Each year the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto hosts its Steubenville Youth Conference. Originating in Steubenville, Ohio, the conference has branched out to numerous North American cities, including Toronto. With the goal of “glorifying God and bring souls to Him”, Steubenville Toronto gives Catholic youth an encounter with Christ in the Eucharist through the Sacraments, then through adoration, music, talks, fellowship, and fun.
Designed primarily for young people between the ages of 14-18, the event draws groups from all throughout Canada and even the United States. It is an ideal place to foster pro-life values in all age groups because in addition to the more than 2000 participants there are also bishops, priests, brothers, seminarians, nuns, youth ministers and youth volunteers in attendance.
This year, Campaign Life Coalition Youth was again present to set up a stall in the marketplace. Here not only are religious goods sold in the marketplace but also various organizations are allowed to set up displays to engage with youth. From July 12-14, CLC Youth had the opportunity to spread the pro-life message as Steubenville Youth Conferences are officialy Catholic and pro-life.
CLC Youth sent five interns to run the stall. The interns were equipped with numerous tools to reach out and spread the pro-life message. Numerous pamphlets on abortion and CLC Youth were handed out reported intern Nikola Vanderheyden. The pamphlets were designed to raise awareness about abortion and to encourage youth activism. Other pamphlets about crisis pregnancy and child development were also distributed.
The CLC interns also collected signatures for a petition to Parliament, calling for the introduction of pro-life bills that would protect life from conception until natural death. At the same time, many people signed up for CLC Youth’s email blasts and to become CLC supporters. Intern Gregory Tomchyshyn said that “it was nice to see all the people that came by” noting “While I was there over 60 people came on by” with hundreds of others coming to the stall at other points in the conference.
Great conversations were also had between CLC’s Interns and interested youth. Intern Peter Naus remarked that young people “were very receptive and open. Individuals either knew about CLC and the pro-life movement or were somewhat curious about CLC and the pro-life message, especially those who had not heard about it before.” The CLC interns said that, with the positive atmosphere, raising awareness about abortion and related issues was quite easy and even fruitful.
Shania Fernandes noted that discussions regarding the new movie “Unplanned” were taking place amongst different youth groups at the Steubenville conference. This led some youth groups to make plans to view the film.
Among the participants who spoke with the interns, a small group of youth said that due to the controversial nature of the pro-life message, especially in today’s culture, it was difficult to talk about pro-life issues in public. Based on the descriptions given by the interns as well as participants, Steubenville is a place where young people have the opportunity to discuss and embrace pro-life values.
When asked what she had gained from the encounters and if the experience was worth it, CLC intern Zephania Gangl said “Through my presence at the booth, I realized that youth are curious about these moral subjects such as abortion and euthanasia. They long to know the truth! The young people who came to the CLC booth were eager to pick up pamphlets and inform themselves on the pro-life movement. And they weren’t hesitant to ask questions.”