Presentation’s 23rd annual Respect Life Day a success

Laurie Jo Holmes, Program Coordinator of the diocesan Human Rights Office talks with several students during the annual Respect Life Day Feb. 22 at Our Lady of the Presentation. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

LEE’S SUMMIT — Seventh and eighth graders from St. Regis Academy and St. John LaLande School joined Our Lady of the Presentation middle school students for the 23rd annual Respect Life Day Feb. 22. Gathering first in the church, they listened to Fr. Tom Holder, parish pastor, open the morning with prayer. “This is a day to gather together and recognize the precious gift of life,” he said. “You,” addressing the students, “are a precious gift because God has given you the precious gift of life!” In his prayer he stated that “God is the author of all life.”

Emcee Matt Wheeler, who with his wife Christine, has coordinated all 23 Respect Life Days at Presentation, reminded the kids that God calls us to go out and serve others, and that during the sessions that morning they would be hearing about many different spectrums of respecting life. He introduced the first speaker, Dominican Sister Mary Andre. A member of the Dominicans of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist community, she teaches English at St. Michael the Archangel High School.

She began by referring to two well-known films, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, and said she ”found many references to life in both movies.” Using the screen behind her, she clicked the projector remote and a Bible verse appeared.

Sr. Mary Andre read the verse aloud. Moses is speaking to the Israelites enslaved in Egypt in Deuteronomy 30:19, saying:

“‘I set before you life and death
The blessing and the curse.
Choose life then,
That you and your descendants may live.’”

“We are faced with life decisions and choices every day,” she continued. Many students solemnly nodded in response.

She commented that in these days, “people say they are pro-life or pro-choice. When we choose life for others, we choose it for ourselves.” She pointed again to the Bible verse on the screen and repeated it. “I set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life then, that you and your descendants may live.”

Sr. Mary Andre gazed around the church. ”Have you ever heard the term navel-gazing? In other words, staring at your belly button. Do you know what that means?“ Some of the kids looked startled at the idea. “Navel-gazing means only looking at myself, thinking only about me. If I’m doing that, I’m missing everything else around me!”

She announced that “We can be pro-life every single day. Really look at others, they are amazing. Realize there is a person behind that name or social media screen. And remember, ‘be kind, everyone carries a burden.’ I don’t know exactly who said that, but it’s attributed to Plato.”

Swiftly turning back to the Bible verse, she retold the Gospel story of the blind man whom Jesus healed. “He is symbolic of people, those who are blinded to the rest of the world, and those who are ready to see. “ She also reminded the kids that the only way to understand anything is to stand under it.

Sr. Mary Andre ended her talk with a prayer, asking the kids “Where are you at? Are you blind or seeing others as less than they are?” And prayed that their eyes would be opened and remain open.

Matt Wheeler spoke to the students again, telling them that ”as we get older, life is hard. Don’t let your eyes get clouded by the problems of life!”

The students then dispersed to different rooms to hear the speakers. Lindsey Chadwick volunteers for and works on community development for Mother’s Refuge in Independence. Mother’s Refuge, founded in 1987, is a homeless shelter for pregnant and parenting moms ages 12 -21 and their babies. The moms finish their education or find jobs, and most eventually move into their own place with their child. Chadwick said since Mother’s Refuge opened, their shelter has helped more than 1,800 mothers and infants. She said, “serving others is being the hands and feet of Jesus,” and suggested the students find something they are passionate about and volunteer for the organization or program.

Tom Chastain and his wife own Nurse Next Door, a home care services company in Lee’s Summit, where they “Make Lives Better” through the “Happier Aging” program. He said there are five pillars of health for seniors: physical health, mental health, social health, intellectual health and occupational health. Without all five, seniors can have health issues. He suggested the students visit their grandparents or aging relatives often and engage them in games, conversation or exercise.

Father Adam Haake, pastor of Coronation of Our Lady Parish in Grandview, spoke about “life at all levels — cells, minerals, vegetation, animal and fish. All work in symphony with each other. And, all levels, there’s life! and there’s life.” He reminded the students that a human being is an animal with an immortal soul. Looking around he said, “Hurt people hurt people. But when hurt people encounter the love of Jesus Christ, he takes away the fear and the hurt.”

He spoke of the dignity of worshipping God and that we can’t love our neighbor (be pro-life) if we can’t see the dignity we have living in a relationship with our Lord in the Eucharist. “Every human person is a walking tabernacle.” He spoke of the call to go to Mass each Sunday and to let Christ’s life and love enter into them during Mass and let that love animate every part of their lives.

Kathy Dean, president of Uplift, described what the volunteers do while feeding the homeless living on the streets of Kansas City, serving a hot meal and either hot chocolate or lemonade. “We can’t fix their lives, but we treat each person like they are the single most important person on earth. When we leave a stop, if the people feel better about themselves, we have been successful.”

In the gym, students perused exhibits of Alexandra’s House, Birthright, Bishop Sullivan Center, Catholic Charities, Harvesters, Hope House, Lee’s Summit Social Services, Little Sisters of the Poor, Mothers Refuge, the diocesan Respect Life Office, Sisters in Jesus the Lord, World Apostolate of Fatima and more. When the students returned to school, they had a lot to consider.

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Wednesday
November 13, 2019
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph