Strong Without Leave

On Finding Your Voice in the Pro-Life Movement

By: Chad Hagel, NCLN Intern

In a recent conversation with a well-trusted advisor, we spoke about my positive qualities. One of these qualities was my strength of character; he emphasized that “it was something which set me apart from [other people] my age” and a quality that provided me with confidence. He explained that “strength of character” means not giving up and sticking to your beliefs. After the conversation, I took some time to look at how I showcased my strength of character in my daily life, noting with particular attention my journey in finding my voice in the pro-life movement.

Strength of character is essential to the pro-life movement, particularly if we want to be seen as leaders. Everything else comes from strength of character: passion, motivation and commitment to your cause. You can’t be a leader if you don’t have a small measure of confidence in yourself and aren’t afraid to speak up for what you believe. This carries an added weight in the pro-life movement, as we are committed to providing a voice for the voiceless.

Strength of character is something which everyone can grow in – it’s not something you’re just born with.

Speaking for myself, when I first became active in the pro-life movement, I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence. I could hardly approach a complete stranger during the QA Project and ask them about something I saw to be a controversial issue. When I stood outside buildings on campus, my voice would fade away, and I would be extremely hesitant to approach someone and talk to them.

Over the past couple years, though, this has changed. Although I still have times where I struggle with coming out of my shell (I am an introvert), I am increasingly unhesitant to share the truth about abortion when reaching out to both complete strangers and close friends.

How did I get to this point?

That’s what I would like to emphasize: how to build strength of character in the pro-life movement. That small bit of life-saving confidence. Here are some ideas:

  1. Attend pro-life apologetics training, either for yourself or with your club. This can be facilitated by contacting NCLN or another pro-life organization within Canada, such as the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR). I particularly recommend coming to NCLN’s Symposium in September!
  2. Get experience. If you have a pro-life club on your campus, great! Join it! Even though not all clubs have activism, all clubs need new people to bring spunk and vision to the organization and make sure the message never dies. You can implement NCLN’s QA Project on your campus, as well as look into introducing CCBR’s “Choice” Chain into your activism. Work alongsidethe local Right to Life groups in your area, if you are lucky to have them.
  3. Build relationships with like-minded organizations. Even if you don’t have a pro-life group on campus yet, there are plenty of opportunities to add your voice to the pro-life cause this summer and year-round. Your local Right to Life group is often the best place to begin and might be able to connect you with other pro-life groups. 40 Days for Life, enlisting the services of those in the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, and participating in CCBR’s “Choice” Chains are also brilliant ways to begin saving lives in the wider community.

Whatever words emerge as your pro-life voice, what’s important is that you take these words to heart.

You become what you embody. You become a leader. You develop strength of character, as you build up confidence in yourself and your message.

It will not be easy. But, as all of us at NCLN can testify, confidence comes with experience and a belief that you indeed have something of value to share, persevering in the face of tragedy and adversity. You can become strong without leave, and lead our world as the leaders of tomorrow, speaking as you do for the ones who cannot speak for themselves.

Share Button

Introducing NCLN Summer Intern, Chad Hagel!

We are so excited to have Chad Hagel join us at NCLN this summer as an intern at our Toronto office! In the fall, Chad will begin his fourth year of his undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). He plans to pursue a Masters of Arts in Scottish History after completing his undergraduate studies in History and Classics. He is passionate about Ian Rankin, science fiction films, tea, and early medieval Scotland. When he isn’t learning about northern Britain, Chad is committed to ensure history is fondly remembered by taking an active role in ensuring that the pro-life position always has a voice.

Tell us your story and how you became pro-life.
Chad, loving life at a young age
Chad, loving life at a young age

My ‘pro-life journey’ began on Wednesday, June 1st, 1994 at 3:35 PM EST. That’s the day I was born – at just 26 weeks gestation.

The doctors didn’t think I would make it. Fortunately, I was able to pull through, though I didn’t emerge unscathed: in the span of three years, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and severe hearing loss.

I was also left with an indeliable mark on my psyche: I gained a profound appreciation for life at all stages of life. Being born in such dramatic circumstances, using my disabilities not as a crutch but as a stepping stone to greatness, I found it hard to stomach arguments supporting abortion or euthanasia. A child is more than the conditions they have; they are so much more and can even surprise you.

These pro-life leanings pulsed quietly within me throughout my childhood and adolescence, and didn’t have a proper outlet until I reached university.

How did you get involved with your campus pro-life club?

When I began my second year at UTM, I had been appointed as an executive for the our campus’ Catholic club, and had eagerly signed on to assist with their table at Welcome Week. As it happened, a freshly-birthed pro-life group, UTM Students for Life (UTMSFL), had set up their table next to us. I signed up, but I didn’t do anything with them until January 2015, when the Holy Spirit told me to become involved with this club. As school faded into summer, I was possessed of a further conviction of the need to have a pro-life voice on campus, and subsequently asked to be an executive. I was accepted, and took on the role of Secretary just as we were censored by our student union. A year and a lawsuit later, I am now President, and am looking to expand the club in new directions.

Why did you decide to spend a summer working with NCLN?

The past year, with its lawsuit and near-weekly activism, has led me to an insurmountable conclusion: NCLN’s work in promoting the pro-life message is crucial in ensuring that my generation isn’t the last. We are on a threshold: we literally hold the power to decide whether our children live or die, and whether they will carry the human spirit of resilience and determination that we were raised to exemplify. The campus is where this battle plays out, and I believe NCLN needs all the help it can get in changing the hearts and minds of future businessmen, lawyers and historians.

Where are you most likely to be on the weekends?

During the weekends, you can usually find me with my head buried in a book, or least deep in used bookstores hunting for the next one to add to my collection. Otherwise, you can find me watching movies in theatres or at home, or heading out to far-out cities for my next travel adventure.

If you could meet any one person in history, who would that be?

I have a fairly specific place and time I would transport myself to: Edinburgh, 1880. Sitting in a dank, dark pub with Sir Walter Scott would be a historian’s dream for me. I discuss in earnest his novels and poems as well as his perspective on the culture and languages of his time.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Chad, on the bottom right
Chad, on the bottom right

For me, it’s the Isle of Skye (Western Hebrides, Scotland) in the fall. Though it wouldn’t give me much of a chance to practice Scottish Gaelic or Irish, I would love to experience island life in this most legendary of isles, as well as take the chance to climb a hill or two. I would also love to see the Old Man of Storr in person, as I’ve heard so much about it!

Send Chad a welcome message! Info@ncln.ca

Share Button

True Patriot Love

This reflection was originally posted July 2014 by Rebecca Richmond, NCLN’s past Executive Director

True patriot love.

We sing the words in our anthem, yet the word ‘patriot’ rarely seems to enter our vocabulary (unless we’re referring to Americans, of course). But in a society that has euthanasia knocking down the door and fully funds abortion-on-demand, true patriot love is sorely needed.

A few weeks ago, in the $1.00 book bin outside a secondhand book shop, I picked up a book bearing that title: “True Patriot Love,” written by Michael Ignatieff while he was the leader of the Liberal Party. Flipping through the pages, I realized I prefer his prose to his politics.

“People love their country despite a lot of things,” Ignatieff writes. “They love it because they haven’t given up on it. They love it because of its unrealized possibilities. We love our country not because we think it is perfect or even satisfactory, but because we think it can change for the better….We never love a country just for what it is. We love it for what it might yet become. The same is true for the love we bear ourselves. Love is always rooted in hope.” (10)

Growing up, I had a bit of a hope deficiency myself. My deep sense of civic responsibility somehow co-existed with a profound cynicism. I was strongly against abortion but it seemed an insurmountable injustice, and I was just a kid so what was I to do? I thought I loved my country, but in some respects I had given up on it. Perhaps many of us have.

True Patriot Blog memeBut to give up on Canada is to give up on the Canadian men and women, suffering in the aftermath of their abortions. To give up on Canada is to give up on the preborn children who perished from abortion. To give up on Canada is to give up on all the vulnerable who will perish if we aren’t willing to stand on guard for them. To give up on Canada is to give up on all that it could become: a society that truly values and respects each and every human being.

Canada is not a good in and of itself, but a project begun by the Fathers of Confederation in pursuit of a common good for the people under their care. But present injustices violate the common good in profound and disturbing ways, setting before us steep challenges. At every level of government, within civic society, and especially within our own families and communities, we must take up the project and strive towards the Canada that should be, the Canada that will respect and protect each and every human being.

This necessarily includes our work on campuses. Our universities not only contain the age demographic most vulnerable to undergoing abortions, but also are responsible for forming and shaping young leaders who, in turn, shape the culture and the policies of our nation. To move our nation we must first move our own wounded generation from a place of apathy to one of action. We need a generation of patriots.

For, according to Michael Ignatieff, “Patriotism is the sentiment that makes a people demand reform, change and improvement in their country; patriotism is the source of the impatience and anger that makes abuses intolerable, injustice unacceptable and complacency a delusion.”

Yet, Ignatieff was supportive of abortion as a ‘right’, having forgotten to include the need for a true patriot love, one that is rooted in the truth of human life, not merely the politically acceptable.

On July 1st, [149] years ago, the Fathers of Confederation became nation builders.  It’s time for our generation to continue the project of Canada, for our true patriot love compels us to stand on guard for our nation and for each other.

(1) Michael Ignatieff, True Patriot Love: Four Generations in Search of Canada (Toronto: Penguin Group, Viking Canada, 2009), 10.
(2) Ignatieff, 176.

Save

Save

Save

Share Button

On the Shoulders of Giants

We are thrilled to once again introduce our returning intern, Christine! Having served as an NCLN intern and as President of Queen’s Alive, the pro-life club at Queen’s University in Ontario, many of you can attest to her gift of leadership and her big heart. She has done amazing work with us and on her campus: saving lives through outreach, building a strong pro-life team, and assisting with NCLN project development.

A recent graduate, what’s next for this talented young woman? On the blog this week, check out Christine’s reflections on why she has joined our team as an intern again this summer.

DSC_0133

On the Shoulders of Giants: reflections of a returning intern

By Christine Helferty, NCLN Communications and Research Intern

In my first year of university, I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to make a difference in the pro-life movement. I started outreach with Queen’s Alive before my first week of classes, unknowingly offering a club pamphlet to someone who was already a club member… Certainly I had the enthusiasm for the job if not the experience.

In my second year, I was excited to expand my knowledge of the pro-life movement, attending the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform’s Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) over my reading week and devoting time to the pro-life club student executive. During my third year, I took on the role of club President, and I couldn’t wait to start implementing new ideas such as weekly activism. My fourth year provided constant reminders that there were still many ways for our club to improve to get the results we wanted.

Now that I have done four years with Queen’s Alive, I think I am finally getting the hang of running a pro-life club on campus… just when I am graduating.

This gets me thinking. Why was I trying to reinvent the wheel all those years?

Did I honestly think I was the only one in our club to dream up the idea of weekly activism, or an updated blog, or a full executive council helping to organize events, or frequent meetings? Of course I wasn’t the first to desire those things or to discover that they would make a club work. And I certainly wasn’t the first to attempt to implement these dreams.

In retrospect, I spent a lot of time on campus figuring things out that have already been figured out.

Running a pro-life club isn’t rocket science – but it sure feels like it when there’s no guidebook and you have a full course load, other extra-curricular activities, family, friends, and everything else in life to balance.

And that’s why NCLN is the organization that I want to work for again this summer. NCLN has the experience and resources that fresh university students could never have: NCLN is the guidebook. I want to be a part of making this guidebook even more thorough and accessible for pro-life leaders on campuses across Canada. I want to help students stand on the shoulders of giants in this movement, so that when they dream for their campuses, they can see far past the hills I mistook for mountains.

Share Button

Looking Like Dad

By Joanna Krawczynski, Western Campus Coordinator

Photo credit: Josh Willink (Pexels.com)
Photo credit: Josh Willink (Pexels.com)

 

When I was maybe seven years old, someone had the audacity to tell me that I had my father’s features. My little princess heart immediately took offense – you mean I look like a boy?? As I seethed, my well-meaning relatives continued to coo over how much we’ve grown.

While I have not yet completely forgiven those adults, this gives me the opportunity to reflect on what it means to look like Dad – on a deeper level than simply remarking on the bend in my nose.

Recently, I rediscovered one of my favorite videos: a compilation of mind-blowing “Dad saves,” those moments when Dad defies even gravity to rescue a kid destined for disaster (or mild bruising at least).

Hilarious. And mildly frightening. There is also an irony in these “Dad saves” that I had never noticed before: in some cases, it is Dad who causes the danger in the first place. So, in these cases, rather than depicting “Dad saves,” these are Dad-mess-ups. Yet Dad is still regarded as a hero at the end of the day.

Mistakes do not have the final word in these stories.

Neither should they in ours. The video of “Dad saves” ultimately serves as a two-fold reminder for me this weekend: first, in spite of Dad’s mess-ups, he can turn around. Secondly, in spite of our mess-ups, Dad can still catch us.

I owe Dad for some amazing saves: the times Dad stayed up with a tearful me trying to study for my Math test; the times Dad got back into the passenger’s seat despite my repeated horrendous attempts at driving; the times Dad took us hiking so that we would get lost and learn to find our way; the times Dad held Mama tight to keep her heart from falling into pieces.

The courage of a man is often portrayed in popular culture as a reckless, exploitative exercise in brute strength for a man’s own interests. However, this Sunday we are celebrating something vastly different and far greater: the selfless, life-saving courage of a loving father.

Perhaps looking like Dad isn’t so bad after all.

From all of us at NCLN, rock on Dad! Happy Fathers’ Day!

Happy Father's Day!

Share Button

Introducing our NCLN Summer Intern, Maria McCann!

We at NCLN are so excited to have Maria McCann join us this summer as an intern at our Toronto office! She will begin her 4th year of her undergraduate degree this summer at Western University in London, Ontario (UWO). She is studying English Literature, French, and Italian. She is passionate about Shakespeare, science fiction, coffee, and every breed of dog known to man. Of course, she is also passionate about justice; in particular, she wants to see the injustice of abortion end in her lifetime.

Maria and her brother, John-Paul
Maria and her brother, John-Paul

Tell us your story and how you became pro-life.

My “pro-life story” began years ago with the birth of my little brother, John-Paul. He was born very prematurely, which caused him to have brain damage and numerous ensuing disabilities. He faces many challenges in his everyday life, as he navigates a world designed for the able-bodied. In spite of (or perhaps because of) his difficulties, he lives every day with an enviable joy.

He has truly taught me that life does not have to be perfect in order to be beautiful.

His very existence challenges the culture of death: a culture that says he should have been aborted before birth…a culture that now suggests that even born people like him are perhaps better off dead than disabled. For all of my childhood and adolescence, I understood the pro-life movement as important for protecting the rights of John-Paul and of other vulnerable people.

How did you get involved in your campus pro-life club?

Near the end of my second year of undergrad, some gentle nudges by the Holy Spirit led me to joining the executive team for Western Lifeline, the pro-life club of UWO. In 2015, several of us decided to attend NCLN’s Symposium, a “boot camp” for pro-life students. The weekend conference turned out to be life-changing for me, learning how to talk to people about abortion with both conviction and compassion.

I was deeply moved by their message that, with 100,000 pre-born babies being killed every year through abortion in Canada, this is not a movement. This is an emergency. That sense of urgency motivated me to engage in weekly activism with Western Lifeline. That sense of urgency motivated me to spend my spring break doing pro-life activism through the Genocide Awareness Project. And that sense of urgency has motivated me to join the staff of NCLN as a summer intern.

Why did you decide to spend a summer working with NCLN?

My experiences on campus have led me to believe that NCLN’s mission is crucial, as students are desperately in need of the pro-life message.

Changing our campuses and inspiring youth today will lead to massive changes in the future, when those young people become the leaders of our society.

On a personal note, NCLN has been a huge support for me over the past year in my work with Western Lifeline, and I want to be that kind of support to other student leaders. I am excited for the projects in store for this summer, such as weekly activism doing clipboarding and Choice Chain. I am eager to help develop new materials that will aid students in the coming year.

Where are you most likely to be on the weekends?

On the weekends, you’ll likely find me checking out thrift stores for vintage tops, or used bookstores to feed my reading addiction. If I’m not at a thrift store or bookshop, I’ll be getting coffee and froyo with friends, or watching reruns of Doctor Who.

If you could be any person in history, who would you be?

I have a pretty specific time and location in mind. I’d love to be a modern-art lover in the early 1900s in Paris. It would be the epitome of cool to sit in a parlour chatting with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso—the cult figures of literary and artistic modernism. I would basically be their groupie.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

I would love to spend a summer touring Italy, especially Tuscany. I have been learning Italian for the past couple years and would like to put my learning into practice. The Italian language and culture are so beautiful, and I want to taste some authentic Italian cuisine! It would also be amazing to see Rome, a city steeped in history.

Send Maria a welcome note! Write to us at info@ncln.ca

Share Button

NCLN Welcomes Three New Team Members!

NCLN is excited to welcome three new staff to our NCLN Team! There is a growing need for dedicated pro-life leaders on campuses across Canada, and NCLN is here to bring these leaders the mentorship, training, and resources they need to succeed. With our new team members, we plan to serve students even more effectively so they can grow as leaders and share our life-saving, life-affirming message with their peers on campus! Join us as we welcome Josh, Michelle, and Ruth!

You can help support Josh, Michelle and Ruth by joining their support team. Your financial contributions will enable our NCLN Team to continue to build and mobilize the Pro-Life Student Movement as we invest in young pro-life leaders! Click here to donate!

Josh MacMillan

Josh MacMillan

Central Campus Coordinator

My name is Josh MacMillan and I've studied history at the University of Waterloo. Throughout my academic career I was involved in my local pro-life club, and was able to see and experience firsthand not only the many challenges that pro-life students have to face on a regular basis, but also the positive effects that these students can have on their peers and campus culture. As a student, my team and I were supported immensely by NCLN, and now, as a graduating student, I want to return that favour as an NCLN staff member. I look forward to the opportunity to share my knowledge and experiences as a member of a team dedicated to empowering students to enact positive change in schools and communities across Canada.

Michelle Caluag

Michelle Caluag

Central Campus Coordinator

I’m Michelle, a graduating student at UofT with Bachelors of Science degree. Yes, I’m a Science nerd! I was also the president of U of T Students for Life for the past two years. My experience with the club is one of the highlights of my undergrad years. Other than Science, I also love hanging out with my five siblings, eating seafood and playing with babies! I would love to share my story to inspire and help other students not only to become pro-life, but more importantly to become active pro-lifers.

Ruth Shaw

Ruth Shaw

Communications Director

My name is Ruth Shaw. I am 28 years old and a mother of three (one born, one pre-born, one in heaven)! I’m excited to be joining the NCLN team as the new Communications Director. I have been involved in pro-life work since 2006, most recently as the Director and Founder of Ottawa Against Abortion. Since passing the torch on, I am so excited to be part of a growing organization that is dedicated to promoting and assisting students in having a dedicated and effective pro-life presence on campus. NCLN was a support to me during my time as a Carleton student, and as such, I’m honoured to be part of a movement that gives so much to students, and wants to change the world campus by campus.

We are so excited to have these three leaders join our team to support our students! Please consider joining their support team by clicking here!

A Few Questions, A Great Hope

By Maria McCann
VP Events of Western Lifeline

“Hi there, do you have a minute for a few questions?”

I have lost count of the number of times I have asked this question since November 2015, when Western Lifeline began running weekly sessions of NCLN’s Question Abortion (QA) Project.

At our first QA Project session, I remember the question of one of my friends: “Is anyone else super nervous?” As a university pro-life club, Western Lifeline had held outreach tables before to advertise for events, but we did not usually engage so directly with students on the issue of abortion in Canada. Though we were timid at first, we quickly discovered that the survey was an excellent way to engage with students. The QA Project was so successful at our school because it presented a positive challenge: it challenged our pro-choice peers to question their beliefs, and it challenged our club members to grow as pro-life advocates.

The QA Project lives up to its name – it truly encourages students to question their views on abortion. We talked to so many people who simply did not know about the legal vacuum regarding abortion, and many expressed shock that abortions at 9 months of pregnancy were legal in Canada. When we engaged them further on whether they believed in human rights for all human beings, the transformations were amazing. Here are some of the things we heard from students during our conversations:

  • After answering questions about human rights and seeing an image of an abortion victim, a student went from accepting early abortions to agreeing that abortion was never OK and was “so cruel”. Regarding the image of the abortion victim, she said, “We need to be showing this in the media.”
  • After learning about how the life of a human being begins at fertilization, a woman who had been pro-choice said, “I think you’ve changed my mind on this.”
  • One young man initially said that he did not believe in any restrictions on abortion. After talking about human rights, he changed his position to only supporting abortion in the “hard cases”, such as when a woman became pregnant due to rape. After we discussed those difficult situations and we agreed that we can never intentionally kill an innocent human being, he agreed that abortion was never justifiable. He said he would step up and be a father if his partner became pregnant unexpectedly.

Some people could only chat with us for a minute or two. However, even in those brief encounters, we were able to make “pro-life progress” with those individuals. For instance, I had a short conversation with a friend who could not stay long. After discussing human rights with him and showing him an image of an abortion victim, I asked him when it would be justifiable to kill a pre-born child. He replied, “I came into this conversation believing in a wide set of circumstances [where abortion was permissible]… By the end of this conversation, that set of circumstances has definitely narrowed.”

The QA Project also gave our club members the opportunity to grow as pro-life advocates. During our 148 conversations, we sharpened our apologetics skills while also learning how to respond compassionately to students who were in many different situations. I was so proud to see my friends develop courage and confidence after just one or two sessions of QA. If someone asked us a question that we did not know how to answer, we were motivated to learn the answer. As a club, in our bi-weekly educational meetings, we would then regularly include tips on how to incorporate our new pro-life knowledge into our QA conversations.

The NCLN staff encouraged us to do activism for just an hour or two each week in order to prevent burnout. We found this much more effective (and much less tiring) than a typical 5 or 6 hours at an outreach table. The debrief at the end of each QA session was particularly helpful for supporting club members. We were able to celebrate our successes when conversations went really well, but we were also able to encourage each other when one of us had a challenging conversation.

Although Western Lifeline’s activities are wrapping up as our school year ends, I am really looking forward to doing the QA Project again in the fall with my friends. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the Culture of Death that seems to have saturated Canadian society, I draw great hope from the knowledge that my campus is a little bit more pro-life after every hour of QA that we do. I can already feel myself itching to ask someone…

“Hi there, do you have a minute for a few questions?”

——————————————————————————————————————————

You can visit Western Lifeline on Facebook.
Learn more about the QA Project and how to bring it to your school or campus at ncln.ca/outreach/QAProject


Share Button