The Viva la Vida Student Conference was held in Maynooth from Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd of November. Packed to capacity, delegates heard emotional and inspiring talks from renowned speakers.
Working at the conference wasn’t what I expected it to be. I thought knew what abortion was already and that I would end up sitting around bored, while speakers droned on and on about stuff I already knew. I was wrong. While Bryan Kemper was up speaking about the pro life movement in America I was enthralled. The speakers, from Bryan Kemper and Lila Rose at the start all the way to John Pridmore and Dr Anthony Levatino at the finish, were of the highest quality. Covering a whole range of abortion related topics like being actively pro life and the ugly process that is abortion they gave motivating and insightful testimonies.There was a great turn out each day, with some people staying over night while other people attended for the day before going home. For the people there, everything ticked over smoothly.
I enjoyed working at the conference. From meeting a lot of new pro life people to its’ great speakers it was it was a great experience and I would have been up for it again the weekend afterward.
I found the youth defence youth conference to be a inspirational weekend which was very enjoyable while at the same time being a very informative weekend. I found the members of Youth Defence to be very nice and helpful while the speakers were truly inspirational. In my opinion it was a weekend that will serve as my inspiration to become more involved in helping out youth defence in their fight for the most basic of human rights.
In particular speakers such as Gianna Jessen and Lila Rose were excellent and there testimony was particularly striking to me. From Friday evening right through until Sunday I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.
It's easy enough to say 'I'm prolife' and just leave it at that. But the message at Youth Defence's Viva la Vida conference was loud and clear saying it isn't enough. As long as abortion is considered to be acceptable anywhere in the world, words alone will never be enough. We heard this message time and again, from the many incredible speakers at the conference. One of the speakers who really stood out for me was Lila Rose, who has been working to expose Planned Parenthood's criminal activities since she was fifteen years old. She proves that young people can make a difference in society by being unafraid to stand up for what is right.
The weekend was a real call to action for Irish young people, and I will definitely be out on the streets with Youth Defence in the near future, helping to keep Ireland abortion-free.
After over a year in the making, the Viva la Vida! Youth Conference organised by Youth Defence kicked off at St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth on 20th November. This conference had a vitally important objective - one which matters a great deal to the continuance of the pro-life movement and to keeping Ireland abortion-free. We sought to inform and educate a new generation of pro-life leaders and activists, to get them working, and to make sure the pro-life movement had a future.
The week before the conference we were fully booked out - to the point where we had to move to a bigger venue within Maynooth. It was a great sign, but would these young people be interested? Would they commit to pro-life work, to speaking and working for Life? It’s not a cause that’s favoured by the media or that wins committed activists plaudits or praise. Yet its the cause that the late Pope John Paul called “the most important work on earth.” I’m glad to report that by Friday night the palpable enthusiasm and energy of the young attendees was very encouraging.
Friday’s events began with a beautiful welcome address by our own Eadaoin Roughneen. After welcoming the crowds of young people (and other pro-life delegates), she introduced Bryan Kemper and welcomed him back to Dublin. Bryan spoke about his many travels and great adventures throughout the past year and said: “But nothing compares to being back in Ireland!” He told of his life of drug and alcohol abuse and the corruption of life that he took part in. He said, “I had no respect for my fellow human person. That is what abortion is about. It’s not about a procedure, it’s about personhood.” He closed his speech by saying, “If we truly believe that God is bigger than abortion, we will make the world, like Ireland, abortion-free!” The cheers erupted! That night we hosted a Table Quiz and Trad Session, which turned out to be entertaining and great craic to say the least.
Saturday began with a powerful talk by Lila Rose, the young US pro-life leader. She told us about her organization Live Action and their main outreach initiative entitled, “The Mona Lisa Project”. The Mona Lisa Project has managed to expose the illegal practises of the largest abortion provider in the US, Planned Parenthood, through a series of successful undercover investigations. Lila spoke about how corrupt the abortion industry is and how it is still underpinned by the racist mindset that drove its founder, Margaret Sanger.
Lila went on to say that : “The whole world is looking to Ireland to see if it remains abortion-free.” This brought the challenge of keeping abortion out of Ireland to a new level, especially thinking that our country could have an effect on the way that other countries act regarding abortion.
Next in the program was Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute and Bernie Smyth of Precious Life who challenged us to take leadership of the pro-life issue. Niamh spoke about recent figures released in regards to the number of Irish Down Syndrome children that are aborted saying, “(Abortion) is truly horrific. Not only does it destroy human life, it destroys our very humanity.” She went on to say, “When resources were very limited in Ireland, people didn’t resort to killing their children. That’s what true compassion, real equality, and meaningful tolerance really is. ” I found this a particularly powerful point, thinking that our ancestors went through hardships we couldn’t imagine, yet they still gave their children life. Then, Niamh introduced Bernie, who gave her testimony on how she became involved in the pro-life movement and challenged the conference delegates to get involved, saying: "Do you know you have the power… to keep abortion out of Ireland? We will win this battle, if we rise to the call.
For the remaining session on Saturday afternoon, various young people spoke about their personal involvement in the pro-life movement. We called them the “A-Team” and they described many ways for young people to become active in the pro-life movement. Lucy McCully, a young woman from Scotland, spoke about her work with the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. She described the various projects they facilitate and, in particular, the Student Conference that SPUC hosts each year, which members of YD have spoken at. She also described how she has brought Youth Defence’s Schools Programme to schools right across Scotland to great acclaim.
She was followed by other young people who told of their involvement in the pro-life movement in Ireland, Australia and America; speaking about Youth Defence, Street Sessions, the Road Show, the Rally for Life, College Roadshows, Sidewalk counselling, Crossroads (the pro-life walk across America), Stand True Ministries summer tour, etc. It was an opportunity for the youth at the conference to hear the various ways that other young people have made a difference simply by being active and by being faithful to God’s will. It was inspiring because each of the “A-Team” was so realistic in their approach to the pro-life movement and was a witness to the world for the Culture of Life.
Saturday came to a close with a passionate presentation by abortion survivor, Gianna Jessen. She shared her moving testimony with a packed hall, telling how she survived a saline abortion and then how she rose above the fact that her mother (and the abortionist) tried to kill her. She spoke of her life saying, “Suffering has benefited me in every way. I survived an abortion not to be an appeaser. I don’t have time to be bitter; I have a life to live.” During the questions and answers section of her talk, she was asked about the US Healthcare reform bill currently circulating through the Senate and whether or not it will in fact promote government funded abortions. She answered “If Obamacare passes, everything we have accomplished in the pro-life movement will be void.” Saturday night closed with an animated evening of Karaoke, with people singing everything from Michael Jackson to Beyonce to Queen and the Grease soundtrack. It was a great night and everyone loved it!
Sunday turned out to be one of the most ‘talked about’ days of the whole conference. After Mass John Pridmore, former gangster turned Catholic, kicked off the day with a powerful witness. His conversion story reminded me in many ways of the testimony from one of the earlier speakers of the conference, Bryan Kemper. The core of John’s talk was a beautiful moment when he stated, “A heart is like a window. On one side is the love of God, His grace and love pouring down on us. On the other side is the stain of our sin. With sin we cannot see God’s love through the window. This is why we need confession.” He encouraged each person to be a light, and to share the love of Christ with every man, woman and child, and through that love to save the lives of the unborn.
Dr. Tony Levatino was up next with the most chilling speech of the weekend. Dr. Levatino used to perform abortions in the United States and began by describing in detail what exactly the abortion of a 20-week old baby entails.
Then he held up the instruments he would have used for the “procedure”, and explained how each instrument would’ve been used. He passed each instrument through the crowd. The audience was absolutely silent as they listened to him speak and as the instruments made their way through the hall. Dr Levatino, who is now a pro-life activist, closed by saying: “You can only change someone’s mind with love. Everyone has a story. It’s easy to pray for the babies. It’s easy to pray for the mother’s. It’s not easy to pray for the abortionists. Please pray for the abortionists.”
The conference was then wrapped up by Dr. Eoghan De Faoite. In a rousing speech, he asked the young delegates to be “pro-life without compromise, without exception, and without apology.” Eoghan explained that while we all have moments where we feel as though we are unable to bring about change, we all possess the power to make a difference. He spoke about the need for young people to be active in pro-life work, as it’s the only way we can defeat abortion and save babies. He closed by saying, “You can make a vital difference. You don’t have to be special; you just have to be willing.” He then introduced the Youth Defence video, which shows the work that YD has done since 1992.
The weekend came to a close at the GPO in O’Connell St in Dublin, with the candle-light vigil in commemoration of “Baby C”. Even with the bitter-cold winds we had great numbers in attendance, remembering “Baby C” and all the victims of abortion. After much hard work and anticipation, I can happily say that this conference went above and beyond everyone’s expectations. Young people from all across Ireland, from other countries, and from various backgrounds and ages, came in huge numbers. We were blessed with the presence of each and every person who attended, and by the calibre of speakers that we hosted. Since the conference, we have received nothing but positive acclaim and have heard from many young people who hadn’t been active in the past, but are now motivated and willing to be active members of the pro-life movement. We’re looking at an increase in pro-life street sessions and new talent has come on board to help with a range of exciting projects. YD and the pro-life movement has been tremendously blessed by the fruits of the conference. God is good.
Venue: St. Patrick's College, Maynooth
Date: 20-22 November 2009
Gianna Jessen is no stranger to these shores, having toured Irish colleges with Youth Defence in 2005. Her story is too remarkable and inspirational to ever grow old however, so it is a pleasure to be able to welcome her back again, and hopefully introduce her to a new generation of students.
Gianna survived a saline abortion at seven months gestation, and as a direct result of the abortion has lived with cerebral palsy since then. She has delivered her testimony to both Congress and the House of Commons. Gianna puts a human face to the whole debate, which so often and easily forgets that in every abortion, an individual human being’s life is ended.
When Lila Rose was 15, she founded Live Action films as a means to reach her peers with the pro-life message. Live Action Films seeks to expose the hypocrisies and lies of the pro-abortion movement, and has been incredibly successful at doing so. Lila has since launched several successful undercover investigations exposing racism and statutory rape cover-up at Planned Parenthood, and has attracted international media coverage.
Their most recent venture, “The Mona Lisa Project”, has prompted officials in several states to take action against Planned Parenthood, who are suffering ongoing investigations and cuts in funding as a result.
Bryan founded Rock for Life and then Stand True ministries, and uses the medium of music to reach young people with the pro-life message.
His success and charisma have brought him as far away as Australia and everywhere in between, motivating young people to actively take up the pro-life cause. A very popular speaker at the International Activists Conference in 2006, he has been an unstoppable force in mobilising youth into action.
Dr. Anthony Levatino has practiced obstetrics and gynaecology since 1980. He became infamous in the Albany area when he was one of the only abortionists around providing late-term abortions.
After a personal tragedy, doubts and inner conflicts that had been nagging for years eventually surfaced, and he quit. He is now a well-known pro-life advocate, and gives an incredible insight into the callous mindset of the abortion industry.
John Pridmore spent much of his life involved in organised crime, and was in and out of prisons since he was 15. He mixed with the gangs of east and west end London, where he says “to my shame I was involved in massive drug deals, protection rackets and vicious crime of all sorts”.
When he thought he had killed a man, he realised his life was missing something, and resolved to turn it around. He now dedicates his time to encouraging young people to do good with their lives.