Signs of pro-life hope

Photo Caption: Young people take part in a “Life Chain” in Peoria on Sunday.

By: By Jared Olar

The right-to-life movement can look to the future with confidence and hope thanks to the growth of religious faith and pro-life conviction among the younger generation.

Two hundred and fifty-one people gathered last Sunday night to hear that encouraging message from Colleen Carroll Campbell, keynote speaker at the 27th annual Respect Life Dinner at the Radisson in Peoria.

Campbell is an author, columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, host for the Eternal Word Television Network’s “Faith and Culture” program, and a former White House speechwriter.

“We’re seeing across the board an increase of pro-life views in the younger generation, and this is regardless of religious affiliation,” Campbell told The Catholic Post before her address.

Among those young people are “The New Faithful,” a group who are the subject of a book of that name that Campbell wrote in 2002. The subtitle of her book is, “Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy.”

“These young adults are motivated by religious conversion to be boldly pro-life,” Campbell said.

“It’s a really hopeful thing what we’re seeing in our young adults,” she told The Post. “As anyone who has been to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., can tell you, the face of the pro-life movement is overwhelmingly young.”

In contrast, there has been an increase of fear and doubt in the pro-choice movement, she said, “because they see that things are not going their way.”

The Respect Life Dinner is one of the main fundraisers of the Family Resources Center, an educational outreach of the Diocese of Peoria’s Respect Life Board featuring a library of 12,500 free loan videos and tapes.

Over the past 27 years, the dinners have raised about $110,000. This year’s dinner raised more than $5,000, a record amount, according to Jan Smith, founder and director of the Family Resources Center.

Attendance was also among the highest in the dinner’s history and included elected officials and political candidates. Due to the large crowd, the meal had to be served in the restaurant, rather than the conference room, which was packed with chairs for the evening’s talks.

Fittingly, Campbell’s talk on the faith of a new generation was introduced by Evan Thompson, a Peoria Notre Dame High School senior and president of Teens For Life, his school’s pro-life club.

“The new faithful” are a reason for hope, Campbell said, because they represent “a grassroots religious revival stirring in a new generation of Christians who want to live the Gospel of Life without compromise.”

Looking to a bright future for the right-to-life movement can keep pro-lifers from succumbing to election year despair, Campbell said.

“It’s easy to become discouraged as we witness the popularity of politicians who openly espouse the destruction of innocent human life,” she commented, “even as they soak their stump speeches in God-talk and defend their positions as consistent with their Christian faith.”

According to Campbell, recent surveys indicate a trend of younger Catholics rediscovering practices and devotions of their grandparents.

Another survey of young people in 2003 found only four in 10 believed that abortion should remain generally available, a remarkable 50 percent drop in support for abortion in just one decade, Campbell said.

But the news isn’t all good, she cautioned. While young people are becoming more pro-life, they also show growing acceptance of homosexuality; and while there is more teenage abstinence, there is also a greater willingness to cohabit before or even instead of marriage, Campbell observed.

“The new faithful are definitely a minority, but they are a growing minority,” she said.

Prior to Campbell’s keynote address, Respect Life Board member Pete Smith, husband of Jan, updated the attendees on the activities of the Family Resources Center. The biggest news, which elicited enthusiastic applause, was the paying off of the center’s $350,000 mortgage in April.

Currently the center’s newspaper, The Family Resources Center News, has an international circulation of 23,500, and more than 6,000 people made use of the center’s library during the past year, said Smith.

Some challenges facing the center include higher costs of postage and shipping, which have made it necessary to cut back circulation of the newspaper, especially to overseas subscribers, he said.

Also, with America’s continuing transition from VHS to DVD technology, the center needs to replace its old videocassettes, Smith said.

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