By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

PRIMOS – St. Eugene School is pro-life. Well, all Catholic schools are pro-life. St. Eugene in Primos is especially so, thanks to eighth-grader Teresa Greiner. On her own initiative, she started a pro-life group which meets regularly at the school, and if all goes well, will continue long after she has graduated.

“My mom and my dad (Timothy and Francine Greiner) have been pro-life all my life so I’ve grown up with it,” she said.

Growing up in a pro-life family with seven kids – Veronica, Thomas, herself, Christopher, Theodore, Mary and Peter – she’s been more exposed to the issue than many of her peers. She’s been to the annual March for Life in Washington twice; last year with a bus from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Springfield and this year with a busload from Holy Cross Parish, also in Springfield. She’s also prayed the rosary with a pro-life group at a Planned Parenthood location.

“I think everyone has a right to live,” Greiner said. “Killing the most innocent is totally wrong.”

In today’s society she believes that is not the message being given to children through the media.

“I think most kids don’t understand what it is about,” she said. “I know a couple of kids who aren’t pro-life but most of the kids I know are,” she said.

Greiner knew many high schools have pro-life groups, and she thought it might be a good idea to teach younger children about it too.

“I thought this was a way to teach young kids to know that this is happening, and we can change it,” she said.

She mentioned it to her parents and with their encouragement she approached St. Eugene’s religion coordinator, Kelianne Miley, to ask if she could form a pro-life group. Miley thought it a wonderful idea and in turn consulted Jane Magnatta, the school’s principal, who readily agreed. Greiner rounded up interested students in grades six through eight, and with Miley as faculty adviser, the group formed.

“I think it’s wonderful, the earlier we can get children to understand the values of the Catholic Church the better,” Magnatta said. “Many of the children didn’t know much about abortion other than what they hear on television. We (also) talk about the dangers of smoking; values are important and this has to be important.”

The group has about 30 members, and Teresa is its leader. It usually meets every other week. The students sacrifice their lunch hour for the meeting because most of them are bused to school and it’s difficult to do after-school programs.

Among their activities, they’ve brought in pro-life speakers; prepared posters to be hung around the school; made a St. Eugene pro-life banner, which Teresa took to Washington; and purchased t-shirts bearing the message, “Life: a person is a person, no matter how small.”

Greiner will graduate in June, but she’s already thinking of finding a replacement for herself next year to keep the group going. She’ll be continuing on at Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, Bryn Mawr, on a scholarship. “They have a nice pro-life group,” she said.

After high school she’s looking forward to college, hopefully to study for a career in psychology – perhaps child psychology. As for her future in the pro-life movement, “if there is a way to help, you should do it,” she said. “Pro-life will always be part of me.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.