Teens witness to sanctity of life at walk

BOSTON -- Hundreds of teens from the Archdiocese of Boston and nearby locales, representing seven parishes and four high schools, gathered to witness to the Gospel of Life as they participated in the second annual Boston Respect Life Youth Rally on Sunday, Oct. 4.

This year’s rally, held on Respect Life Sunday, was titled “Walk as Children of the Light.” It featured Christian music performed by the LifeTeen Band of Hanover, music and a talk by nationally-renowned worship leader, speaker, and author Bob Rice. Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, who was travelling on the day of the rally, addressed the youth in a pre-recorded video message.

Following the rally, the teens attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, had pizza, and then joined the Massachusetts Citizens for Life’s Respect Life Walk.

“It’s important to see we can speak for people who can’t speak for themselves,” said Ali Eddlem, 16, of Holy Family Parish in East Taunton. “We have to see the fetus as a living being. We all started out as fetuses.”

For Patrick Hogan, 16, a junior at St. Mary’s High School in Lynn, the rally and walk heightened awareness of the abortion issue.

“I think a lot of people are misinformed,” Hogan said. “If they knew the truth about it (abortion), they’d feel differently and there would be more people supporting the pro-life cause.”

The walk began at the Boston Common, where speakers testified to the struggles and triumphs of opposing abortion in our time. Then, thousands of walkers marched down Commonwealth Avenue.

Kathy Stebbins, Coordinator for Youth Ministry for the archdiocese, said that the rally was significant because of “the fact that there are that many kids willing to do this -- willing to stand up for the faith.”

“They have an opportunity to be witnesses as well,” she said.

As witnesses, the teens are encouraged to be what Cardinal O’Malley called, “apostles of life.”

“All of us must be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “Your presence at the rally today is important. It’s your way of standing up and telling the world every human being is precious and worthy of our love and care.”

“It’s a great struggle, but together we can do it,” he continued. “Your presence there is a wonderful start.”

Rice, in his talk, told the audience that since man was created in God’s image and likeness, human life has a special dignity.

“There’s a dignity to human life that we don’t see in the rest of creation,” Rice said. “Only man and woman were created to be God’s image and likeness. Men and women were created to be stewards of creation -- not to abuse the earth but to use the earth.”

Rice pointed out that the other things God created, like stars and mountains, for example do not have free will. Humans, however, have the choice to reflect God’s glory or sin against him.

Analyzing the features of modern technology common among today’s young people, he said that society should not view human life as expendable.

He pointed out that on websites like Facebook or even cell phones, users can block those with whom they do not wish to communicate.

“We do that on the Internet and we think we can do that in real life, but we can’t. You can’t choose who is in your family or who is in your youth group,” Rice said. “If we can’t respect what we do see, how will we ever respect what we don’t.”

To illustrate the dignity of all human life, Rice read the passage from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus cures the paralyzed man.

Rice reminded the youth that by participating in the walk, they were giving a “voice to the unborn.” He said that by doing so, walkers are bringing the message of God’s mercy to all. Therefore, he contended the walk is more than just a political statement, but a spiritual exercise as well.

“Don’t see this as the end of your statement in speaking for life,” he said. “Let this encourage you all the more to walk as children of the light.”