Massachusetts Citizens for Life’s Summer Academy brings pro-life high school students together for workshops and seminars that equip them to become pro-life ambassadors in their schools and communities. Part of the experience is learning to get up in public and speak about life issues and so we’ll be bringing you some of the speeches that the 2017 participants gave this summer.
By Olivia Colombo
My name is Olivia, and I’m going to be a senior in high school this fall. I’ve been involved in the pro-life movement for the past few years, attending the March for Life, organizing pro-life projects, and speaking. Last summer, I took part in MCFL’s PULSE Summer Academy with Sarah Mary Tocce, and then following that, I founded the pro-life club at my school.
I would like to tell you a bit about my pro-life story, in hope of demonstrating that we, as the pro-life generation, have the power to defeat the culture of death with every action we take and every word we speak. So here’s a bit of background: I’m a public speaker, blessed with the opportunity to share my witness around the country at schools and churches, whether it’s speaking about youth empowerment as a national representative of the Jane Goodall Institute, speaking about my personal Catholic faith, or giving pro-life 101 talks.
I’ve been recognized by Cardinal Seán O’Malley for being a “Witness to Life” in my March for Life Youtube videos. More recently, I filmed a series on CatholicTV about my faith and being a young pro-lifer that will air soon. I truly love this job. I love speaking and being able to share a message of hope, and the message that we can “be the change we want to see in the world.”
Whenever I speak, I stress the importance of defining your terms, particularly the true meaning of pro-life, which is to protect life from “womb to tomb,” from the moment of conception until natural death. Abortion most definitely is a pro-life issue, along with euthanasia, but it also includes issues like suicide and especially teen suicide. That’s where my story comes in, and I share it because I know many teens have similar stories. I wasn’t always passionately pro-life. I grew up in a small parish school and I always stuck close to the sacraments. I loved my faith, and always will. When I was twelve years old, I was in a rough place in school, unchallenged and bored, and severely bullied. It was then that I first heard the lies of suicidal thoughts creeping in my head: Your life is not worth living. You are unloved. You are not enough.
I dwelled in that darkness, believing those lies for almost four years. I didn’t know the value of human life. I didn’t know the value of my own life. And I didn’t until I had a good priest friend of mine look me in the eyes and say, “My child, you are special. Your life is worth living because you are a daughter of God.” No one had ever pointed out that identity before, and I certainly hadn’t believed it. It was then that it truly hit me, that my life, the lives around me, and even unborn lives are precious and beautiful because we are all children of God. Renouncing the lies of hate and unworthiness and claiming the truth of my primary identity as a child of God changed everything for me.
I share this so you know where I’m coming from, and so you know that my passion for being pro-life is deeply rooted in my story. But I also share this because I’ve turned my tears into testimony, and I’ve embraced the theme of the March for Life this past year: “The Power of One.” It only takes one teen, one act of kindness, one compassionate word, to save a life. Before I speak, my prayer has always been, “Lord, please just let one person be changed and I will have done my job. Let one mind be opened just a bit or one heart be touched, and it’ll all be worth it.” I was giving a talk at a church a few months back, and I was nervous, but I surrendered my talk and prayed those words. I gave the talk, went home, and then my phone buzzed. It was the priest whose church I had just spoken at. He explained that one kid had been touched, he was in the darkness that I had been in, and that he reached out for help after hearing my talk. I met this kid, several months later on a retreat. He thanked me and explained that he had just given his own witness talk to his group, and the turning point for him in his journey was my talk.
It’s the power of one. One voice, courageous enough, humble enough, and compassionate enough to speak up. One person, young or old, is all it takes to bring light, love, and life into the darkness. Be that one.
Olivia is a rising high school senior from Kingston.