I was invited to be a speaker at the Human Life International Conference in Cork, Ireland. The Conference was held at the Blarney Park Hotel, outside Cork City, October 30 to November 1, and it was a great success. I had intended to stay in Ireland with my family until November 16. But, just before taking off for my native land, I received an urgent phone call from Kathleen Ross, asking me to be a speaker at the Ontario Students for Life Conference in London, Ontario, November 13-15.
I was not too enthusiastic about sacrificing three days of my holidays but I felt it was too important an occasion to miss. So, I changed my dates and arrived back the day before the Youth Conference started. Let me say that I would not have missed it for the world. The Conference was organized principally by the Ross family. Two elder girls, Kathleen and Marie Claire, with the help of numerous friends were, the “movers and shakers” who inspired young people – mostly high school students – to present what can be termed a memorable occasion. Jim Ross, the girls’ father, was master of ceremonies and kept everything running smoothly.
After registration and some welcoming speeches we were entertained by live theatre in the form of an excellent pro-life play, written by Catherine Wood of Regna Mundi College. This was followed by small group workshops so that the young people who came from far and wide could get to know each other.
One girl, Sarah McPhee, brought fifty students from her public high school in Barry’s bay, surely a great example of leadership and zeal for the pro-life cause. The school authorities offered classrooms as dormitories and each student brought a sleeping bag.
After breakfast on Saturday morning, the day’s program began. The speakers were excellent and almost every aspect of the pro-life issue was covered. Dr. Larry Reynolds spoke on the Humanity of the Unborn Child and fetal development. Pro-life lawyer Angela Costigan eloquently explained the workings of the law in Canada with reference to pro-life.
Dr. Beverley McMillan, from Mississippi, kept her audience spellbound with the story of how she was converted from being a pro-abortion doctor to being an active pro-lifer. Beverley related how she opened the first abortion “clinic” in Mississippi and ran it for some years. She then told the amazing tale of how she realized that abortion is murder and completely changed her stance. She now spends her life defending the unborn both as a doctor and a pro-life speaker.
Two women, who had abortions, told their stories and explained the real meaning of “post abortion syndrome.” Terri Struzbrooke spoke on “Chastity – a way of life for all people.”
A Life Chain was organized on Oxford Street. What must be the busiest street outside the city centre was lined by 350 teenagers for a full hour. Hundreds of cars passed by; and we received the usual “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” signs. But what a display of youthful pro-life enthusiasm!
I personally believe that Life Chain is probably the most effective of all pro-life activities. To see so many young Canadians holding placards on which are printed in large letters the words “Abortion Kills Children,” must focus attention on the greatest tragedy in the history of the world.
After lunch, the afternoon was devoted to an abortion panel, a leadership workshop and a talk o Euthanasia by the well-known Dr. Barry De Veber. Dr. De Veber is a professor of medicine and director of one of the largest children’s cancer hospitals in Canada. In his eloquent and learned talk, he fully justified his reputation as a doctor who combines great learning with a deep concern for his patients.
If you have stood the pace so far, I shall take the liberty of being a little personal. I had been asked to speak on “Youth’s Role in the Pro-Life Movement.” However, with the consent of the organizers, I changed to “The Importance of the Family.”
I explained to them at the beginning that I was not speaking to them now as children of their families, but as the future fathers and mothers of Canada. It was tremendous to stand at the podium and look into the eyes and faces of the future of Canada, who, in fifteen or twenty years time will be the moulders of the children of the twenty-first century. It filled my heart with hope.
Sometimes we pro-lifers feel that we are fighting a losing battle. But if these young people are a sample of the youth of Canada, all is by no means lost!
At 8:00 P.M., His Excellency Bishop Sherlock of London celebrated Mass for the Catholics. The eloquent homily was preached by Father Fred Howard Smith. Betty Chisholm presided at the ecumenical service in another hall for the Protestant students.
It is of the utmost importance to keep ourselves constantly reminded that if we want to still this awful storm of abortion, we must keep our hand in the hand of the “Man Who stilled the waters.”
The weekend had been one of the most fruitful I have ever experienced; and I left feeling confident that everybody, especially the young people, had benefited tremendously and that the pro-life movement had received a powerful incentive which will bear abundant fruit in days to come.