By Virginia Curcio Rodriguez
“Keep quiet. You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re not strong enough. Just pray for them and move on.”
For as long as I can remember, these were the words haunting my thoughts when it came to defending my pro-life beliefs. I used to believe it, too.
Sure, I’ve done my research. I know why I am pro-life. I know why no person or thing could shake my stance, but I also know that I’m not a very strong speaker. I’ve never considered myself confident or convincing when it comes to my voice. I am usually reserved. I despise debating people and giving speeches, which is what defending life can feel like sometimes. I’ve always thought of myself as more of a prayerful force for the conversion of hearts, but sometimes the power of prayer is more hidden and doesn’t always seem powerful to most people.
Growing up, I went to public schools. During my freshman year, I realized most of my classmates were adamantly on the other side of the abortion issue. One of the only things I remember from that year is freezing up at the mere mention of abortion in my biology and health classes. I would tear up in defeat when my classmates condescendingly dismissed anything I had to say because I wasn’t a strong debater. I knew I could defend what I believe, but they took notice of my lack of confidence and used that against me.
I couldn’t speak. I felt powerless.
My sophomore year, I transferred to a Catholic school and thankfully, it has made beliefs much more vibrant. I’ve always had the unwavering support and reassurance of all of my teachers and most of my classmates. They’ve never failed to motivate and encourage me to stand firm in my beliefs, and I could not be more grateful for that. However, until recently, being at a Catholic school hadn’t really helped me defend those beliefs.
Sadly enough, I’ll walk our halls and sit in my classes just to still occasionally hear the pro-abortion arguments I heard my freshman year all over again. I’ll freeze up, thinking there’s no point in even trying. As much as I love and see the culture of life present in my school, there is still the occasional commentary that suggests otherwise. And most times vocally speaking out is what keeps the culture of life alive and at its strongest.
One year, our Pro-Life Club director asked me if I was willing to make an announcement for school advertising a local pro-life event that was happening. We wrote out the announcement and it seemed great, until I started shaking and stuttering while I was practicing reading it because I was so nervous about speaking for the whole school to hear. He (my school’s Pro-Life Club director) causally brushed it off and found someone else to do it, but again, I felt powerless.
This year, I was fortunate enough to go to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. with some kids from my school. Every year, after the March for Life, my school puts on a prayer service where the kids who went on the March talk about what they experienced there. I remember sharing some of my personal reasons for being pro-life with one of the teachers who went with us. One of his first reactions was, “Virginia this is amazing. Would you mind writing up something about this to share at our prayer service?” I froze. He knew I didn’t like public speaking, but maybe he just thought that because I’d be talking about something so close to my heart that I wouldn’t feel as nervous. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and agreed to write the piece, but, as usual, I thought about speaking and had second thoughts. I can write about things so confidently, but speaking is not my strength.
Writing has been my way of finding and confidently sharing my voice for so long. I just needed to accept my gift of writing and realize that it is a valid voice. I may still underestimate the power of how writing can help such a verbally driven cause like the pro-life movement, but it is the only place my passion flows so easily.
How would I, a busy high school senior, be able to take the time to use my voice so often through this, though? That’s where a simple conversation came in handy.
This past March, my school held a pancake breakfast and donated all of the proceeds to our local Life’s Connection, a pregnancy resource center. Representatives from Pro-Life Wisconsin came, and I had the opportunity to catch up with one of them. It was small talk at first, she asked me how I was doing, how senior year was going, and what classes I was taking. When I told her I was taking a creative writing class, she asked me if I liked to write, to which I enthusiastically responded, “I love to!” I was taken back, but mostly honored, when she told me she could get me in touch with their communications director so I could write about my experiences as pro-life woman in high school.
For so long, I thought my voice in the pro-life movement couldn’t make an impact–that trying to speak out wouldn’t be worth it because I would always be silenced, even when surrounded by mostly like minded people. One simple conversation paved the way for me to rediscover the strength of my voice. One simple conversation helped me realize that I can defend my beliefs, and just because I do it differently than the average person in the pro-life movement doesn’t mean it’s any less powerful. One simple conversation allowed me to confidently start being a written voice for the voiceless. This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t come to a Catholic school when I did, and I could never be more grateful to my school and to Pro-Life Wisconsin for helping that happen when it did.