The standing ovation for keynote conference speaker Camille de Blasi Pauley indicated the success of the Third Annual Culture of Life Leadership Conference, which was attended by 120 students from 14 high schools in the Halton and Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Boards of Ontario.

The conference is a joint effort by the Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, Halton Pro-Life, the Halton Catholic District School Board, Hamilton Right to Life and the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board.

De Blasi Pauley delivered four talks on life issues within the context of true freedom and happiness. Co-founder and president of the pro-life ministry Healing the Culture, she has spoken to thousands of people during the past 15 years. Her foundational approach to life issues is based on the “Life Principles” and the “Four Levels of Happiness,” a relatively new approach to abortion and related issues.

Students responded positively to Pauley’s high degree of energy, enthusiasm and genuineness. Supervisors found the approach refreshing and useful, as evidenced by the plentiful purchases of Healing the Culture materials for school use.

Bishop Gerard Bergie, the auxiliary Catholic bishop of Hamilton Diocese, celebrated a Mass at the conclusion of the conference. During his homily, he referenced the words of the conference poster, “Catholic students building healthy communities,” and encouraged students to build a culture of life by respecting and nurturing all human life.

Lorenzo Campanelli, chaplain at St. Ignatius of Loyola School in Oakville, has been a  member of the planning committee since the first conference. He explained that the purpose of the event “is to engage Catholic high school students in a discussion on the meaning and value of human life, in light of today’s attacks on the dignity of human life through abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research and the misuse of sexuality.”

Joanne Matters, director of Halton Pro-Life and a trustee for the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, originally brought the vision for this type of conference to Campanelli and others for their support. She said the “foundation for the discussion is Pope John Paul II’s challenge to build a culture of life against the backdrop of a culture that is drifting toward death. While issues of poverty, poor working conditions, the environment, just wages and other issues receive a great deal of attention in school and society, the life issues generally receive very little attention. So, this is an opportunity to focus on the most basic human right – the right to life.”

Students were eager to learn and respond to the material presented to them. On questionnaires, many expressed that they were able to grasp the material on the Life Principles and would be happy to have de Blasi Pauley at their school.

As one student wrote, “Camille de Blasi Pauley was WONDERFUL! I would LOVE to see her again!”