Pro-life teens at Auburn school get national recognition - Catholic Courier
Students stand in a group outdoors.

Students from Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate in Auburn pose for a photo during the Jan. 20 March for Life in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Laurie Faiola)

Pro-life teens at Auburn school get national recognition

A local Catholic high school’s commitment to the pro-life movement has been recognized at the national level.

The Teens for Life club at Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate in Auburn was recently nominated for Students for Life of America’s High School Group of the Year Award. It’s one of just 12 groups throughout the nation to be nominated for the honor.

“I’m so proud of these kids,” remarked Laurie Faiola, who has coordinated Tyburn’s Teens for Life group for more than a decade.

Under her direction, the students have prayed the rosary outside of abortion clinics, spearheaded schoolwide diaper drives and made regular trips to Washington, D.C., to participate in the March for Life.

Auburn group was nominated by Students for Life of America staffer

Tyburn’s Teens for Life club was nominated for the award by Taylor McGee, Students for Life of America’s northeast regional coordinator. More than a dozen regional coordinators work with SFLA groups throughout the nation all year long, and each of these regional coordinators may nominate a group for the High School Group of the Year Award, explained Caroline Wharton, press strategist and staff writer for Students for Life of America. They also may nominate groups for the organization’s annual awards for best college group and best new group.

“The high-school nomination must be a high-school group that has gone above and beyond this year,” Wharton said, noting that all nominated groups must be officially licensed with Students for Life of America.

After the organization’s leadership-initiatives team narrows down the list of nominees to three in each category, the public is invited to visit Students for Life of America’s website,, to cast their votes for the winners, Wharton said.

“Voting will open online on May 15 and close on the week of June 16,” she said. “Individuals will be able to vote online for a month, and the group that receives the most votes wins in each category.”

Respect for life has been ingrained in school’s culture since its founding

McGee reached out to Tyburn’s principal, Conor O’Donnell, in late March to tell him she’d nominated Teens for Life for the award for high-school groups, O’Donnell said. He added that McGee had previously spent a week at the school as a guest theology teacher.

“After spending time in the school, her assessment was that our kids were really well-educated and grounded in pro-life issues,” O’Donnell said.

Respect for life has been a priority at the school since it was founded in 1992 by the late Father Albert Shamon, a priest of the Diocese of Rochester. Tyburn’s freshmen take a course on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, which is an analysis — delivered through a series of papal addresses in the late 1970s and early 1980s — on the Catholic view of the human body, marriage and sexuality. And this year, the school offered a new bioethics course for upperclassmen, O’Donnell said.

“It covers everything from surgeries to organ transplants to more mature talks about natural family planning, cloning, abortion. It’s a pretty comprehensive overview of the modern issues, debates and discussions,” he added.

The course has to cover such a wide range of activities, O’Donnell said, because the Catholic Church teaches that being pro-life means respecting all life from the moment of conception until natural death. Sixty years ago, lessons in bioethics and Theology of the Body may not have been a necessary component of a Catholic education, but O’Donnell believes they are crucial today.

“We’ve got to, not necessarily change with the times, but recognize the times and support the kids,” he said. “When the culture is educating kids at a very early age (with) its secular views and the total autonomy it wants for the individual at the cost of the family, it’s very important to equip kids with the truth, but also with the arguments so that they can understand their faith better.”

Although Roe v. Wade has been overturned, work is necessary to build ‘culture of life’

Participating in the March for Life in the nation’s capitol and praying outside of abortion clinics provides students with concrete ways to put their faith into action, Faiola said. Spending time with others who share their beliefs and seeing the vast number of pro-lifers who turn out for the March for Life motivates them, she said.

“They’re learning … how important it is to stand up and make your voice heard for the voiceless. They don’t have anyone to speak for them,” she said.

Although the Supreme Court last spring overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which had legalized abortion in the United States, Faiola still brought a group of students to the March for Life this past January.

“Our work isn’t done yet. We still have to keep building the culture of life,” she said.

Tags: Catholic Schools, Cayuga County News, Life Issues
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