By Tanya Connor
WORCESTER – It’s important to join a movement of people standing up for life. But it’s also important to go where life is taken, even if that’s unpleasant.
Those conclusions were drawn last week despite – or maybe because of – altered plans.
“We were disappointed we didn’t get to go to D.C.,” Justina Borkowski, a senior at St. Mary Junior/Senior High School, told The Catholic Free Press Friday. That day she and other highschoolers and their chaperons, 35 in all, had planned to join the annual March for Life in Washington.
When the diocesan trip they were going on was cancelled due to winter storm forecasts, they were rerouted to a local abortion facility. Standing outside the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts building on Pleasant Street Friday, they prayed the rosary and held posters they’d made for the March for Life. Those present, totaling more than 60, also included students and religious sisters and brothers from Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Still River.
Making a statement by joining a big crowd in the pro-life movement in Washington is important, Justina said, “but being able to go to Planned Parenthood is also powerful and important, because you’re going to the source,” where abortions are performed. “Being able to pray right there is emotional for those who are there… It effects the people that are seeing what we’re doing. Hopefully we could have convinced at least one person to keep their baby.”
“They saw a lot that I don’t think they’ve seen before,” Derek Mobilio, religion and math teacher, said of the students. “They saw people going in (to the facility).… It was a real, tangible experience.… This is happening in our community.”
Some passersby gave a “thumbs up,” sign, he noted, “and then we had some other fingers thrown at us – not a pleasant experience, but a good experience for the kids.” He said they would talk at length about it.
While students in grades 10-12 prayed outside, ninth-graders wrote letters to legislators about their pro-life stance, said Adam Cormier, principal. The junior high students wrote to residents of Visitation House, a home for women in crisis pregnancies, to express support and thank them for choosing life. Wednesday students heard a presentation about Visitation House.
Each year students in grades 7-12 discuss pro-life issues – abortion, chastity, euthanasia, the death penalty, stereotyping and respect for the disabled – Mr. Cormier said.
He said when students asked what they would do in place of the cancelled March for Life trip, he and Mr. Mobilio suddenly, simultaneously, decided on Mass, adoration, Stations of the Cross and prayer at Planned Parenthood. He attributed this to the Holy Spirit.
Mass, and adoration with “Stations for Life,” were held Friday at the school’s parish, Our Lady of Czestochowa, before the outdoor vigil. Father Richard Polek, pastor, told the students they were going to a place where abortions are performed. But lives are also saved there, he said.
“I believe that your presence and your prayers can save many more lives,” now and in the future, he said. “So please be witnesses to life.”
Despite disappointment about the March for Life trip cancellation, “we’re glad that we were able to defend life down at Planned Parenthood,” said Karina Abeddy, a senior. “And we hope people are inspired by our stand and can then defend life themselves.” She said they made posters in their classes, trying to portray a teenager’s point of view about pro-life issues.
Seventh-grader Ashley Gatongo said her class made posters opposing abortion and the death penalty. She helped with the latter, and called the death penalty, “pretty much unfair,” despite people’s crimes.
She said she would have liked to go on the march to see all the people rallying against abortion. She wanted to learn about their reasons for doing so and discuss it, because “a person’s a person, no matter how small,” she said, quoting popular author Dr. Seuss. A baby that is aborted could have grown up to change the world, she said.
Rhianna Parent, joined by 11th-grade classmate Mikayla Lozada, said their poster said: “If you don’t believe in miracles, perhaps you’ve forgotten you are one.” Rhianna said that showed “we are miracles … and Jesus wants us to live out the pro-life movement.”
Isabella Daher, a sophomore, said the students didn’t focus on a political movement, “but rather, as Christians, trying to show our love for all of human life, and respect for it.”
By going as a group to Planned Parenthood, students showed “pro-life is better than pro-choice or no life at all,” said Elias Rizk a senior.
His brother, Charles Rizk, an eighth-grader, said he wanted to go on the march, and definitely planned to go next year – if there’s no storm.