By Kristen Sportiello
Being pro-life has always been important to me and my family. I grew up in a family of eight children, and my parents always emphasized that every unborn child is a gift who should be protected from conception onward. I was upset that some people felt they had to terminate their pregnancies, and I hoped and prayed that abortion would come to an end.
As I grew older, I learned that protecting life means much more than protecting fetuses; being pro-life means recognizing that everyone is a child of God, and every single person is worth our love and protection. Ignoring the human-trafficking crisis is not pro-life. Cutting aid to Central American countries ravaged by famine and violence is not pro-life. Detaining refugees indefinitely in squalid camps without enough food is not pro-life; standing with our brothers and sisters in solidarity and advocating for them is.
The Catholic Relief Services University program gave the University of Evansville the opportunity to do just that. I didn’t have any experience with advocacy before participating in this program, and many of my classmates were in the same boat. Fortunately, CRS made it very easy for us to organize an initiative advocating for refugees. The CRS website provided a wealth of information that helped us understand the situation at the border so that we could discuss it with our classmates, and the organization provided guidance on everything from recruiting new members to writing letters to Congress.
Despite our lack of previous experience, we were able to collect dozens of letters supporting refugees and host a multilingual migration-solidarity vigil where we prayed for migrants and reflected on what our faith teaches us about refugees. In addition, our service chair, Connor, gave a talk on using social media to live our faith and advocate for those most in need. Our last event of the semester was a migration simulation. Participants at this event made their way through several stations simulating certain aspects of what refugees experience, and discussion followed. We hope that these events helped people open their hearts and see refugees as their brothers and sisters instead of as the enemy.
We had several events this past spring, but there’s still much more we want to do. We hope to change more hearts and to advocate for other vulnerable populations whose right to life is under attack. Jesus said, “What you do for the least of these, you have done for me.” We hope that these words will guide everything we do over the next school year and help us create a culture that is truly pro-life.
Kristen Sportiello is a pre-med biochemistry major at the University of Evansville. She served as the Newman Club’s music/liturgy chair for the past two years, and she’s excited to serve as the service chair in the coming year.