Paul Sanders and Janine Lieu, founders of the pro-life club at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, The club was renamed in their honour shortly after the two died in a tragic accident. Photo courtesy Paul Sanders and Janine Lieu Pro-Life Club

Founders’ memory inspires pro-life club

By  Peter Wilson, Youth Speak News
  • January 12, 2022

In 2007, freshman students Paul Sanders and Janine Lieu arrived at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay, Ont.,  with a mutual Christian zeal and desire to defend the unborn.

Together, they founded a pro-life club at this small, Catholic liberal arts institution. 

Sanders, a 24-year-old from Mitchell, Ont., was blessed with a warm demeanour and cheerful personality. Cassie Farrell described him as funny and outgoing.

“Paul was always ready to meet people and have fun,” said Farrell. “He was full of questions in the classroom and concern for others. He also had a distinctly loud laugh and was hilarious.”

Lieu, on the other hand, a 22-year-old from Vancouver, was quiet and introverted.

“Janine was soft spoken, sweet and always smiling,” said Theresa Wilson. 

Sanders engaged in anti-abortion activism for years, and Lieu was a firm defender of human life from birth till natural death.

Farrell recalls Lieu organizing group visits to the local nursing home every Sunday afternoon. Despite her quiet nature, Farrell said that once you committed to visiting the elderly with Lieu, she would firmly hold you to honouring that pledge. She was the engine fueling the club’s risie.

“Janine really drove the club’s growth,” said Farrell, a club member from the outset. “She really wanted it to be something.”

Through the club, Sanders and Lieu organized weekly rosaries, fundraised for a local pregnancy crisis centre and maintained the weekly nursing home visits. 

“Paul and Janine were beautiful souls,” said Seat of Wisdom professor Dr. Christine Schintgen. “They shared a profound faith as well as a total commitment to our Lord and His will.”

John Paul Meenan, another professor, said they displayed a “bold determination” to do God’s will and both were discerning religious life.

But on Feb. 2, 2008, God called Sanders and Lieu home in a tragic accident that shocked the community. Driving across a frozen lake on their way to receive spiritual direction, their van broke through the ice. They drowned.   

Wracked by grief, family and friends questioned how such an event could be permitted to happen. Then, remembering Sanders and Lieu’s devotion to God’s will, they saw God’s providence in it all.

“After their death, I felt deeply responsible for making sure the club carried on,” said Farrell.

After being named club president, one of her first actions was renaming the club in honour of its founders. Shortly after, the Paul Sanders and Janine Lieu Pro-Life Club began flourishing.

“We networked with other student pro-life groups in the country,” said Farrell. “We fundraised for a memorial honouring Paul and Janine and continued weekly rosaries and visiting the elderly. We hosted speakers from organizations like NCLN, World Youth Alliance and Crossroads.”

“Not only does the memory of Paul and Janine survive at the college,” said Meenan, “but I believe their very presence is here. I have good hope they are in Heaven and intercede for the cause of life in all its stages, especially for the vulnerable, and not least the unborn.”

Today, the work they began through the club continues vibrantly. Under president, Elizabeth Westin, the team fundraised a robust sum for the local pregnancy crisis centre this year. Group rosaries continue to be a staple and the club still hosts guest speakers.

“Being the president of a club (Paul and Janine) started has been a great honour,” said Westin. “It has humbled me and, most importantly, encouraged me to seek truth. As Mother Teresa once said, ‘I can do no great act; only small acts with great love.’ This is the club’s key mission: to love God and His creation, from the youngest and smallest to the oldest.”

(Wilson, 20, is studying for his Bachelor of Catholic Studies degree at Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

Last modified on January 20, 2022

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