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A heart for life

First slide

Nobody wanted to take the packet, so Ryan Orr reluctantly grabbed it. Little did he know that picking up the "How to form a pro-life club" booklet at youth group would lead him to create St. Gianna's Life Defenders at Holy Trinity Church in Gainesville and ignite his passion for the pro-life movement.

"I thought even if it didn't work out, I could at least try," said Orr, a senior at Seton School in Manassas. "It's been amazing."

His love for life brought him and 12 other Seton students and St. Gianna members to the steps of the Supreme Court during oral arguments for Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. The controversial case created a chaotic atmosphere that ended up being one of the most meaningful events for the club, he said.

"It was crazy, I don't know how else to describe it. I was afraid it would push away (the students who had not been involved previously), but for everyone I talked to, it invigorated them," he said. "They saw how real this is, and kept asking, 'How else can I help out?' "

"Once you start (in the pro-life movement), it really grabs hold of you and it's hard to stop," said Orr, speaking from experience. His work with St. Gianna led him to a m.o.m.s. peace, a ministry that buries miscarried and stillborn babies. His friend mother's, Kara Palladino, knew of his club and asked him to help dig the graves and assist in the burials.

A m.o.m.s. peace helped him understand that it takes more than opposition to abortion to create a culture of life. Supporting grief-stricken families who have lost children naturally also is critical.

"A lot of times the deaths are terribly emotional, and there are unexpected hospital costs, so (this ministry) doesn't cost the family anything," he said. "It's truly amazing how God provides, not only in this m.o.m.s. ministry, but also in my own pro-life club."

Orr's other longtime passion is campaigning for local and national politicians. On long car rides with his father, Orr would listen to political talk shows, which inspired him to get involved. "I would hear all these tragedies and injustices within our own government. You have a right to be dissatisfied with the current position, but at some point you have to help move the change yourself and that was what I did."

Going door to door to promote a candidate was a chance to talk with people about political issues, but it also often led to evangelization. "People go from a political discussion to all of a sudden a religious one," he said. "It's just amazing how if you open up and let God take over He'll fill your life with wonderful things."

Next year at Benedictine College in Kansas, Orr will study political science in the hopes of joining the pro-life cause on the other side.

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016