Faith Foundations is a brand new program at Students for Life of America aimed at developing dynamic, thoughtful and persuasive pro-life leaders in Catholic and Christian high schools. Lauren Castillo is heading it up and here is a Q&A with her so she can tell you in her own words about the program, its goals, and why it is needed.
SFLA: Lauren, can you tell us about yourself a little and why you are heading up Faith Foundations?
Lauren Castillo: I am a wife and mom of two and our family lives in Denver. I went to a Jesuit Catholic High School and Regis University another Catholic school. I believe in the mission of Faith Foundations to help Catholic high schools across the nation build their students into pro-life leaders and grow the number of Students for Life groups at those schools. Having received a Catholic education, I know that being pro-life is at the heart of who we are as Christians. By educating students about the philosophical foundations behind the why of their pro-life beliefs and training them to articulate that message both compassionately and effectively, we are helping put their faith into action. That action enables them to tangibly bring needed resources and education to their peers, who are the generation most target by Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. I know that be reaching these students in high school we are helping them not only know why they are pro-life from a human rights perspective that is aligned with Catholic teaching, but they are growing as pro-life activists for life who will instrumentally impact the movement and their communities.
SFLA: What is Faith Foundations? Who are the organizations you are partnering with and what do they do?
LC: We are partnering with Healing the Culture and the Culture Project. Healing the Culture is partnering with us to bring their unique curriculum to these high schools around the country. They have a curriculum that has been translated into a kit that our field team members give to students and train them on so they are able to learn more about their pro-life beliefs from a philosophical perspective and put their learning into events that educate their school community. The Culture Project does dynamic presentations at schools to help students see their sexuality in a healthy, life affirming integrated way. Faith Foundations aims to start and grow the activity level of groups at faith-based high schools, therefore increasing the members of the pro-life generation and future college Students for Life leaders. It meets the need for solid Christian theological teaching and helps young people understand the richness of living a life of sexual integrity and virtue.
SFLA: What are the goals of Faith Foundations?
LC: We want to increase the number of Students for Life groups at Catholic high schools across the country. The vision is to have a strong, active, and vibrant pro-life presence at every Catholic high school across our nation.
SFLA: Will Faith Foundations be primarily for Catholic schools or will you be reaching out to Christians schools as well?
LC: Right now we are placing an emphasis on Catholic schools. But we are certainly working with Christian schools as well.
SFLA: Why is Faith Foundations a unique endeavor? What was the inspiration behind founding Faith Foundations? Why is it needed?
LC: Students for Life of America has over the years identified a struggle of building strong pro-life groups at Catholic schools and are answering that with Faith Foundations. Sometimes the struggle is because there is a lack of time teachers are able to talk to their students about abortion. Other times it is a lack of resources or knowledge for presenting in a way that reaches and activates students to do something about it. And honestly sometimes the administration feels this issue is only political.
Almost half of the 1,043 groups we have across the country are high school groups. And the majority of those are religiously affiliated. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We could be reaching so many more students if we had a presence at every Catholic high school. Can you image how much faster abortion will be not only abolished but unthinkable if we are able to educate and mobilize young Catholic students in every state to engage their schools and communities? It is a powerful and yet daunting vision, but we are working towards it. By partnering with Healing the Culture and the Culture Project we are able to reach even more young people who are committed to saving lives and helping others.
SFLA: How do you think Faith Foundations will positively impact students?
LC: By reaching these students in high school, we are working with them at a crucial part of their lives. Many are starting to question why they are pro-life or how they will defend their view once they go to college and are asked to defend it by someone who is as pro-choice as they are pro-life. They will receive high caliber education through this program on the philosophical and tangible human rights perspective of the pro-life belief. And this is all aligned with Catholic doctrine. I have no doubt that once these groups are trained, they will educate their peers what they have learned, promote resources, get connected with local pro-life organizations, and many will become pro-life missionaries in their future.
By satiating their craving for truth about this crucial social issue, we are building them up as leaders who not only recognize the largest human rights injustice in our country, are not only bothered by it, but are putting their faith into action to stop it. These young leaders are who will continue to build the important infrastructure that help those in need facing unplanned or difficult pregnancies. Once these students join the pro-life generation, they are in it for life.
SFLA: Is there a large educational aspect to Faith Foundations? How will that be implemented?
LC: Yes, there is. Healing the Culture’s curriculum is a huge foundational element of the program and kit. The students will receive a great informative background of the pro-life view not only from philosophy, theology, but also from the human rights perspective. This enables the students to talk to their peers in a tangible way that makes sense to them. Each week or month at their meetings they will have different ways to learning through this program. It ranges from informative videos, in person trainings from apologetics to leadership, flash cards, and tangible challenges to put together events that ties in all that they have learned to reach their peers.
SFLA: What kind of resources will Faith Foundations offer schools/groups?
LC: In our partnership with Healing the Culture, we have built a kit that the students will receive. Through the kit, our Regional Coordinators are able to give the faculty advisors and students the structure, knowledge, and ideas for events that will last the entire school year. They won’t have to re-create the wheel. It’s all there. Our Regional Coordinators are even available to travel and meet with the students to train them in person at the convenience of the teachers and administration.
Being a resource organization, Students for Life of America is really able to equip these groups with endless resources ranging from education to support and resources.
SFLA: What’s a common misconception people have about pro-life groups in Catholic schools?
LC: Either that they exist or are really active. The reality is that there are many Catholic schools without a pro-life group and many that have one, will go to the National or local March for Life and not do any other activities that engage their peers. We want to identify those motivated students and activate them to do more to meaningfully reach their peers with the reality of abortion, it’s life-affirming alternatives, and connect them with local pro-life resources like a pregnancy resource center.
Another misconception is that these students don’t have to do any education with their peers, because there is a widespread assumption that every student attending a Catholic school is pro-life. That is not a reality. There are students who are not pro-life or who grew up pro-life and start to question why they are pro-life. That is why these students must reach their peers. Every Catholic student at these schools should learn to articulate effectively why they are pro-life and be able to defend their view point compassionately.
SFLA: Will you be working with Catholic dioceses to organize Faith Foundations in schools?
LC: Definitely. Catholic dioceses are already doing amazing work to help educate and gather their pro-life students together for events, most notable local and national Marches for Life. We will be working closely with Dioceses in each region to reach their pro-life students, compliment the work they are already doing, and grow the activity of the youth in that diocese. We have already been able to work with numerous dioceses to meet with the Catholic school’s superintendents and theology teachers to present the Faith Foundations program.
SFLA: How can people get involved in helping bring Faith Foundations into their schools?
LC: They can contact me! By email at LCastillo@studentsforlife.org. We can get them information about the program, connect them with a local SFLA regional Coordinator and get the kit in their hands to start the program. Once they have a teacher willing to sponsor the students as a pro-life group advisor, everything really flows from there. If you know a teacher or student who might be interested, have them contact us to get started.