Would you be willing to ride three hours, one way, on a bus, so you could pray outside an abortion clinic? The students at St. John’s Catholic High School in Beloit, Kansas have done just that â€” and not just once, but numerous times, most recently last month. I spoke yesterday with Andrew Niewald, a theology teacher at the school, who is eager to share the story of his students’ courageous pro-life witness in the hope that other Catholic schools will be willing to provide similar opportunities for their students to put their pro-life beliefs into action out in the world. The students at St. John’s have been the subject of several feature articles recently, including one at LifeSite by Rita Diller of STOPP. In it, Andrew is quoted as saying:
We tried all sorts of things, including watching The Silent Scream and other abortion videos, but that did not have the impact we needed. Once the students were out there, three or four feet from the girls coming in to have abortions, begging them not to go in, it made it so much more real. … We could take the students to the World War II museum, let them see the memorabilia behind glass doors, but that does not have the same impact as taking them to the front lines. We take them, instead, to the battle lines, and the conviction they walk away with is tremendous.
The importance of Andrew’s observations here cannot be overstated. Teachers â€” and priests, youth ministers, et al. â€” can and obviously must talk about abortion with their students. But actually bringing your students to an abortion clinic gives them an experience that simply can’t be replicated in a classroom. There is nothing quite like the somber experience of going where the killing actually happens. There is nothing quite like the jarring experience of seeing expressions of sadness, sorrow, and despair on the faces of women (and girls) going in. There is nothing quite like the trying experience of praying the Rosary and holding a pro-life sign and hearing someone yell “F*** you!” at you â€” and, instead of responding in kind, learning to turn the other cheek and bear wrongs patiently. When you go to an abortion clinic for the first time, you realize that abortion is no longer a theoretical issue to be merely talked about. You realize that you can’t just talk about abortion, you have to actually do something about it. That’s what is so encouraging about what’s going on at St. John’s High School in Beloit, Kansas. Andrew Niewald and the other teachers there are setting the bar high for their students–clearly, expecting students to spend six hours on a bus so they can pray for 90 minutes outside the nearest abortion clinic is asking a lot. But with solid formation and instruction, the students at St. John’s are living up to the high expectations that have been set for them. It was a privilege for me to talk with Andrew, and he was happy to accept our offer to send him a complimentary copy of the Generations for Life Pro-Life Curriculum. Please keep his students in your prayers that they will continue to grow in their love for unborn children and their willingness to reach out to pregnant mothers in need.