The League plans to mobilize a new generation of pro-life activists by launching Generations for Life, a new youth outreach program. Headed by Annie Scheidler, Generations for Life seeks to inspire teens to commit to the pro-life cause and give them the tools to put this commitment into action.
Annie speaking to students at St. Scholastica High School
Generations for Life uses a two-pronged approach. First, Annie visits schools and churches and speaks to teen audiences about abortion and the pro-life mission. Then, building on the enthusiasm she inspires, Annie organizes pro-life clubs at these schools and churches.
Youth Ministry Experience
Generations for Life is an outgrowth of Annie’s four years of experience in youth ministry. Since graduating from Loyola University of Chicago in 1998, she has been involved with youth ministry at St. Mary’s Church in Sycamore, IL, and at Sacred Heart Church in Winnetka. She brings valuable experience to the League, along with a deep love for teenagers, whom she says are passionate, idealistic and hungry for truth.
Annie’s experience has taught her that it’s not enough just to inspire young people with zeal for the faith. They need something to do, a worthwhile cause to engage their energy and enthusiasm. This is what Generations for Life is all about. It’s not just a way to enlist teens in the pro-life cause, but a way to guide them toward a deepened, more purposeful faith in God.
Respect for Life, Respect for Sex
The pro-life mission is more than an idea; it’s a way of life. For teens this means living chastely, in accordance with God’s plan for marriage and sexuality. When Annie visits schools, churches and youth groups, she not only speaks about the sanctity and beauty of unborn life, but she also calls on teens to practice chastity.
What unites these two issues is the theme of respect, something that teens really understand. “Teens all want to be respected,” Annie explains, “and they know what it means to be disrespected.” She calls on teens to respect life and to demand respect for themselves and the gift of sexuality. Annie finds that teens are eager to embrace this vision. “There’s a peace in knowing that you’re respecting yourself and respecting others, and living according to the truth,” she says.
Like others who have reached out to teens with the chastity message, Annie finds her audience more receptive than our sexually promiscuous culture would have us believe: “They want to be able to live a chaste life, and they want someone to tell them it’s okay.” She knows that teens are capable of living up to the demands of chastity: “Absolutely, they can do it. I’ve seen them, and they’re so much more joyful when they do.”
An Overlooked Generation
With her respect and sense of responsibility for teenagers, Annie is outraged by Planned Parenthood-style “sex ed” that encourage teens to use contraceptives: “That is so unfair to teenagers.” Noting the many dangers of premarital sex and contraception, Annie says no one should put young lives at risk like that. Sex outside of marriage is extremely harmful not only physically, but even more so emotionally and spiritually. “You’re giving away a part of your heart to someone,” she says.
“I respect them more than Planned Parenthood does. I don’t want their hearts to be broken.”
Unfortunately, the pro-abortion movement has been quicker than the pro-life movement to appeal to teenagers. Organizations like Planned Parenthood have aggressively lobbied teens not only through sex-ed programs but through concerts, contests and clubs. Generations for Life seeks to correct this by providing an antidote to the dangerous lies of pro-abortion propagandists.
Generations for Life appeals to teens with authentic respect for their minds and their hearts. “I respect them more than Planned Parenthood does,” Annie says. “I believe they can live up to these standards, and that it’s the healthiest thing for them. I don’t want them to get sexually transmitted diseases. I don’t want their hearts to be broken. I don’t want them to give themselves away to someone who doesn’t care about them.”
Pro-Life Clubs Reaching Out
Annie’s faith in teens’ capacity to live chastely is matched by her appreciation of the special gifts they have to offer the pro-life movement. Through the establishment of teen pro-life clubs, Generations for Life seeks to draw out these gifts, and in the process enrich teens’ lives as well as the pro-life movement.
Inspired by Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua’s recent call to “marshal young people to promote a culture of life,” Annie’s vision for these pro-life clubs is centered on the idea of outreach. A school chapter of Generations for Life is not meant to be an exclusive club for students with pro-life beliefs where they can congratulate themselves for their right thinking. Rather, it is an open invitation to other students, even those calling themselves pro-choice. Few of these have ever heard the pro-life message in full. “We can’t keep this to ourselves,” she says. “It’s too great. We have to share it.”
Annie has discovered that teens are especially receptive to the pro-life message when it’s shared with them respectfully and positively. Teens frequently approach her after her talk to say that when they walked in they were “pro-choice,” but now they’re pro-life! Generations for Life clubs seek to capitalize on this openness this untapped desire to embrace the sanctity of life by broadcasting the pro-life message year-round, rather than just once every few years when a pro-life speaker visits.
A Soup-to-Nuts Curriculum
Annie knows that to succeed, these pro-life clubs need careful direction. Her Generations for Life curriculum gives student leaders a blueprint for getting started and keeping their clubs going throughout the school year. Her curriculum helps students work with school administration, find faculty advisors, fill club offices, raise funds and conduct meetings in an orderly way. When they need advice or encouragement, Annie will be available to help them.
Annie’s curriculum is packed with ideas for club meetings and school-wide activities. Clubs watch pro-life videos on a variety of topics, learn about fetal development and the hard facts of abortion, discuss issues like euthanasia and the abortion-breast cancer link, and share ways they can present the pro-lifemessage to others.
They also try out these ideas in their school and local communities. The Generations for Life curriculum suggests a host of activities, such as placing crosses on the school lawn to represent the numbers of unborn children who have died since 1973. Club members visit local abortion mills to pray and council women going in for birth control and abortion. They join abortion protests and campaigns like Face the Truth. Involvement with a Generations for Life pro-life club gives students a comprehensive experience of pro-life outreach and activism.
Early Success for Generations for Life
Even in its early months of activity, Generations for Life is making a difference in Chicago and beyond. Already a popular speaker to Chicago area teen audiences when she joined the League, Annie has had many opportunities to speak to teens since she began developing the League’s new youth outreach. She has already begun implementing her curriculum in a variety of school and church pro-life clubs.
“The Holy Spirit is working in these young people. I see a revival of faith and a renewed respect for life.”
Under her guidance, pro-life clubs at St. Scholastica and Good Council high schools in Chicago have been expanded and reenergized. New clubs are forming at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Holy Apostles Church in McHenry and Warren Public High School in Gurnee. During a recent speaking tour in Alexandria, LA, Annie inspired over 100 students at Holy Savior Menard Catholic School to sign up for a new Generations for Life chapter in their school. Annie is also working with the Archdiocese of Chicago to bring Generations for Life into all its parochial high schools.
A New Pro-Life Generation
Generations for Life is grooming a new generation of pro-life leaders. Annie believes the pro-life movement urgently needs the enthusiasm and capacity for dialog that pro-life teens have to offer.
Annie says she has observed a shift over the years in the attitudes of both pro-abortionists and pro-lifers at the annual March for Life. In the past, their exchanges were angry and even hateful, but that is changing: “I’ve seen the change. Now people talk without anger and hatred, me against you. That’s what I really want these kids to learn: to reach out and change hearts and minds.”
Her work with teens has given Annie great hope for the pro-life cause: “I strongly believe the Holy Spirit is working in these young people. They want to give. They don’t want to live lies anymore. I see a revival of faith and a renewed respect for life.”
Battle-worn pro-life activists can take heart in Annie’s hope for the future. The unborn will not be forgotten by the next generation.
Links and Related Articles
- Generations for Life (on this site)—more about Annie, pro-life clubs curriculum, invite Annie to speak