By Nadia Maria Smith

CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – Teens who know how to speak to their peers in a crisis pregnancy can save lives, according to Father Peter Pilsner, the founder of pro-life Befrienders program.

Father Pilsner began the program after a student at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, N.Y., had a baby in the school bathroom. The school administration was shocked because they were unaware that the girl had been pregnant, but Father Pilsner soon learned that the students knew.

“I realized that if teens know how to intercede for their peers, they could really make a difference,” Father Pilsner told Generation Life’s Teen Board during a recent meeting.

High school students and some young adults and pro-life moderators attended the Nov. 22 meeting hosted by Generation Life, a nonprofit organization spreading the pro-life and chastity messages to their peers.

The teen board meets every fourth Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to noon. Teens are invited to attend the prayer vigil held outside of an abortion facility at 8th and Appletree streets in Philadelphia followed by Mass at Holy Redeemer Church at 10th and Vine streets, where the meeting is also held.

“I thought it was a powerful model that could be implemented in the schools in this area, said Christine Friedrich, the Generation Life high school coordinator. “It helps students make a difference in the life of their friends by giving them the tools they need to be able to provide help for girls in this situation.”

Father Pilsner tells the students that the majority of women who get abortions are college-age so the training they receive is not only helpful to them during their high school years, but also in the years to come.

“If you have the right skills and are at the right place at the right time you might actually save a life,” Father Pilsner said. “A befriender’s job is to get the woman to the hospital or crisis pregnancy center to get the help she needs.”

The program is fluid and continues to improve and be updated with new medical information, government statistics and additional resources.

Freshmen and sophomores take the basic training first, which includes understanding why abortion is never the solution to a crisis pregnancy; understanding the experience of a woman in a crisis pregnancy; learning how to support them by listening, addressing their needs and helping them find the resources they need; promoting chastity; learning to read the warning signs of suicide; and understanding the importance of prayer.

“We are talking about changing, the woman’s heart,” Father Pilsner said. “Prayer helps bring the mother to really love the life inside of her and it also sustains you if you are in one of these situations helping a girl in crisis. It helps you keep your convictions strong and have compassion for the woman.”

Juniors take the advance training which includes learning how to speak about adoption; how to speak to a post-abortive woman; and how to answer the hard questions such as what to do in cases of rape or incest or if the girl wants to keep the baby but her parents are forcing her to abort.

The teens also learn about systemic abortion malpractice and the risks of abortion for teenagers. Additionally, they are introduced to pro-life ministries so that “when they graduate, they know what people do, and will become active in college,” Father Pilsner said.

The befriender program is a strictly confidential, non-judgmental and non-threatening program that stresses the idea of being a supportive friend, nothing more.

“Part of the training is to help strengthen [the teens] to be 100 percent pro-life and pro-chastity,” Father Pilsner said. “Befrienders can never say abortion is okay in this special case, because they understand that abortion is never going to help the girl and it is never going to be the answer to a crisis pregnancy.”

To learn more about the Befriender Program or the GenLife Teen Board contact Christine Friedrich at or (610) 918-1177.

CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at or (215) 965-4614.