On Sunday, October 28th, the Respect Life Apostolate welcomed nearly 800 attendees to its 38th Annual Respect Life Convention. The day-long convention, held at the St. Charles Convention Center, reflected on the theme "Respect God's Masterpieces." The day included Mass, luncheon, numerous speakers, exhibits, and an opportunity to network with like-minded pro-lifers. Present were families, young adults, parish pro-life coordinators, representatives from other area pro-life organizations, and elected officials.
During the luncheon program, the winners of the Bishop McNicholas and Cardinal Carberry awards were announced. The youth group from Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne Prairie took home the Bishop McNicholas award for their pro-life service efforts. The ICD youth group, led by youth minister Kristina Radley, have been regular attendees at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. as well as the monthly Helpers of God's Precious Infants Mass and 40 Days for Life. The youth have also been involved in a wide variety of service projects focused on upholding the dignity of all human life.
The winners of the Cardinal Carberry award were Emily Newsham and Jim Reardon. Both Emily and Jim have been long-time volunteers at the Respect Life Convention as well as being involved in the parish pro-life groups and March for Life bus captains. Jim is a parishoner of St. Alban Roe and was part of the first pro-life gathering in downtown St. Louis in 1973. For him, the 1973 Roe decision was particularly touching since his youngest son was born in January of 1973. Emily is a parishoner at St. Paul Parish in St. Paul and has been described by friends as being "100% volunteer with a servant heart." In accepting the award Emily noted, "When you're in it for life, you're in it for life!"
The highlight of the day was the keynote presented by Melissa Ohden. Melissa shared how she discovery the real story behind her birth and life, as a survivor of a failed saline abortion. Far from being tragic or full of hatred, however, Melissa's story showed the beauty of God's remarkable love. Through God's great timing, she was able to meet her biological paternal grandparents and share with them the joy of her oldest daughter, Olivia. Her keynote was a reminder that abortion is not an abstract concept, but one with a face and a name and how much our prayers and pro-life efforts can make a difference. (News coverage of Melissa's address is available here.)
Following the luncheon and keynote address, attendees had the opportunity to select from a variety of workshop presentations. Presenters included Dr. David Reardon, Nancy Valko, RN, Tyler McClay, and Sheryl Crosier. An adoption panel presented the perspectives of those who had made an adoption plan for their child, adoptive parents, and Archdiocesan efforts to assist adoptive families. Additionally, a panel of young adults presented tips and information to help young people remain pro-life on college campuses and at work.
Attendees also had the opportunity to visit with over 45 exhibitors. Exhibitors included pro-life organizations and other Catholic vendors sharing information about their programs and services as well as selling merchandise.
Overall, the day was a great success, allowing attendees to be nourished spiritually and intellectually. Attendees left armed with new information to share with family, friends, and fellow parishoners and were inspiried to continue building the Culture of Life. A heartfelt thanks to all of the staff and volunteers who helped make the day possible.
If you missed the Convention this year, make plans to join us for the 39th Annual Convention next October!