by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — It’s not every day you get to hear from life heroes.
Yet, that’s exactly who Hannah Schmitz and Margaret Ledom, both juniors at Hayden High School in Topeka, found themselves listening to during the annual IGNITE rally held Jan. 24 at Topeka’s Performing Arts Center.
The rally was one of several events held in Topeka to commemorate the recent decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and also served to encourage the state’s pro-life movement. Other activities included workshops, a march to the Statehouse, a rally at the Kansas Capitol and a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Bishop Gerald Vincke of the Diocese of Salina, and Bishop Carl Kemme of the Diocese of Wichita, along with several dozen priests.
Debra Niesen, lead consultant for the archdiocesan pro-life office, kicked off the rally by describing a life hero as “someone who is the voice, the hands, the love of Jesus Christ to someone who is vulnerable.”
“We are all called to be life heroes,” she said, “and we have many saints as examples — Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Joseph who protected Our Lady and baby Jesus, St. Gianna Molla, St. Pope John Paul II and others — to look to as examples. We also have many life heroes just walking among us today.”
Introducing Lila Rose as one of those life heroes, Niesen said Rose is a writer, speaker and activist, as well as the founder and president of Live Action, an organization she launched at age 15.
In her remarks, Rose said that despite the ending of Roe v. Wade, the nation is still in tremendous confusion about the sanctity of human life, as more than 2,000 children die daily through abortion in states such as Kansas. But she encouraged those gathered.
“We can change our culture. We can win souls for Jesus Christ, and we can end abortion in America,” she said to much applause.
“I’m here because I want to win,” she continued. “I want to win back this country for life. I want to win souls for Jesus Christ. I want my own soul to be won.
“The only way to reclaim our great culture is to lovingly speak the truth and to refuse to compromise. We have to strive every day to not just speak the truth, but to live by the truth. After all, this is how saints are made.”
“Saints aren’t perfect. Saints make mistakes,” she added, “but every day saints get up again and they say, ‘How do I love God more today? How do I love him better? How do I love my neighbor more today? How do I love my neighbor better?’ And they speak the truth even when afraid.”
“So, let this be the day that we commit ourselves again,” she concluded, “to be the saints that our nation — that our world — needs.”
For Schmitz, Rose’s speech was especially powerful because of a video she showed. During her presentation, Rose played a video in which people on the street in Los Angeles and San Francisco were interviewed about their position regarding abortion.
“I really liked when she showed the video of asking the people if they were pro-choice or pro-life and then showing them what happens during an abortion. They all changed their minds. I thought that was really impactful,” Schmitz said. She plans to share the videos with others.
For Ledom though, the witness of Austin Krause, a theology teacher at St. James Academy in Lenexa who shared the story of his son Joseph Anthony, touched her heart.
Diagnosed in utero with anencephaly, Joseph’s brain and skull cap did not form properly. At least 90% of babies with this diagnosis, Krause said, are aborted. For he and his wife Mary Kate, that was never an option.
Instead, the two poured love into their son’s brief life, welcoming him into the world on June 24. And while most babies born with the same condition live minutes or only hours, Joseph went home with his parents on June 27. Through it all, Ledom noted, Austin and Mary Kate embraced the suffering and tried to let God shine through them.
“If there’s a hardship that I’m going through,” Ledom said, she’s going to remember the Krauses’ story and try to imitate their example.
“I’m going to think about how I can show God through this,” she said. “How can I push through this hardship and see what God has planned for me through it?”
Note: Click here for Joseph Krause’s story.