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

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Another Kind of Christmas Shoe

Another Kind of Christmas Shoe:

A reflection on the greatest gift that you and I have to offer

Written by Joanna Krawczynski, Western Campus Coordinator

 

A close friend of All photos courtesty of pixabay.commine does not like Christmas. For her, the sentimental songs and glittering gifts only offer promises that are never fulfilled. The radio sings about cozy companionship, twinkling storefronts proclaim dreams coming true… then we go straight from Winter Wonderland into the frenzy of Boxing Day, only to wind back up in our office chairs on Monday.

I’m also not a huge fan of dizzying store line-ups. I also get annoyed when Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree comes on the radio three times a day. As a Christian, Christmas carries a special significance for me that, in spite of my best intentions, sometimes slips into the shadow of preparations and celebrations.

Christmas is often conflated with gift-giving. And rightly so, except when giving is misunderstood to be about shiny ribbon and bloated stockings. When it comes to Christmas, we have a special opportunity to recognize the immeasurable value of another person by offering them the greatest gift we can give: the gift of self. In doing so, we are mirroring that first Christmas! Imagine: God loved us so much that He came to a tiny town and was born in a dirty stable to a teenage mom, to live a lPhoto courtesty of pixabay.comife totally dedicated to pouring Himself out for others.

Love is a gift that can never be wrapped – in anything besides swaddling clothes, that is. As Mother Teresa wrote, “Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self.”

This reminds me of a Christmas tradition we recently adopted at home. One year, we decided to flip a small wooden folding table upside down and turn it into a hay-filled “manger” alongside our family Christmas tree. Gift-giving then took on a new twist: gifts for my family went under the tree, gifts for the Christ Child went under the manger.

The first year we did this, I put my dance shoes under the manger… after much hesitation. Finding gifts for Jesus was much harder than I thought it would be! To make matters more complicated, I decided to combine this with another tradition of ours: every year, we set an extra place at our table in case an unexpected stranger knocks at our door. That year, I thought it would be fun to also turn those gifts laid at the manger into a collection for the stranger, should he ever make an appearance.

Photo courtesty of pixabay.com

For some reason, giving things away made me realize how much I treasured them. I never imagined that my dance shoes (nothing fancy, just my worn sneakers!) would be something that I would have a hard time giving away. But there I was, shoes in hand, standing humbly before the manger, unable to bend down to give them away.

To me, those shoes represented my dream of one day having a dance team of my own. For me, to lay down my shoes was like laying down my dream and saying, “God – may this gift you’ve given me be used to bless someone else, even if that means I have to part with it.”

In the end, my shoes lay under the manger, undisturbed, as my family and I gathered around the table to feast, then jammed at the piano and danced together. As for me and my bare feet – I didn’t regret a moment of it.

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas, as you celebrate with friends, family, and maybe even strangers, may God’s amazing love for you be a reminder of the precious gift that your own life is. May your joy overflow and never run Photo courtesty of pixabay.comempty as you give of yourself in generous love for others.

This may cost you more than your shoes, but it is only in completely giving of ourselves that we can truly love others and be filled with the love we so deeply desire – a desire that neither dizzying line-ups nor jingling bells could ever hope to satisfy.

Merry Christmas and a blessed 2016, from all of us at NCLN!

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Dialogue Series, Part 1

Over the next couple weeks, we will be sharing a series of posts that address many of the tough questions we encounter during our pro-life outreach. We hope to provide you with practical responses that help you not only understand how to respond, but also why we are addressing these concerns and questions in the first place.

However, even with the “right” answers tucked into your belt, pro-life outreach often includes being personally attacked. Regardless of the accusations made against us personally, there is one way in which we must always respond: with a heart full of love, reaching out to the other’s heart that is in need of healing and of hearing the truth. This initial blog post addresses this core foundation of our pro-life outreach and how you can live this out, even when faced with hostility.

Let Love Win:

Bringing our Hearts to our Pro-Life Outreach

Written by Joanna Krawczynski, Western Campus Coordinator

Sometimes, Life Chain can seem like a discouraging form of outreach. The only feedback we tend to receive at a Life Chain are honks, yells, and a variety of hand gestures. The high school students I was with during my most recent Life Chain event were the recipients of all the above – one student was even the victim of a drive-by drink throwing.

Luckily, the fellow who threw his unfinished iced coffee from his car window did not aim right, and his drink crashed between the curb and the highway, rather than on the bright purple shirt of the student. The other high school students on the sidewalk were understandably shaken and surrounded their friend with concern, “Are you okay?”

One girl asked, “Aren’t you mad?”

The student responded, “No… why should I be?” She laughed, “I mean, maybe he just thought I was thirsty!”

Grace abounds from the heart that is full of love.

That’s the only way I can understand this student’s gracious response to adversity.

One might be tempted to think that we have every right to be frustrated with the censorship and opposition we so often encounter. But how can a heart that is held captive by bitterness or anger be free to extend love?

After all, what kind of Canada do we want to grow old in?

Are we seeking to build a culture of hostility or of hospitality?

Reaching out to students at UBC-O
Students reaching out with the QA Project

And I’m not talking compromise – to be a voice of hope and healing requires that we recognize that something has been broken, that something has gone seriously awry and is in need of rescue.

And yes. Even when we approach each conversation with the kindest heart and the most sincere compassion, we will still face adversity. Many of the people to whom we are reaching out are standing on shaky foundations built on lies about their value and the value of human life. When we try to dismantle this, it is no wonder that we encounter reactions such as anger and are personally attacked with iced coffee or hurtful comments.

One afternoon, a fellow who identified as pro-choice told me, “I honestly hope you do not succeed. You will be hurting a lot of women in the process.”

As I mentioned then, dear student, and I repeat now, I honestly hope we do succeed in sharing this message of hope and healing. I personally know too many women who have been hurt by abortion. For their sake and for the lives of their little ones, we cannot keep silent.

In the words of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr, in his letter from the Birmingham jail,

“If I have said anything that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.”

Next time you engage in a conversation, ask yourself: What is motivating you to have this conversation? Are you speaking out of a true desire to heal the broken, or out of a need to win a debate? Further, when we encounter situations of hostility or adversity, how do we respond: with grace, or with grumbling? When we bring our hearts to pro-life outreach, even in situations of hostility, we really only have one option:

LET LOVE WIN.

 

Martin Luther King meme

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Resolve to Reach Out

On butterflies, duffel bags, and the end of info tables

Written by Joanna Krawczynski

 

Okay, I’ll admit it: the idea of campus outreach, like clipboarding and tabling, does get my heart beating a faster out of excitement for these opportunities to reach my peers with the message of life.

Actually doing campus outreach… to be honest, that can get my heart beating for a different reason, racing with the cold determination of nervousness that makes me feel faint. Or nauseous. Or a combination of the two. Either way, I know I’m not the only one (feel free to sing along). However, I also know that if I do not give myself a swift kick in the pants and stop dwelling on worst-case scenarios, I will spend the rest of the afternoon hiding behind my info table or clipboard. And my campus will be poorer because of it.

Rewind a couple months.

It was my first time clipboarding – and we were downtown Vancouver. I was being ignored, misunderstood, turned away, and the courage I thought I had was steadily dwindling. Almost by accident, I walked into the conversation of two tradesmen from Quebec.Your shadows talk while you listenBoth carried grungy-looking duffel bags and wore wrinkled clothes as well as unshaven, though genuine, smiles. The eyes of the younger fellow lit up more often than his cigarette as he talked. The other fellow seemed old enough to be the father of the younger man. The older man’s deep, browned wrinkles told a part of his story that he did not seem ready to share then. His was a fatherly tone, though he was adamant that a woman should be able to abort her child if she will be unable to care for the child after birth. After about a half hour of conversation, I had to run to catch up with my clipboarding crew. But before I left the conversation, the younger fellow stopped me.

“Can I show you something?” he asked. “I want to show you a photo of my son.”

The man’s pride for this little one was unmistakable as he pulled out a school photo of his smiling seven year old, looking smart and bright-eyed. My heart just about melted. The young man shared that he was here on the other side of the country for this little guy, catching jobs to make their ends meet. I went home feeling helpless, torn between feelings of joy for the younger man’s determination to support his son, and sadness for the stubborn resolution of the older man, whose comments conveyed the perspective that children without caring parents are better off eliminated. To follow this logic is to say that it is a greater tragedy to be unwanted and alive, than to be unwanted – and killed. Fast forward about a month and a half. I’m just getting the hang of Vancouver’s transportation system, catching the skytrain home after a day of campus activism. My head is buzzing, trying to debrief the day’s conversations as well as make sure that I get on the right train. As I slide onto the train and carve out a place to stand, the smell of cigarettes makes me catch my breath. There is a pile of beaten-up bags at the feet of a fellow passenger. I lift my eyes, piecing together the baggy pants, layers of clothing, and a salt-and-pepper scruff crowning the unshaven face of a man with deep, browned wrinkles. “Bonjour, Monsieur…!” I greet the familiar face with astonishment.

His eyes wrinkle around the edges as he smiles back, “I did not think that you would recognize me.”

Of course I recognized him, though I was definitely not expecting to see this man, the older tradesman from that afternoon of clipboarding, ever again. The man shared how he was heading back to Montreal after traveling all across Canada for work. The man then paused, motioning to his bags,

“You know, I’ve been here in Vancouver, on the streets. No home or apartment. My sleeping bag is in there.”

SW 3rd Avenue
The duffel bag lay sprawled at his feet. The man glanced back at me and continued, “You know, my kids, I’ve got five of them. My kids, they are all grown up and established. I gave them all I could. Now it is time for me to live my life.”

Hold on. Where are his children now, and why don’t they seem to care that their father is living on the streets? My heart ached as this man shared the story his wrinkles betray.

How did I not see this earlier? His earlier assertion that an unwanted life is better off destroyed came from a deeply personal place, a place beaten up and worn like the baggage at his feet.

I wanted to do something to help this man, to show him his worth, but the best I could do was to learn his name, shake his hand, and wish him well, as we both had another train to catch.

Reflecting on this, I realize that we have an incredible opportunity as pro-life leaders. We have peers who also carry around with them that heavy feeling of being unwanted. Like the student who was abandoned by his father when his mother decided to give him life. Or the girl whose parents remind her daily that she is not the boy they wanted.

But how can we help our peers to see the value of their lives, if we let the butterflies in our stomachs keep us from reaching out to initiate a conversation?

Okay, granted – maybe they don’t have time for a conversation. Are we doing any harm by wishing them a good day?

Brochures and pamphlets are helpful resources to have on hand, and an info table can be an effective background tool,

but there is a reason why we work with student leaders, not printing machines.

In our activism, let us resolve to reach out and, in doing so, touch the heart of another. We have the opportunity – indeed, the responsibility – to encourage our peers to recognize the value of their own lives, to be voices declaring the profound truth that every life is wanted.

Without exception.
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Faces of the Pro-Life Movement

Written by Meagan Nijenhuis, Summer Intern

faces blog meme

The Symposium introduced me to the people working the front lines of the Pro-Life Movement: other students leading campus clubs from across Canada and men and women leading organizations full-time. The people were so incredibly friendly; they were absolutely delighted to meet you. And when I went on the Florida GAP tour in February, my travel-weary self was immediately greeted by at least 4 different smiling faces asking me: “Would you like to play cards?”, “How was your flight?” “When did you last eat?”, “Oh, wait… what’s your name? Where are you from?”. Our Movement is all about loving and caring for people. We see the value in the person next to us.

But how do people on the outside see us?

They are fed the popular media’s bias. To them, we are the cold-hearted “anti-aborts” with the sole desire of withholding rights from women. We are stereotyped. Many assumptions are made. Let’s bust this stereotype and show our campuses the true faces of the Pro-Life Movement.

This is just another reason to do more activism on your campus: more and more people will have the, “Oh, I didn’t expect to have such a great conversation with you” moment. They won’t be able to paint our smiling faces with a negative stereotype anymore. When they read about the Movement in the media, they’ll have that personal connection.

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The first time many people on your campus will personally meet someone from the Pro-Life Movement is at your pro-life event, whether it be tabling, clip-boarding, running a debate or having a speaker come in. How will you change their perspective of you? I was taught by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform that “It doesn’t necessarily matter what you say to them but how you treat them. That’s what they’ll remember.” Not everyone is easy to connect and communicate with but it’s absolutely imperative that we have the same love and value for the person we’re defending the preborn children’s cause to as we have for the preborn children themselves. There’s no way they will even begin to take you seriously if you don’t make loving them a top priority.

One of the ultimate ways to show you value them is to listen intently (rather than just waiting to speak). Understand their concerns. There may be a lot that they’re not telling you. With Canada’s 26 years of entirely unlegislated abortion, many have been direct victims of the culture of death. Many young people know a woman who’s had an abortion: a family friend, their own mother or even themselves. With the highest number of abortions being performed on women of university age, we are ministering to people who’ve been ravaged by “choice.” These young men and women desperately need a smiling open face and a listening heart. And that’s where we come in.

 

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Saint Paul Students for Life: Celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day!

This post was written for Saint Paul Students for Life by srmarylouisepd. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.


Valentine’s Day can be an awkward feastday for many. Single people often feel isolated. People in relationships feel obliged to show their affection for their significant others in a way that may seem totally manufactured. Valentine’s Day is considered one of the most polarizing holidays in the year. You are either a complete believer in what Valentine’s Day has come to mean, a celebration of love, or else you are sick and tired of the marketing frenzy that surrounds the event. However, love makes life beautiful, at any age. Whether it’s for the first time or the 100th, expressing your love is the best way to light up someone’s day, especially when they don’t expect it! And that’s exactly what we did last week on campus at Saint Paul University!

Saint Paul Students for Life group decided to mark Valentine’s Day and celebrate the gift of life and love on campus on Thursday last. Bopping along to classic love songs and handing out delicious home-made cookies, chocolate hearts and themed candy, it was a chance to meet some wonderful people who are students and professors on the university campus and spread the word about our group and its scope. It was also a light hearted way to get across some important messages. A short message welcomed people at our stand: “You are created from, by, for love. God is love!” People also had the opportunity to pick up a precious love letter from God completely composed from Scripture. You can download it it here.

Roses, which were available for a small donation, went down a treat and disappeared very quickly! It was probably strange for some people to see a religious sister and priests, along with the other members of our group, inviting people to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Even stranger that we were handing out stuff for free! I was reminded of Pope Francis’ words on the 2nd of February, day for consecrated life. He said “consecrated persons are signs of God in diverse environments of life, they are leaven for the growth of a more just and fraternal society, prophecy of sharing with the little and the poor. As such understanding and experience, the consecrated life appears to us just as it really is: a gift of God!

So were we just buying into the whole commercialism of Valentine’s Day (Saint Valentine’s Day, to be precise!)? On the 14th, the same Pope Francis met with 20,000 engaged couples in St. Peter’s Square. In his address, he encouraged couples to have the courage to make lasting choices, which can be challenging in today’s ‘through-away culture.’ We wanted to remind people that they are infinitely and unconditionally loved by God, not just on Valentine’s Day but always. It is also an invitation to engage in relationships which are healthy, holy and happy, seen in the optic of God’s divine project for each one of us. Relationships which are wholesome, life-giving and life-receiving. To be leaven in this same ‘through-away culture’ is not easy as we discover. Love is often distorted and manipulative because it is appears to be about one’s self and not the other. Jesus must be at the centre of every relationship, whether you are single, married, priest or a religious. Love must be open to life.

While the days of those little cardboard Disney-princess Valentine’s Day cards may be over for many of us (any one remember Martin’s “I choo-choo-choose you” for Lisa on The Simpsons?), it is no harm to have a little fun to celebrate the event as we continue to promote the work that the Students for Life groups does. The protection of the weak and the vulnerable, those who the world deems ‘unlovable’ is what we stand up for, in the name of love. Love, not hatred, will conquer the battle. Thanks to the students and professors who supported the event, stopped by and chatted, handed out the goodies, prayed for us and continue to fight that life may be respected at all stages.  Photo gallery

(taken from Sr. M. Louise’s blog over at Pilgrims Progress)

Read the comments at the Saint Paul Students for Life website.

Youth Protecting Youth: Happy Valentine’s Day!

This post was written for Youth Protecting Youth by YPY Info Officer. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

Oh Valentine’s Day. For many, this is a day that leaves us with one of two questions. Some, who have been pampered with gifts of flowers and words of affection from a significant other, ask themselves what they have done to deserve such love and appreciation. Others, who were not pampered with gifts or who do not have a significant other, ask themselves what they need to do in the future to deserve that flower or word of affection.

So often we base our value on what other people think of us, and we attempt to draw parallels between what we have done or what we can do and how much we are valued by others. We have been told on countless occasions that nothing comes for free, and that if we are to receive anything, even a kind word or a bouquet of flowers, we must earn it, maybe by “putting out.” Although some may subscribe to this system, those who are a part of Youth Protecting Youth at the University of Victoria do not, and we want you to know it:

Today, YPY club members will be giving out free flowers. We recognize that your value is not dependent on your achievements, and that your dignity does not rest on what you are capable of. You are a valuable, dignified human being, regardless of what we think, regardless of what others think, and to be brutally honest, regardless of what you think. You needn’t do anything to earn our affirmation. We want you to know that you are valuable no matter what.

carnations_2

 


Read the comments at the Youth Protecting Youth website.

uOttawa Students For Life: Rethinking Perfection

This post was written for uOttawa Students For Life by uOttawa Students For Life. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

A few links for you today featuring parents who accepted an unexpected diagnosis and experienced unforeseen love and joy.

There are two videos with fathers talking about their child who has a disability. This father is a well-liked and respected teacher who he shares his story about his son with his students every year.

If you didn’t see this one last fall about a perfectionist dad who is transformed by his daughter with Down Syndrome, it is absolutely worth watching. As a comment below the video says, it should be required viewing for all parents told they are expecting a child with Down Syndrome.

This week, a story that speaks to the power of ultrasounds was published about a young couple glad to have been able to hold their baby in their arms:

The couple were offered the chance to terminate the baby at 24-weeks.

But despite his poor prognosis, being able to watch her son in real time 3D scans during the screening tests, Miss Rowe said she was astonished to see him smiling, blowing bubbles, kicking and waving his arms.

She said: ‘Despite all the awful things I was being told, while he was inside me his quality of life looked to be wonderful and no different to any other baby’s, he was a joy to watch.

‘I was told he would never walk or talk yet the scans showed him constantly wriggling and moving.

‘As I watched I knew that while I was carrying him he still had a quality of life and it was my duty as a mother to protect that no matter how long he had left, he deserved to live.

Finally, what a great idea! Changing the Face of Beauty promotes using individuals with disabilities in advertising.  The pictures are fantastic, and it’s about time our definition of beauty became more inclusive.


Read the comments at the uOttawa Students For Life website.