Personal stories and youth at pro-life rally

Youth participate in the Stand Up for Life march and rally in Columbia on Jan. 15.

Youth participate in the Stand Up for Life march and rally in Columbia on Jan. 15.COLUMBIA—More than 700 Catholic youth braved the cold to participate in the 2011 S.C. Catholic Youth Rally for Life, and the annual Stand Up for Life march and rally on Jan. 15.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone started the youth rally at Township Auditorium with a prayer, followed by speakers who talked about the challenge of being pro-life in today’s culture.

Father Jeffrey F. Kirby, diocesan vicar for vocations, spoke about Psalm 139:13: “You formed my inmost being, you knit me in my mother’s womb.”

Bishop Guglielmone celebrated Mass with more than a dozen priests who attended the rally. In his homily, he said the willingness to make a public stance for life can make a difference.

“I think we’re here today because we wouldn’t think of harming anyone who is vulnerable, and we want to teach others what God is about and proclaim the word of God to others,” he said. “You are bearing witness to those who aren’t aware God’s word is alive. Every single time we stand up and proclaim the goodness of the Lord, somebody is affected. Will we save a life by what we do today? I’m certain of it.”

After Mass, the young people marched about a mile to the Statehouse to join another crowd from the nearby Russell House on the University of South Carolina campus. At the Statehouse, they stood on the steps and held banners and signs aloft. Knights of Columbus councils and other adult marchers joined them.

The keynote speaker was Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, who is Catholic. He told the story of his son, Gabriel Michael, who was born in 1996 with a serious abnormality and lived for two hours “knowing nothing but love,” Santorum said.

His wife later compiled a book of letters she penned to Gabriel before and after his death, and Santorum said his son’s story has led many people to embrace the pro-life message.

Santorum also talked about his youngest daughter, Isabella Maria, born with trisomy 8, a genetic condition that doctors described as “incompatible with life.” She celebrated her second birthday in 2010.

“The pro-life battle is being fought at the bedsides of the very young, the very old and the disabled,” he said. “You’re blessed to be here at a time when God needs you to go out and fight for life …you can do little things every day” that can advocate life “and save a country.”

Afterward, many young people said the events opened their eyes to new aspects of the cause.

“Today was amazing, just seeing everyone out here to support life,” said Kristine Hayes, 16, a member of St. Anne Church in Florence. “I’ve learned that no matter how small a human is, they’re still a human being with a life before them.”

Shannon Quamina attended with others from St. Mary, the Virgin Mother Church in Hartsville.

“It’s important to bring youth together to support life because this issue means something to each and every one of us,” Quamina said. “We need to hear the message and pass it on.”