by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — A horrible feeling.
That’s how D.J. Hueneman described the moment he realized he could not defend someone else properly because he had “put off” training he needed for his former job as a firefighter and paramedic.
That moment came when he responded to what was called “a minor fender bender,” but was in actuality, a multiple-car accident.
He could not perform the necessary procedure for one of the victims — a small child. In that moment, Hueneman said he needed to step up his game and become the man God was calling him to be.
Hueneman, an author and presenter who has spoken nationally and internationally about pornography, theology of the body, chastity and the Catholic faith, served as the keynote speaker for the third annual IGNITE rally.
Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and held Jan. 22 at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, the event was just one of several activities held throughout the day in the capital city to commemorate the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion throughout the United States.
Approximately 1,000 students from the state’s four dioceses participated in this year’s rally.
Relying upon humor, popular movies and his own experiences as a firefighter, paramedic, pregnancy resource counselor, inner-city schoolteacher, husband and father, Hueneman shared how a proper understanding of what it means to be human will help up to build a culture of life.
However, he said, it’s also important to realize every single person standing up for life is engaged in a battle.
“Just by being here, you are in the battle,” he said.
One way to defeat the enemy, said Hueneman, is through prayer, which includes relying on the sacraments like the Eucharist and confession, reading about the lives of the saints and praying the rosary.
“I always carry a rosary with me,” he said, adding that he prays it often.
Before he left his job as a firefighter, Hueneman was reluctant to leave his profession for full-time ministry. So, he prayed that God would send someone to his house as a clear sign.
He was stunned when a woman making a sales pitch to him about insurance asked him if he’d consider working in pro-life ministry.
After he became involved with a pregnancy resource center, Hueneman witnessed firsthand the power of prayer. Time and time again, he said, the exact resources necessary to assist mothers were provided as a result of prayers offered for mothers’ material needs.
“Don’t wait to do it. You are saving lives. I’ve seen lives saved firsthand,” he said as he shared stories and pictures of parents helped by the generosity of others.
Other topics Hueneman addressed included love, intimacy, chastity and what it means to be a real man in today’s society.
And at the end of his talk, Hueneman encouraged the students to do three practical things that day — including praying and expressing gratitude to someone in their own lives who helps them to become a better person.
“Search within yourself,” he said, “and ask what is God calling you to do to make a gift of yourself to the unborn.
“Answer that call. Make a gift of yourself.”
Mary Ingrid Schnake, a junior at St. James Academy in Lenexa, said she found Hueneman to be “amazing.”
“He was just really engaging. I think he was able to reach out to a lot of kids, and he also had a real fatherly persona about him,” she said.
The part that will stick with her for a while, though, is how he defined real manhood as “defending the dignity of women.”
James Finlen, a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and member of Divine Mercy Parish, agreed.
“I feel like I really know how to love someone that I love,” he said. “I feel like I can carry his words not just with a significant other, but also with family, friends — people I care about.”
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