About 8,000 middle school and high school students from across the Archdiocese of Los Angeles attended the 5th annual Christian Service 4LIFE rally on Oct. 25 at the USC Galen Center in Los Angeles. (photo/Victor Aleman)

Youths from throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles attended “Think Big,” the 5th annual Christian Service 4LIFE rally at USC’s Galen Center. More than 8,000 students from 88 middle schools and 27 high schools were on hand for the inspiring and educational half-day gathering on Oct. 25.  

“Think Big” highlighted the fact that although individually we may be small, together — with God’s abundant grace — we can do big things, according to Carol Golbranson, executive director of LIFEsocal, a nonprofit pro-life group founded by local students and families.

The rally, a joint effort of LIFEsocal and the archdiocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace, challenged young Catholics to re-engage with their Christian obligation to serve all human life: including the old, young, unborn, pregnant, disabled, disadvantaged, impoverished, homeless and the suffering. The uplifting event encouraged the students to become involved in their communities, and to be life-giving toward all people.

“We hope to awaken and nurture a call to ministry that will pay social dividends for decades to come,” said Golbranson.

The participating youths entered the Galen Center to the beat of pop music and choreographed dances, getting them excited for the day ahead. Their enthusiasm was palpable and their desire to hear God’s message seemed evident on their smiling faces as the students filed into the arena to start the gathering.

Angelus News asked eighth-grader Tatum O’Brien of St. Monica’s Academy in Montrose what she thought of being at a pro-life rally with thousands of her peers.

“I think it was a great experience. I really enjoyed it. It made me appreciate life,” said O’Brien. 

The high-energy morning kicked off with a warm welcome by co-hosts Katherine Lund and Brittney Shauran, a former contestant on America’s Top Model. Bishop Joseph V. Brennan, episcopal vicar for the San Fernando pastoral region, sang the national anthem and four schools participated on stage in a competitive round of the spiritually themed “Game of LIFE: Think Big Edition.”

The tone of the rally went from jovial to serious when international speaker Patricia Sandoval took center stage. Sandoval’s unassuming demeanor surprised the audience, as she passionately shared her own personal testimony of having had three abortions, and the devastating effects they had on her life.

Sandoval, who is 37 today, shared how, as a young teen, she wanted to be popular and successful. She said it was her worldly desires that led her down a dark path to alcohol and drugs, and ultimately, homelessness for three years. 

She told the attentive crowd that one day as she wept on a street corner and cried out to God for forgiveness, a young woman came up to her and gave her a hug. Shortly thereafter, the woman helped Sandoval find her mother, who had been praying for her every day since she had been homeless. After reuniting with her mother, she returned to the Church, attended Mass and started praying the rosary.

As a motivational speaker for the past 10 years, Sandoval said she hopes that the youths she addresses in her presentations will learn from her mistakes.

“It struck a chord with me. It makes my problems seem small,” said Dayani Williams of St. Mary’s Academy in Inglewood regarding Sandoval’s testimony.

Sandoval’s story resonated with many other students as well.

“Patricia’s story reminded me that you always get a second chance,” said Emma Stolpe, who is a freshman at Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena.

Archbishop José H. Gomez’s homily echoed Sandoval’s message that God is merciful. He stressed the importance of going to confession and receiving the Holy Eucharist.

“God always forgives us. The challenge we have is that we are not attentive to God. He wants us to be happy and to accept his mercy,” said the archbishop.

During the Benediction the crowd kneeled respectfully throughout adoration of the Holy Eucharist and sang hymns.

Asked what she liked best about the Christian Service 4LIFE rally, pigtailed sixth-grader Camille Legaspi gave a simple answer: “I got to see the Eucharist and pray with my friends.”

Angelus News got another inspiring perspective on the pro-life rally from Valerie De Luna, a senior at St. Joseph’s High School in Lakewood.

“It’s very necessary. More people should be invited to this event. If you come with an open mind, you will leave with a lot of understanding,” said De Luna.

The Christian Service 4LIFE event inspired Joseph Domingo, a ninth-grader at La Salle High School in Pasadena. He spoke with Angelus News about why it’s important to be pro-life in this day and age.

“Now that I am in high school it is important to me to be pro-life. Now is the time a lot of kids decide. Every human life matters not just as a Catholic, but as a fellow human,” said Domingo.