The following letter was printed in The St. Catharines Standard shortly after the March for Life events in Ottawa May 10-11. It is reprinted here with permission.
By Mary-Lou Bratko
A week ago today is an anniversary for me – an anniversary of newly acquired knowledge, of newly acquired friends, of a completely new outlook on life.
Last week, I stepped into the Right-To-Life Centre on Geneva St. in St. Catharines hoping to find some information to use in a religion presentation for school. Along with some incredible materials to use, I found a new ideology. A week ago, I was probably the most pro-choice teen in the Niagara region. I would argue my viewpoints and I tried to prove the Bible wrong. I professed my abortion-supporting opinion.
In preparation for my May 8 “Catholic Views of Contraception and Abortion” presentation in my Grade 11 World Religions course, I spent three solid days living, eating, and sleeping, around the unborn. My mother and I watched a pro-life video, which ended in the two of us crying and embracing each other. My conversion had begun.
At the beginning of the week, at the very last minute, I received a pamphlet from the Right-To-Life Centre, speaking of the March For Life 2000, May 10-11, in Ottawa. Instantly my parents urged me to participate. Anxiously I agreed and hurriedly prepared myself for the excursion.
Wednesday morning we gathered in the rain outside the Pen Centre. I was surrounded by pro-lifers, and yet I still felt that the pro-choice ideology wasn’t wrong.
In a way, I felt as if I didn’t belong among a group of activists who have dedicated their lives to the protection of the unborn. I held my breath while the Rosary was being prayed out loud on the bus. Up until that day, I was against organized religion. I felt I didn’t need God or the Church.
I made a good friend on the trip to Ottawa, the daughter of the woman who organized our entire trip for us. She was incredible. A bright young girl, who believes 100 per cent in youth involvement in pro-life and chastity. At first I thought she was crazy. Soon after, deep down, I was jealous.
Wednesday night in Ottawa was the “Equal Rights” banquet, the Candlelight Vigil at the Human Rights Monument, and the Campaign Life Coalition Youth (CLCY) karaoke. All this still didn’t phase me, and it wasn’t until Thursday that I was “enlightened.”
We attended Mass for the unborn at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and proceeded to Parliament Hill for the March. The lawn in front of the Parliament buildings was a blur of pro-life activists. A wave of “Equal Rights,” “Stop Abortion”, and “Fight For Life” signs were held high above the crowds.
I had the chance to be personally introduced to 20-year-old Andrew Fournier, who is currently walking across Canada for the pro-life movement. What an inspiration!
In the afternoon we organized ourselves for the walk through the streets of downtown Ottawa. Banners led, while the crowds with signs followed, all chanting “Equal Rights for All Human Beings.” I and four younger pro-lifers carried the Campaign Life Coalition banner. We commenced a cheer, “We are the walkers, walking for the “Pro-Life,” and soon the younger ones and myself had managed to involve almost all 2,000 walkers in a uniform chant.
As we passed by the Morgentaler Clinic, silence was ordered for prayer and reflection. A block later, the chanting resumed.
The amount of young people at the rally truly astounded me. Adolescents from across the country, making a vow of devotion to pro-life and to chastity. Teenagers who stood for the same morals as myself. Not only adolescents, but toddlers, adults, and seniors alike, all standing up for the same cause. I had discovered a support group. I found my “safety in numbers.”
On the ride back to Niagara, I got everyone on the bus write to something about the trip in my “Memory Book.” I cried when I got it back and read through what had been written. Everyone was proud of themselves, and of me. It was the most amazing feeling of unity I’ve ever felt.
I very special young woman on the bus told me, “The thing about pro-lifers, about us, is that everyone on this bus loves you no matter what. They love you regardless of who you are, what you do, and of what you believe.” From this same young woman, I received a pin which reads “I’m worth waiting for.”
At one of our pre-Niagara drop-offs, a young man whom I befriended on the way home, stopped beside me, squeezed my hand, and said to me, “You ARE worth waiting for.” For the first time in my life, I believed the words that he spoke to me more then anything else ever. The young people I met, the activists, the chastity-practitioners, the high level of morals and mindfulness – all factors which so deeply influenced my new ideology: “Equal Rights For All Human Beings,” and “I AM worth waiting for.”
A million thanks to all in the Campaign Life Coalition and CLCY, each of you has changed my life forever.‘A million thanks’ for March for Life conversion