixed behavior in reaction to their appearances:
What was funny is that the pro-choice people were just staring at us, but as soon as I got pulled aside for the interview, they started up a ruckus so that I could not be heard. The difference in the manners of protest were astounding. The pro-choice people were waving noisemakers, blowing whistles and shouting, and after a short period of time, they went inside while as the pro-life people sang ‘Silent Night,’ prayed a rosary on our knees, and stayed out there for over an hour.
Katie notes that one of the pro-choice signs was actually a political slam toward Huelskamp, and that surprised her. She said the sign “stood out to me because of how random it was. We weren’t there to debate politics; we were there as a witness for a faith and to show that we care for the expecting mothers, babies in the womb, and even the clinic workers.”
But while the Catholic group were a target of protest, they were focused not on a debate with those who disagreed, but with the lives of those yet to be born. Joined by surrounding schools in the area, the population included approximately 100 high school students, as well as various adults from a local Catholic church, parents, and some older people.
One of the participants was a classmate of Katie’s, Kellan Niewald, who says:
The reason why I am standing up against abortion is because it is killing a living child that can’t even take its first breath. We as a school are trying to show the world that a big journey, like peacefully protesting against abortion, is a step towards making it illegal.
Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) stood in support of the young people and spoke to the crowd on the sanctity of life and the importance of the impact that the young people could make on their world.
The power of impact is something Katie knows is important and takes to heart. At 17, she holds a deep regard for the value of life – not only from her Catholic faith, but from her own home life. In a speech to the crowd Friday, Katie shared her own experience with knowing the value of life firsthand:
I am the oldest of 13 kids. I love each of my brothers and sisters so much, I couldn’t live without them. But, I do have three siblings that I have to live without. I’ve actually never met them. My mom has had three miscarriages; the most recent miscarriage was actually confirmed two nights ago. Do you have any idea the heart-wrenching experience I went through the night my parents told our family what happened? I want you to picture 10 kids, ranging in ages from 17 to 2 years old, so excited for a new baby brother or sister. We were so happy. I was going to get to be the godmother to this child, we were already having the sibling wars on whether the baby should be a boy or girl, we already had the names picked out. We could not wait for this baby. Picture that joy. Now can you imagine the sorrow in my family when we were told that our baby brother or sister died before we ever got to meet him or her? That we will never, ever get to see this child grow up? Never get to show him our world? We would have cherished this child, just as we would cherish any other child in the womb of any other person. Children are a blessing. They are precious and sacred. They are loved by God, and we acknowledge the love and value that God places on every, single one of them.
Katie’s faith combined with her family experience has given her a heart for all life, she says:
I believe every human life is precious and every person – whether they are the mom seeking the abortion, the baby growing inside the womb, a clinic worker inside the abortion clinic or an abortion doctor. I believe that no matter if you are black, white, green or purple, Mexican or Chinese, God finds so much value in your life and so do we. I don’t care if you [have] Down syndrome or [are] paralyzed, tall or short, a couple pounds overweight or skinny as a pole, I don’t care if you are 100 years old or 1 day old…I believe that every human being has value and is loved by God. Every single human being is loved by God, I know this for a fact.”
We know that if we educate the youth on the beauty of life and that yes, every life is worth living and every life is valuable, our culture will change itself.
Sometimes the journey is discouraging, though. Katie notes that as the group took their stance on Kellogg, a major Wichita road, the reaction was not what she expected:
On Kellogg, we all got in a line and held signs. The reactions we received hurt my heart because while there were way more positive reactions (thumbs up, honks for life, big smiles accompanied with big waves) than negative reactions (severe frowns, middle finger, people shouting), the majority of the reactions were indifferent, people drove by and didn’t even acknowledge us. How can you not look at nearly 100 kids standing out in the freezing cold professing their belief that abortion is wrong? How can you not have an opinion on the abortion issue?
And yet she remembers the past as she tries to change the future. She said:
Our class feels strongly that abortion is an ongoing, silent genocide. Every year, 1.2 million abortions take place, right in our own backyards. Since Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in 1973, some 55 million abortions have taken place. In our history class, we have often studied Hitler’s Jewish Holocaust where 11 million people were killed because Hitler didn’t acknowledge the Jews as actual human beings. One of the more fascinating and tragic details about the whole holocaust is that most of the German people didn’t know this was going on in their own backyards. Can you imagine, if you were a German man or woman and you did know what was happening there in those concentration camps? I can imagine that we wouldn’t just sit in the comfort of our homes without giving witness.
As she spoke Friday, Katie said:
Today, each of us will give visible witness to the pre-born babies who are not considered human beings. While our society tells us to turn our heads and ignore this tragedy, 55 million is a number that is too big to ignore. And much like Auschwitz and other concentration camps are toured today to get an understanding that yes, the Jewish genocide did happen, our prayer is that someday our nation can look upon abortion as a horrific tragedy of our past.
Ultimately, Katie desires more than a one-time rally. She longs for change that reflects her faith to influence a culture. She told the crowd:
I believe that if we push for change within our culture, we will make that change happen. Having all of you here gives us hope because you are all willing to participate in educating others of what abortion actually is. The late Pope John Paul II called our generation the Pro-Life generation. We are making his words a reality through our actions and our prayers today and for the days to come. Because all of us know, and all of us are well aware, that while educating ourselves on the science of when life begins, educating ourselves on the different forms of abortion, educating ourselves on the psychological process of why a woman would choose an abortion, each of us knows that the real battle in this fight is not in the minds of people, it’s in their hearts. If we can change hearts by simply praying that these future moms and clinic workers be open to the grace that God is offering them, that’s when real progress can be made. And that’s what we are asking you to do today, we want you to pray.
And in her desire to change culture and lead others to do likewise, one sentiment comes out:
We desire to show the women that come to the clinic, and the people that work there, that we care.We don’t wish to damn them; rather we want to show them our compassion. We want them to see that someone does love them and cares about them.
True passion for life is a passion for all life – not only those yet to be born, but those who participate in their killing. It’s a passion to love people into life, not condemn them into anger and division. That is, perhaps, what makes Katie and her classmates a refreshing hope for a future generation and the culture of life: that a voice of love for all involved in the abortion process is rising from the past anger and division of the war against abortion.
Seeing the passion of one teenage girl from a tiny town in rural Kansas reminds us all that the power to influence life is in our hands. One person can make a difference for life. Just ask Katie Greenwood.