On December 26, 2013, Catholic News Agency reported on a December 19 press conference held by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. The cardinal’s words: “The Catholic identity of the school is fundamental” and went on “Noting the many challenges facing Catholic schools, the Cardinal added, ‘today one of the greatest problems is when large organizations want to impose gender ideology.’ The news agency quoted from the congregation’s document Educating To Intercultural Dialogue in Catholic Schools: ‘Today, due to the advanced process of secularization, Catholic schools find themselves in a missionary situation, even in countries with an ancient Christian tradition.’”

In Northern California, some devout young Catholics are aware of the issues Cardinal Grocholewski raised and are taking the initiative. Last August 12 CalCatholic reported on the first annual Pro-Life Youth Conference NorCal, hosted at San Francisco’s St. Mary’s Cathedral. The conference was presented by the Pro Lifers of the Mystical Rose, and headed by the group’s president, teenager Maria Lewis. One of the speakers at the August 9 conference was Joe Langfeld, deputy director of the Human Life Alliance.

Langfeld told the young people in attendance that studies show “…our real problem is that 60-70% of young people consider themselves pro-life when they leave high school. But only 29-30% (depending on the study) consider themselves pro-life when they leave college.” While that may be true it is also true that, following the conference, Miss Lewis told CalCatholic her best take-away was hearing one of the young attendees say “We never hear talks like this!” Given that the student in question was from a Catholic school, the need for increased catechesis on the Church’s teaching on life, marriage, and the family is apparent.

The young people at Mystical Rose are attempting to fill the void. The group has started an after-school program for Catholic middle-schools, called Be A Light. Their literature describes the program: “Pro-Lifers of the Mystical Rose designed Be a Light (an after-school middle-school program) to educate middle school students on Life & Death issues and help them build a support team of students their own age who are striving to live a faith-filled & Godly life.

“Instead of our middle school youth being indoctrinated by society’s evil promotions of death, this program is designed to help middle-schoolers truly believe the aspects of living a Catholic, pro-life, pro-marriage, & pro-God life. Through engaging talks, hands on activities, projects, and even pro-life music, this program will set the stage for students to go out to school fired up to not only live a faith driven life, but conquer their peers over to do the same…Be A Light program will be launched in locations in Northern CA starting January, and with the mighty power of prayer and grace from above, we hope to eventually launch this program in different locations on both coasts of America.”

Although completely youth-led, Miss Lewis told CalCatholic that Be A Light has the support of Father Jerry Brown, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Brentwood; Father  Stanislaw Zak, pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church in Oakland; and Father Lawrence Goode, chaplain of the San Francisco Senatus of the Legion of Mary and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in East Palo Alto. Father Goode told CalCatholic “I’ve known Maria for many years. It’s great to have a young person talking to other young people about these issues. We’ve got to back her up, to help her get her voice out there.”

The first Be A Light program will be held at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Brentwood on Thurs., January 9. They envision Be A Light as a monthly event at different churches or schools. Each program will start with student-led prayer, will include live music, and each session will focus on “a different pro-life related issue that middle school youth are challenged with in our society.”

To learn more about Pro-Lifers of the Mystical Rose, visit https://www.mysticalroseprolifers.org/