Ministry drives home pro-life message
Marygrace Carney was a senior last year at Roncalli Catholic High School in Omaha when she saw the ultrasounds.
"Getting to see the baby in the mother’s womb hopefully opened the eyes and the hearts of my fellow classmates, as it did mine," Carney said. "It was very informational and interesting."
Opening eyes and hearts of young people is the focus of the ultrasounds-for-high-school-students program, created by Nikki Schaefer, who also runs Heart of a Child Ministry, making pillows with pro-life messages to raise money for pro-life groups.
Last year, Schaefer teamed up with Omaha-based Nebraskans United for Life and its mobile ultrasound ministry to appear at high schools.
Their mission, with volunteer mothers and approval from the archdiocese: Bring the humanity of the unborn child direct to students, as they did last year at Roncalli Catholic.
Jenny Livingston, a member of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha, was the volunteer ultrasound subject for the Roncalli visit.
"I thought it was a great way to bring it home to some of the kids, to let them actually see the baby moving," she said.
Livingston even found out her baby was a boy during an ultrasound presentation for a group of Roncalli Catholic students. "There were about five of them in there, and the volunteer that was doing the ultrasound told me it was a boy."
That experience gave Livingston a chance to bond with the teenagers and share her pro-life beliefs.
"I did try to make a point, every time we had a new group of kids, to say, ‘Isn’t that crazy, there’s a new life, a real baby inside me.’ I wanted to try to open the door for them so it would be easy for them to ask questions."
She even solicited baby name ideas, "so they could feel they were part of something special."
The teens – Livingston saw between 80 and 100 during her volunteer stint with the ministry before she gave birth – were usually very curious, she said.
She was surprised by how many asked questions, with the boys often asking more than the girls.
"But they had reality-type reactions, and that was the goal for us," Livingston said.
Ann Marie Bowen of Nebraskans United for Life said part of her ministry is teaching about unborn children’s humanity, and collaborating with Schaefer provides more opportunities to bring that message to young people.
"I see a lot of amazement in the eyes, even without the comments, as we teach them about the humanity of the unborn child," she said. "We know that the ultrasound has been very effective."
During ultrasound presentations in the converted recreational vehicle, Schaefer, a member of St. Francis Borgia Parish in Blair, stays inside the school giving a pro-life presentation. But she said she can see the presentation’s effect when the children return to the classroom.
One response especially sticks with Schaefer – a young man who told her he had been pro-choice before seeing Livingston’s ultrasound.
"He said, ‘But that’s a baby, and that changes everything.’"
Nebraskans United for Life and Heart of the Child Ministries have several ultrasound and pro-life presentations planned for parishes and schools. They include:
Oct. 19 and 26 at St. Francis Borgia Parish in Blair, with ultrasound presentations to parish religious education students.
November ultrasound at V. J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School, Omaha.
Feb. 13, Roncalli Catholic High school, Omaha, ultrasound.
March 6, Pope John XXIII Central Catholic High School, Elgin, ultrasound.
April 28, St. Vincent de Paul School, with age-appropriate presentations on the gift of life.
Interested parishes and schools, contact Nikki Schaefer at firstname.lastname@example.org