On August 9 and 10 the first annual pro-Life Youth Conference NorCal was held at San Francisco’s St. Mary’s Cathedral. The conference was organized by Maria Lewis, the 17-year-old president of Pro-Lifers of the Mystical Rose, and was co-sponsored by the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. A number of groups sponsored informational tables at the event, including 40 Days for Life, the Sisters of Life from New York, Daughters of Mary for Life, Walk for Life West Coast, the GotLove Conference, Project Rachel, The Devout Life, and the Human Life Alliance.

Before the conference began CalCatholic spoke to some of the older people in attendance. Ed Hopfner, the Marriage and Family Life coordinator for the archdiocese of San Francisco said. “This is awesome! With the Walk for Life, the Rosary Rally, and now the Youth Conference, San Francisco is becoming a pro-life city!”  We asked Judy Parcher, the animator of the Daughters of Mary for Life, what message she would give to the young people facing the challenges in today’s world. She responded “Clear your mind with prayer and the sacraments and the graces will come to enable you to understand the work Jesus wants you to do” – a sentiment echoed by the Sisters of Life.

The conference opened on Friday, August 9, with an afternoon session and dinner from 4:00 to 9:00 pm. About 60 youth were in attendance. It was opened with a prayer by Father Lawrence Goode, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in East Palo Alto, followed by a welcoming speech by lead organizer Maria Lewis, president of Pro-Lifers of the Mystical Rose. Friday’s speakers included Joe Langfeld, deputy director of Human Life Alliance, who told the crowd: “A lot of people think youth are the future of the pro-life movement. That’s not correct. They are the NOW of the pro-life movement!” He told the youth that when we “show up, speak up, and stand up,” that’s when things change, and gave two examples where a single pro-life action by a single person had lifesaving effects.

Saturday’s session, which lasted the whole day, was attended by around 100 people. The  speakers continued: pro-life hero Walter Hoye, President of the Issues4Life Foundation; Lori Hoye, who shared her moving testimony; Stacy Massey of Abortion Recovery International; Patricia Sandoval, former Planned Parenthood employee and post-abortive woman who is now a determined pro-life pro-woman voice,  and whose EWTNespanol and Spanish youtube videos have gone viral; Mary Gabriel of Live Action; and Catholic convert and father John David Black. The talks were interspersed with breakfast and lunch, informational videos, and music by Caitlyn Cordano, and Jordyn Foley.

When Lewis was asked what her best take-away moment from the conference was, she responded, “It’s having all the youth come together realizing they can make a difference. They told me ‘We never hear talks like this!’ and said they would invite their friends and their parishes, and that they can’t wait for the next conference.”

Another high point for Lewis was the presence at the conference of four priests to hear confession. In addition to Father Goode, Father Jerry Brown of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood, Father Stanislaw Zak of St. Margaret Mary in Oakland; and Father Carl Arcos of St. Francis of Assisi in East Palo Alto were there. Lewis said “Some young people told me ‘Thanks for the opportunity’—they had not been to confession in over a year.”

Following the talks, the young people again followed the instructions of Pope Francis by taking their message to the streets.  Led by three Knights of Columbus in full regalia, and Nitin Mathew carrying a large cross, about 25 young people walked to the Civic Center, praying the rosary, singing hymns, and chanting “PRO” followed by “LIFE!” At the plaza, the young people assumed fetal positions on the ground in solidarity with their slain brothers and sisters, and spoke, as Lewis said “…for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Lewis also said “One person kept yelling at us, and some gave us the finger, but we just kept praying.”

Attendees told Lewis “We never hear talks like this.” Before the conference began, Joe Langfeld told us 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.”

Miss Lewis is already planning for next year’s conference. To learn more about the work of Pro-Lifers of the Mystical Rose, visit www.aglobetech.com/plmr/ which also links to the group’s Facebook page.