Defending Life on the “Big Island”

Susan DeCleene, Dave DeCleene, Lori Hoye, Joe Scheidler, Ann Scheidler, Walter Hoye and Bobby Schindler in Hawaii

Pro-life team in Hilo (from left): Susan DeCleene, Dave DeCleene, Lori Hoye, Joe Scheidler, Ann Scheidler, Walter Hoye and Bobby Schindler

Everyone’s dream business trip is to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. Joe and I had that dream fulfilled in June when Dave DeCleene, president of the Hilo Chapter of Hawaii Right to Life, invited us to speak at Hilo’s first pro-life conference.

Joe gave a workshop on communicating the pro-life message, highlighting the Pro-Life Action League’s new Sharing the Pro-Life Message handbook. The League provided a free copy to every participant in the conference. Joe did a second workshop on the effective use of graphic images in exposing the truth about abortion and saving lives.

I conducted a workshop on sidewalk counseling. Joe and I had visited the site of the only abortion clinic on the island of Hilo, so I was familiar with the particular challenges of its location on the second floor of an office and medical complex. We had prayed directly beneath the clinic itself with local pro-lifers. The only crisis pregnancy center on the island is nearly three hours away in Kona, so sidewalk counselors in Hilo must be prepared to take on more responsibilities than usual.

Mainland Team Trains Islanders

Ann and Joe Scheidler with pro-life law student Catie Statler

Ann and Joe Scheidler with pro-life law student Catie Statler

Other speakers at the conference included Pastor Walter Hoye of Oakland, CA, a fearless sidewalk counselor who made headlines for supposedly violating a bubble zone law passed by Oakland’s city council specifically to get him off the sidewalk in front of a local abortuary. He was arrested and spent several weeks in jail when he challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance and refused to pay a fine. His quiet, determined witness is powerful.

Bobby Schindler spoke passionately about the growing threat of euthanasia, recounting the traumatic events surrounding the starvation death of his sister, Terri Schiavo. He urged pro-lifers to be vigilant in respecting and protecting the lives of those whom society has deemed useless or has labeled “vegetables.”

The Scheidlers stayed at the home of Dr. Paul and Cora Matsumoto during their visit to Hilo. The Island pro-lifers were exceptionally welcoming. To make sure we got the true island experience, Catie Statler, a 2009 graduate of Franciscan University who was heading to Ave Maria Law School in the fall, took us to the beach near Kona. The Statler family hosted us for a delicious dinner before we left Hilo.

Reminders of God’s Majesty

Joe Scheidler and Bobby Schindler in Hawaii

Joe Scheidler and Bobby Schindler at the Kilauea Crater

One cannot visit Hilo without seeing Kilauea Crater, an active volcano that is constantly adding size to the island. After Sunday Mass at the Mission Church of the Holy Rosary, we headed to Kilauea. Bobby Schindler joined us, along with John Derego and two of his children. The incredible beauty of the island and the power of the volcano is a majestic reminder of God’s infinite imagination.

From Hilo we had to fly to Oahu to get a flight to Chicago. John Drego, a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines, switched our flight to give us extra time in Honolulu where my brother Tom lives. John also treated us to first class seats on the short hop to Honolulu.

Tom met us at the Honolulu airport and took us to the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, another powerful experience. The reverence with which visitors react as they view the sunken battleship that serves as a tomb for 1177 American servicemen is a testament to the fact that the American people fundamentally understand the value of human life. We can tap into that understanding in our efforts to educate our fellow Americans on the sanctity of unborn life and the tragedy of abortion.

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