“Amazing!” “Really inspiring!” “I loved it!”
These comments sum up the reaction of the more than 150 teens and adults who attended TeenSpeak 2013 on February 2 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois—the largest crowd we’ve ever had at a TeenSpeak conference!
The day began with an engaging and enthusiastic presentation titled “Designed to Create,” by Ryan Bomberger of The Radiance Foundation. Drawing from his experience as an Emmy-Award winning creative professional, Ryan explained that in communicating the pro-life message through visual media, certain principles of design must be followed, or the message will not reach its intended audience. By way of example, Ryan showed several of his most impactful videos, including “We’ve Been Guttmachered,” “Hell Breaks Loose,” “Meet Jonny Moses,” and, last but not least, “Unwanted,” which highlights Ryan’s personal story of having been conceived in rape and placed for adoption in a large, multi-racial family.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed Ryan’s presentation. High school student Therese Starasinich commented, “His talk got me more excited to take on action spreading the truth,” and Patrick Lechner noted that Ryan’s talk “makes me want to use my job in the future for the pro-life movement.”
Sidewalk Counseling and Teens
Up next was Pro-Life Action League associate J.T. Eschbach, who presented a talk entitled, “You Can Save Lives: Getting Started with Sidewalk Counseling,” an abbreviated version of the training seminar he frequently gives to adult groups.
After J.T. shared his expertise as a veteran sidewalk counselor, three students from Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois—Julia Kott, Hannah Miller, and Megan Sullivan—spoke about some of their own experiences sidewalk counseling regularly over the past year at the Family Planning Associates abortion clinic in downtown Chicago and at Planned Parenthood’s flagship “mega-center” in Aurora.
High school student Sara Groppe said that this session “gave a lot of useful pointers and helped me realize that sidewalk counseling isn’t so scary.” Monica Tragasz added, “As someone who has been shadowing a sidewalk counselor, I found this information very helpful.” Cristina McCormack, a freshman at Naperville Central High School, commented, “I really liked listening to the teens from Christian Liberty Academy because they made me feel like [sidewalk counseling] was something I could do to be involved.” Other students likewise expressed a desire to try sidewalk counseling.
Following the session on sidewalk counseling, Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Eric Scheidler spoke about one of the key elements to dialoguing with people who call themselves “pro-choice”—namely, listening. Eric pointed out that we can’t hope to change someone’s mind about abortion if they can see we’re not really listening to them. Eric noted that this and several other pointers are explained in more detail in the League’s Sharing the Pro-Life Message handbook—which all attendees received—and he encouraged everyone to keep their copy with them at all times.
Design Contest a Big Hit—As Usual
Following lunch, the League’s Matt Yonke revisited the design theme Ryan had discussed earlier in the day with a short PowerPoint tutorial on “How to design web graphics that persuade and delight.” Matt’s talk served as a great jumping-off point for TeenSpeak’s Pro-Life Graphic Design Workshop. We’ve conducted similar workshops at the last four TeenSpeak conferences, and they’ve received great feedback over the years—just as this one did.
Attendees were divided into 20 groups, and each group was given two design templates, a pencil, a set of markers, and 40 minutes to create their own graphic. To ramp up the competition factor, the teams were told that the winning design would be made into an actual web graphic and shared to potentially tens of thousands of Facebook users. Ryan himself graciously agreed to judge the entries, and two groups that came up with strikingly similar designs shared First Place honors.
High school student Angela DeJesus summed up the reaction of many others when she said that TeenSpeak “made me think about choosing to be pro-life and that you have to do something, not just talk and listen about it.” We were thrilled that so many teens have given us thoroughly positive feedback and have said they’re really looking forward to next year’s conference—as we are, too!
The early months of 2013 have brought with them many opportunities to share the pro-life and chastity message with teens and to broaden the scope of Generations for Life’s youth outreach efforts—including many invitations to speak to groups I’ve addressed before.
On January 9, I was happy to receive a copy in the mail of Affirming Life, the newest resource for youth ministers published by the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry. GFL is a collaborating member of the Federation, and following last year’s annual meeting, I was asked to write the catechetical session on the topic of abortion that would be included in the book. This was my first opportunity to see the finished product, and I am honored to have contributed to it.
Later that week, I gave my “Making the Case for Life” talk to a group of eighth graders preparing for Confirmation at St. Joseph Church in Lockport, Illinois. I had spoken to the eighth graders at the parish the previous year, and was happy to be invited back. On January 27, I gave the same talk to a group of high school sophomores preparing for Confirmation at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naperville, Illinois, at the invitation of parish director of religious education Sheila Stevenson. Both talks were very well received by students and parents alike.
Pro-Life at Proviso, 9 Straight Years
On February 6, I spoke on chastity to a very receptive group of seventh grade CCD students at St. Michael Parish in Wheaton, Illinois. Following my presentation I had a delightful conversation with some of the volunteer catechists. Later that month, on February 25, I gave my “Pro-Life 101” talk to the Human Development classes at Proviso West High School in Hillside, Illinois for the ninth year in a row. Many students offered positive comments on the evaluation forms I distributed afterwards.
On April 14, I was invited for the fourth consecutive year to give a chastity presentation to the sophomores preparing for Confirmation at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lake Zurich, Illinois.
On May 10 I gave a chastity talk to the teens from the St. Scholastica homeschooling group, filling in for another speaker on short notice. The talk, held at a park in Johnsburg, Illinois, marked the first time I had ever given a talk outdoors—and in front of a roaring fire, no less, which was particularly nice on a chilly evening. My talk was very well received, and the Q & A session afterward lasted nearly as long as my formal presentation.
Please keep the work of Generations for Life in your prayers as we continue to receive such great opportunities to share the pro-life message and raise up a new generation of pro-life leaders.