Students take charge at Toronto pro-life conference

  • May 14, 2010
Kelden FormosaTORONTO - May 11 marked the first Toronto Catholic District School Board collaboration with students to promote leadership on pro-life issues.

The TCDSB hosted it’s annual Respect for Life Week but turned its usual keynote address into a student leadership day which drew more than 70 students to learn about the issues and how to take action.

Grade 12 Bishop Allan Academy student Kelden Formosa said he hopes to see other teens discussing life issues in their schools, which is why he founded the board’s first Students for Life committee this year.

Formosa helped the TCDSB’s Respect for Life Week adult planning committee and Toronto Right to Life organize the conference with the support of about 10 other students

“We’re really starting up a worthwhile initiative,” Formosa said. “I’d really like to see us create a model similar to the Hamilton board.”

Formosa said he found his passion for life issues while spending the summer volunteering at Toronto Right to Life,

The Hamilton Catholic District School board has had a board-run Culture of Life committee for six years and funds initiatives for students on a regular basis, including an annual yearly rally in the diocese with international pro-life speakers. Hamilton’s high schools all have their own Culture of Life sub-committee.

“We don’t have anything like that in Toronto yet, but let’s hope God helps us,” said Mary  LaFramboise, a member of Toronto’s Respect for Life committee.

LaFramboise said the issues need to be discussed more prominently with students and it can be done in a positive way if Toronto follows in Hamilton’s footsteps.

Theresa Hartnett, a chair of the Culture of Life committee in Hamilton, was invited to give the Toronto conference’s keynote address. While her intent was to talk about the pro-life issues in general terms, touching on the issues of moral relativism and Catholic Church teaching, she wanted to drive home that life issues aren’t just about abortion or euthanasia.

“I want them to realize that being a Culture of Life group in their schools means making sure that we don’t negate the other issues that support life — so when we raise money for Haiti or Heart and Stroke that’s all really pro-life work. And what I think has happened in our schools is that we often forget that and we don’t make that relevant point to our students, so they don’t think about the fact when you say you’re pro-life you support life on a continuum.”

She cautioned students to work together on other social justice issues relevant to life as they spearhead new clubs and events to bring abortion to the forefront.

Hartnett later led a workshop that focused on the effects an abortion can have on women and Project Rachel, the Catholic Church’s healing ministry to those who have been involved in abortion.

Leigh McGrade, a Grade 11 student at Bishop Allen Academy who joined Formosa on the student planning committee, hopes to take on the presidency from him next year.

“Growing up in high school, you hear about abortion, the gossip comes around, and I always felt like there wasn’t enough knowledge, everything was so under the table and suspicious and people didn’t want to talk about it,” McGrade said.

“That’s why I got involved with the pro-life organization at the board and Toronto Right to Life, because young women in the (Toronto) Catholic board do need that guidance and they need that insight and a lot of them don’t get that.”

During the conference, students heard directly from Toronto Right to Life staff, the Sisters of Life of Toronto and Theresa Gilbert from the National Campus Life Network.

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