August 8, 2014
Campers pray in front of Whole Women’s Health on July 28. High school teens participate in the Pro-Life Bootcamp sponsored by the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Fort Worth and the Dallas Diocese’s Pro-Life Committee July 24-29 at the University of Dallas. (Photo by Juan Guajardo / North Texas Catholic)
IRVING — Spend a day at it and you’ll quickly find that this boot camp is like no other in the nation.
Instead of military exercises and drill sergeants, you’ll find high school teens doing service activities, praying Rosaries, joining in praise and worship, and sitting in a lecture hall soaking up information from various leaders in the pro-life movement. Instead of conditioning and marching, you’ll find them waking early to pray outside local abortion centers, learning about the history of Roe v. Wade, and having fun together and building friendships.
Known as the Youth For Life Pro-Life Boot Camp, the program is as unique today as it was when it was established 12 years ago by Jacquelyn Smith, Youth For Life coordinator for the Catholic Pro-Life Committee of the Diocese of Dallas, and bolstered a couple of years later by Sue Laux, Youth for Life coordinator for the Diocese of Fort Worth. In fact, it is the first program in the nation of its type, and it remains among just a handful of camps that specialize in offering pro-life formation and active experience in the public pro-life witness.
But more than being uniquely pro-life, the camp focuses on giving teens — the most pro-life age group in the U.S., according to Laux — the information, encouragement, and support they need to live out their faith and pro-life stance.
“We just feel like this is an important time when they need to hear about pro-life issues,” Laux told the North Texas Catholic last year. “They’re old enough to understand it and be affected by it… That’s when they are having to deal with life issues. Young people understand — they’re not so jaded yet — that life is precious and should be protected.”
Indeed, the numbers reflect that. This year, the camp pulled in approximately 100 teens from nearly 50 different parishes during its two summer sessions. During the longer session, which took place from July 25 to 29, just over 50 teens attended.
Structured to have prayer, Adoration, Mass, pro-life videos, reflection time, social service activities (like helping at Catholic Charities), group pro-life skits, expert speakers, and fun social activities (like scavenger hunts and sports tournaments), the camp is a jam-packed melting pot of learning, prayer, and active service.
“There’s just so much we want to tell them that we have to keep a pretty rigorous schedule to get everything in that we want to get in,” Laux explained.
But the teens don’t mind. In fact, during the long session, they relished the opportunity to listen to Catholic author and renowned population expert Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, who tackled the myth of overpopulation.
Mosher told the teens about his eyewitness experiences with the one-child policy and forced abortions in Communist China and went into detail debunking the myth of overpopulation. Hitting on the boot camp’s theme of “Abortion around the world: The real war on women,” he explained that this myth is the principal driver behind abortions and abusive population control programs worldwide.
“There are lots of people in the population control community and among radical feminists and radical groups in general who think there are too many of you,” he told his intrigued teenage audience. “And they believe — and they’re wrong on this — that your birth caused the death of a tree. But I want to tell you right away your birth had nothing to do with the birth or death of trees, or whales, or snails. Your birth was a blessing for your family, it was a blessing for your community, and it was a blessing for the planet.”
Juliana Mebane, of St. Joseph Parish in Bellmead, places her pro-life commitment for this year on the board. (Photo by Juan Guajardo / North Texas Catholic)
He explained that lots of people get mad at pro-lifers because they believe the socially responsible thing to do is not have children because it destroys the environment, causes global warming, and kills species, like whales — in short, because of the myth of overpopulation. Through YouTube videos from the Population Research Institute and analysis, Mosher showed his young audience how most countries have increasingly lower birth rates and greater death rates; that the world is not running out of food; and that poverty is not due to larger populations but that standards of living increase as societies grow (because humans are consumers and producers and thus drive economies forward).
“Every baby that comes in the world, every stomach comes with two hands attached, and every mouth is backed by a creative intelligence,” Mosher said. “So every baby that comes in the world is a blessing for the rest of us. Babies are blessings to their families. They bring love into their families. They expand the family circle. Love doesn’t divide. It multiplies.”
Over the course of the 5-day session, the campers also had the opportunity to reflect on the impact abortion has had in the U.S. On Sunday, the teens drew 2,000 chalk crosses, each representing a life lost to abortion that day.
“Seeing that many crosses on the mall kind of made it a little more real that those are human lives that were killed yesterday, that are being killed today,” said Teresa Tesoriero, 23, a chaperone and teacher at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School in Keller. “It’s another reminder that they’re humans and this is happening right now and we need to stop it.”
On three days, the teens prayed in front of abortion centers in Dallas and Fort Worth. On Tuesday, they visited the Cemetery of the Innocents in Dallas — where nearly 1,500 aborted babies have been buried — and placed flowers on the graves.
“That makes a huge impact on them,” Smith said. “Kind of brings it all home because you are at a cemetery and you’re at a grave and there are real babies buried there; their bodies were saved from the dumpsters at abortion centers. It makes a huge impact on the kids — a lasting impact.”
On the last day of camp, armed with those experiences and new information, the teens prayed and wrote on small pieces of paper what they planned to do in the next year to promote life. Some said they would start a pro-life blog, others said they would participate in more pro-life events aimed at teens, others planned on using social media to inform their peers, and still others said they planned on taking part in January’s March for Life and volunteering at pro-life nonprofit organizations.
Alana Endres, 16, plans to pray at abortion clinics and attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
The Sacred Heart, Muenster parishioner says the value of praying each and every day for the unborn and their mothers cannot be undervalued though.
“I try to [pray every time it comes to mind], I think it’s really important.”
Dr. Steven Mosher was pro-choice and God-less when he left for China’s mainland in 1979 as part of a diplomatic relations program between the U.S. and China. After a nightmarish experience in China, the Stanford University social scientist came back pro-life, certain of God’s existence, and determined to expose and stop the numerous human rights abuses the Chinese Communist regime was committing in the name of “overpopulation.” Mosher, now a Catholic and an internationally-recognized expert on China and population issues, a best-selling author, and president of the Population Research Institute, shared his experiences with population control in the People’s Republic of China with an audience of 70 people at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Grapevine July 25.
Spend a day at it and you’ll quickly find that this boot camp is like no other in the nation. Instead of military exercises and drill sergeants, you’ll find high school teens doing service activities, praying Rosaries, joining in praise and worship, and sitting in a lecture hall soaking up information from various leaders in the pro-life movement. Instead of conditioning and marching, you’ll find them waking early to pray outside local abortion centers, learning about the history of Roe v. Wade, and having fun together and building friendships.