By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
BLUE SPRINGS — Most teens want to celebrate their 16th birthday with a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles for their driver’s licenses.
Noah Creedon celebrated his with a trip to Washington, D.C., to join a half a million other pro-lifers at the annual March for Life.
“I hesitated for a little while,” said Creedon, a member of Church of the Good Shepherd in Smithville. But when he learned that so many of his friends would also be going to the nation’s capital, his decision got a lot easier.
“It’s a pretty good way to spend your birthday,” he said.
Creedon was among some 300 Catholics from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph who boarded one of four caravanning buses Jan. 23 for the trip halfway across the continent and the Jan. 25 annual rally on the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion.
Creedon was also one of 23 people — 17 teens and six adults — making the trip from the Smithville parish of roughly 500 families.
“This is a real big thing in our parish,” said Kellan Clouse, who was making the trip for the fourth year in a row. “It’s a wonderful trip to be on.”
Zoe Green, 17, explained that the disproportionately large group from Smithville was the product of the close relationship between Good Shepherd’s Respect Life committee and its youth ministry programs, all with the strong support of the pastor, Father Greg Haskamp.
“It started out with a few adults going, and then it spread to our youth group,” Green said.
Add to it the talent and financial support from the parish’s Knights of Columbus council.
“The Knights of Columbus donates a lot,” Green said. “That brings the cost down, and that’s why so many people can go.”
Christine Koile, Good Shepherd’s youth director for 13 years, said the full support of the parish is a youth minister’s dream.
“I have a lot of help,” she said. “They all make my job that much easier.”
Deacon candidate Rick Boyle, who is also a member of Good Shepherd’s Knights of Columbus Council, said the Knights donated $500 outright to bring down the cost of the trip.
In addition, the Knights also purchased all the food and supplies for the Respect Life Committee’s fundraising taco dinner, so that every dime taken in was profit. And on top of that, the Knights also manned the kitchen along with other parish volunteers.
“If it weren’t for the Knights, we wouldn’t have so many people going,” Boyle said.
The Smithville delegation were conspicuous in their bright green Smithville High School letter jackets at the 6:30 a.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert W. Finn at the Blue Springs parish, where pilgrims from the Kansas City area met a bus loaded in St. Joseph with pilgrims who had attended Mass at St. James Parish in that city even earlier.
When the buses from St. Joseph arrived, Bishop Finn blessed the entire group, then apologized that his schedule would not allow him to make the trip with them, as he has done in all but a few years since he came to the diocese in 2004.
But in his homily at the Mass (see page 4 for the full text), Bishop Finn assured the pilgrims that “God knows our efforts.”
“We come as witnesses to life,” he said. “We come again and again.”
Bishop Finn also knocked down the notion that the Church, in its witness to life, has focused exclusively on the single issue of abortion and ignored all others.
“We do not — as some cynics claim — fail to care about the state of the world at war; or about the hatred of brothers and sisters because of color,” he said.
“We know firsthand about the fear of the migrant, and our charity is second to none in providing the working poor with a meal, job training for those out of prison, education in city neighborhoods,” Bishop Finn said.
“From this place we call Church, we champion these God-established rights and the value of every life, and we do something about it,” he said.
Bishop Finn also decried the idea that the arbiter of truth is one’s personal conscience.
“To say that each person may freely decide what is right and wrong, merely as his or her conscience determines, is a false teaching,” he said.
“There is no freedom of conscience apart from the truth. The Church’s teaching and the truth about abortion has not changed,” Bishop Finn said.
Abortion’s “evil is renewed thousands of times a day, as every new life is snuffed out. Its painful destruction is real for that tiny human person beginning to live exactly as each of us began; who is loved by God; who is as dignified as any person, and destined for life here and for eternal life,” he said.
“How did we lose sight of this? America, let’s open our eyes.”