By Jay Nies
“All in Christ!” “For pro-life!”
The shouts echoed from St. Martin Church in St. Martins and from the steps of the Missouri State Capitol as members of local LIFE Runners teams paused to honor several of their own.
Dr. Patrick Castle, founding president and CEO of the National LIFE Runners Team (www.liferunners.org), talked with students of St. Martin School during Catholic Schools Week and led a rally and 5K run at this year’s Midwest March for Life in Jefferson City.
At St. Martin, he honored 5-year-old preschooler Boston Schroer, son of Joel and Shannon Schroer, as this year’s LIFE Runner male student of the year.
At the Capitol, Dr. Castle honored Dan Hinrichs of the St. Louis chapter as the adult male LIFE Runner of the Year, and the Helias Catholic High School LIFE Runners team as the chapter of the year.
The organization has about 5,160 members worldwide and is growing. Most are Catholic, but anyone is welcome to join.
Dr. Castle said there are about 1,000 members in Missouri, of whom there are about 500 in the Jefferson City area.
Members commit to help promote a culture of life by living up to the LIFE Runners creed and wearing a blue shirt or jersey with the words “REMEMBER THE UNBORN (Jeremiah 1:5)” printed in white on the back.
The quote from Jeremiah, a message from God, reads: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”
Many members are running enthusiasts who are seeking to win the race for Christ.
Some wear their jersey while running in marathons, 5K fundraisers or cross-country practices and events. Some take part in cross-continental LIFE Runners relays.
Others wear the shirt while walking or while simply taking care of their everyday business.
Dr. Castle pointed to a recent survey indicating that most women who have had abortions because they believe they have no other choice, would have chosen life for their babies if only one person had reached out to encourage them.
“Guess what, everyone! You don’t know who’s out there who is pregnant and scared and thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” he said.
“When they see your jersey, it’s gonna’ show them that someone out there cares,” he said. “And you may never talk to them! But with that message, you might help her remember that it’s not just about her and that she is called, just like all of us, to heroic virtue!
“You help her remember that she can heroically save her child’s life, and if she isn’t equipped to parent that child, there are people who will adopt that baby,” he said. “Without even knowing it, you can save babies’ lives!”
Dr. Castle urged the LIFE Runners to keep reminding themselves that they are different, that they are blessed, that they are called, that they are Catholic!
“Part of being Catholic isn’t just about being virtuous, but being HEROIC! Heroic virtue!” he said.
He also urged them to show heroic compassion — for mothers and for their babies.
“A lifelong journey”
Dr. Castle said St. Martin School has been a forerunner in promoting LIFE Runners participation among grade-school students.
“Some people think this is more of an issue for high-school or older, but one of the reasons we have a Catholic grade school is to help prepare our children to encounter the real world and be able to confront evil with good,” he said.
He told the St. Martin students that God had put the mission of the LIFE Runners on his heart, and he thinks about it all the time.
“And I’ve got to tell you, this young man has inspired me, the founder of this ministry,” he said of Boston Schroer. “He is one of my heroes! Every time I see him, I say to myself, ‘Right! Exactly!’ You bring me joy!”
Dr. Castle said it’s not just that Boston likes wearing the jersey, it’s also the energy and excitement he puts behind it.
The students gave Boston and his parents a protracted standing ovation.
Boston’s father, Joel Schroer, said Boston is aware of how proudly wearing the LIFE Runners jersey can inspire other students.
He’s heard children at running practice tell their parents, “I want a shirt like that.”
“Just wearing the shirt, wearing the jersey, is a sign,” said Mr. Schroer. “It’s a sign for the person at the grocery store, it’s a sign for a person at the playground, at the race, in the school.”
Boston’s mother, Shannon, said she and her husband talk about pro-life issues with their children in an age-appropriate way. So it’s a lifelong journey for all of us,” she said.
“Teamwork!” said Dr. Castle. “We’re all in this together. And it matters! There are people alive because of our team!”
He said everyone wearing a LIFE Runners jersey has a story of seeing one on someone else and answering the call to follow.
LIFE Runners led off the Midwest March for Life with an 8 a.m. 5K run.
At a rally on the Capitol steps, Dr. Castle said Dan Hinrichs has worn the jersey more than he has.
“He’s everywhere with it,” a woman in the audience stated.
“This guy is our Lou Gehrig, our Cal Ripken, our Bret Favre,” said Dr. Castle. “He’s that guy for our team — he’s in blue ALL THE TIME!”
“Dan, you are 2016 LIFE Runner man of the year,” said Dr. Castle, “and you are the man!”
He then addressed high-school LIFE Runners — mostly members of the chapters at Helias Catholic High School and at Jefferson City High School, where he teaches chemistry.
He reminded them that anyone born after 1973 is a survivor of legalized abortion, since about one-third of their generation had been aborted.
“And for those of us who have been fighting this for a long time, it can get pretty discouraging some of the time,” he said. “But what lifts us up? Seeing young people like you stepping up to take our place in the fight!”
He noted that Helias Catholic has the largest LIFE Runners school chapter, with about 100 members.
“You guys are AWESOME!” he said. “Keep going! Let’s give the Helias chapter the LIFE Runner chapter of the year award!”
He said he’s looking forward to helping plant more seeds and growing “a blue army of life-loving, heroically virtuously Catholic Christians in our LIFE Runner teams.”
“We’re gonna’ save people’s lives, just like Jesus saves our souls,” he said.