TOROK: Youth and a culture of life

October 11, 2022

The Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization provides formation for youth, including the Church’s teaching on peace and justice. Youth learn, reflect and discuss what it means to respect life from womb to tomb.

St. John Paul II called this practice of respecting and advocating for life “a culture of life” (Evangelium Vitae, 21).

Through their catechetical studies, young people learn and discuss how advocacy for life can take root when we reflect on our own relationship with God. His love and guidance are how we understand that dignity applies to each one of us. Youth understand we are God’s hands, and we strive to listen for God’s will in our lives. Through their own experience of life, youth trust that God will give them the strength and wisdom needed to serve the vulnerable at their individual level of capacity.

To this end, the teaching office of the Church states:
To understand more fully how to defend and protect human life, we must first consider who we are at the deepest level. God creates us in His image and likeness, which means we are made to be in a loving relationship with Him. The United State Conference of Bishops states: “The essence of our identity and worth, the source of our dignity, is that we are loved by God.”

In this same perspective, St. John Paul II offered these encouraging words, confirming everyone’s capacity to be Christ for others and to build a culture of life.

We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son. (17th World Youth Day Homily)

When one understands what it means to say that we are each the sum of God’s love, it gives us the delight of celebrating the source of our right to dignity. We soon realize that this dignity extends to every individual in the world: You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! (Psalm 139:13-14).

I have had the opportunity to assist young people seeking to learn more about building a culture of life. The Archdiocese provided an opportunity for young people to study and reflect on the pro-life principles from womb to tomb. After prayer and reflection, youth were given an opportunity to serve the community in one of the respect life ministries.

At the conclusion of this experience, the young people returned to their parish communities and were encouraged to advocate for the dignity of the human person through their own parish groups. I would encourage our parishes and schools to consider implementing this type of experience.

Today, young people’s awareness of pro-life has increased.

For many, it has stirred a desire in them to protect human life. They have seen the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Youth have boldly spoken through various media platforms of their thoughts on the deadly violence that has happened in their schools.

Consequently, youth question issues of mental health and its impact on society. These issues stir youth to question: What can I do to help make a change?

By the power of God’s love for each one of us, we, too, are invited to make a change and help build a culture of life. How can I defend and protect human life? 

Norma Torok is a former associate director with the Archdiocesan Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.

(Photo by Jonathan Dick/Unsplash)