Sunday, June 26, 2011

FL to DC

Wassup, Jacksonville?!
It has been a busy summer so far!

On Wednesday, I arrived in Jacksonville, FL to attend the 2011 National Right to Life Convention and it was such a wonderful experience. The Convention kicked off my time as a student in the National Right to Life Academy along with 10 other girls from all over the place and it was just the perfect way to start an amazing, intense summer.

I'm going to highlight a few of the blessings of the experience.

hey girl hey!
1. My dear friend, prayer partner, fellow Bobcat, and Texas Right to Lifer Carol  was at the Convention
Carol is such a dear friend of mine and I'm SO proud of all the work she has done with Texas Right to Life in the past year- she is kind of a rockstar. I am so grateful to have gotten to spend time with her in Florida and have dinner with her while having really awkward experiences with the waiter and pretty much everyone we came in contact with.

2. My new colleagues, friends, fellow students of the NRL Academy are wonderful!
In the past few days I have gotten to meet some really amazing and BUH-RILLIANT girls. I've had nothing but good times with them all so far and I know that things will only get better over the next 6 weeks we spend together.  
some of the Academy girls before the final speaker on Saturday night

3. The incredible speakers that gave workshops at the Convention.

I don't even know where to begin to describe the people who led, spoke, presented, and motivated. 

Abby Johnson kicked things off with her story, which is always incredible to hear, but my favorite part of her presentation this time was her humor. That girl knows how to make Pro-Lifers laugh! She expanded more on her spiritual life this time than others times I have heard her speak; it was nice to hear. Some of my favorite quotes from her speech were:
"Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God." 
"Helping one person may not mean a lot to us, but it means a lot to our Savior."
"Somewhere out there someone is waiting for you to proclaim Life to them

Dr. Randall K. O'Bannon and Director of Education and Research for NRLC seriously KNOWS HIS STUFF when it comes to Planned Parenthood. His presentation The Hyper Political, Under Regulated, Mega Marketer of Abortion was one of the most comprehensive explanations of PP corruption I have ever heard (and ever understood). Some food for thought-
        Pregnancy test: $15
        Packet of birth control pills: $15-$50
        Pack of condoms: $6
        1st trimester surgical abortion: $451
        RU-486: $
There was so much valuable and shocking information in this presentation. I took super diligent notes so I could pass this knowledge along to Bobcats for Life in the fall and so I could further research it and I am just shocked at what turns up the more and more I look into it. My favorite quote from his presentation was "Planned Parenthood's plans typically don't involve parenthood."

We also heard from some Pro-Life Republicans who want to be President which was pretty neat. I need to look into them more, but from what I saw just that day- I thought Herman Cain and Rick Santorum seemed pretty legit on Life issues. Don't know who I support exactly, nor would this really be the time to get into that, but I liked them both. Santorum also has a child with Trisomy-18 which won him a lot of points in my book; it takes such an incredible person with an incredible heart to raise a child with that tragic condition. Curious to see what else I can find out about him. Also, we Skyped with Ron Paul, Michelle Bachmann, and Tim Pawlenty... no opinion on them really... except it sounded like Ron Paul was saying he thought abortion should be up to each state to decide and I think that would be a REALLY dumb move. Just my super educated opinion on that one...

Okay y'all... one of the most moving workshops I attended was Terri's Legacy about the story of Terri Schindler Schiavo. Her brother, Bobby Schindler, and sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, shared their experience with the dispute over Terri's life due to her husband's guardianship over their sister. I had never been fully aware of what happened to Terri because I was so young (and clueless) when it happened, but the story they shared broke my heart. I could not even imagine watching my own sister starved to death over 14 days, deprived of food and water just because she needed a feeding tube to receive sustenance. Food and water... which is now regarded as "medical treatment." They withdrew food and water while her family was more than willing to take her home and care for her themselves... just wow. Their foundation, the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network, has helped so many families faced with similar situations. I could hardly believe how frequently this is happening. To read about some of the successes and life-saving help they have provided, click here. I was so impressed by the selflessness and compassion shown by Bobby and Suzanne.

Baby Samuel reaching out of his mother's
uterus during a surgery to repair his
spina bifida
Photographer Michael Clancy
There were so many wonderful speakers that it would take me a really long time to give them each a shout out, but I feel so lucky to have been introduced to so many unique topics regarding the right to life from so many intelligent and talented people... like Michael Clancy who took the well known controversial photo of an  in utero surgery back in 1999. The picture has ignited much debate between Michael Clancy and the doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center regarding the photo's authenticity. Michael shared an amazing story of his difficult upbringing and the path that led him to the hospital room where the surgery on baby Samuel was performed. The picture has inspired many to understand the humanity and true nature of the preborn child as it reached out and grasped the doctor's hand as any newborn child might. 

4. Even though he was a speaker, he is my fave so he gets his own bullet point on this list.
Fr. Frank Pavone is so cool for many reasons (I wrote all these reasons down on his evaluation form after his workshop The Church, The State, and The Media). Fr. Frank is not only an awesome Catholic Priest, he is an outspoken defender of the unborn, a powerful and motivational public speaker, and a champion when it comes to utilizing social media outlets. Whether he is communicating via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, YouTube, Priests for Life's website, brochures, newsletters, his EXCELLENT book, his Pro-Life Prayer meditations, or public speaking engagements, Fr. Frank always gets his message across clearly and powerfully. I was telling someone today that another one of my favorite things about Fr. Frank is that despite how super popular and important he is, he is so humble and he treats everyone in the Pro-Life movement as a friend, not a fan (though I think it's safe to say that most of us ARE fans). Priests for Life is definitely the best online resource a Pro-Life group could ask for thanks to Fr. Frank!

During the workshop The Church, The State, and The Media that Fr. Frank, Ernest Ohlhoff, and Steven Ertelt of Lifenews presented, some of my favorite quotes from Fr. Frank were "We are the community that is sent out to renew the face of the earth." and, after telling a story about a police officer claiming to be upset regarding the images Fr. Frank displayed on a poster, he said "What concern is it of the cops what the content of my sign is?... Protected speech means that the speaker can keep speaking when the hearer gets mad." Rock on, Father Frank!  Also, he is just super cool- especially now that he has Bryan Kemper of Stand True Ministries working with Priests for Life! Can you say coolest respect Life shirts ever?! Bryan gave me a copy of his book Social Justice Begins in the Womb and signed it and I am so stoked to start reading it. I just love that slogan: social justice begins in the womb. So true.
Bryan Kemper and Fr. Frank Pavone throwing up the Texas State Bobcats sign!
Now that the Convention is over, I am in DC for the next 6 weeks with some really great people and I am so excited to see what kind of knowledge and excitement the summer has in store! Other than some intense 8 hour days at the Academy, I'm excited to visit the Basilica, St. Matthew's Cathedral, the GW Newman Center, DC CUPCAKES, RED VELVET CUPCAKERY, and a few other fun places. :) Keep me in your prayers, or more specifically keep my feet in your prayers... hoping for a blister free month of wearing heels!

"Nothing we do to defend the human person, no matter how small, is ever unfruitful or forgotten. Our actions touch other lives and move other hearts in ways we can never fully understand in this world. Don’t ever underestimate the beauty and power of the witness you give in your pro-life work."
-Archbishop Charles Chaput



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