By Celine Klosterman
The first time Jake Dagel heard about abortion, he knew it was wrong.
“It’s when the mom doesn’t want the baby and has it killed,” his mother told him when he was about 10.
“I had to do something about it,” said the senior at Spalding Catholic High School in Granville.
Since then he has taken part in numerous local and national pro-life campaigns; interned for Iowa Right to Life; lobbied at the State Capitol; done “sidewalk counseling” outside a Sioux City abortion clinic; become the international youth director for Pro-Life Unity; and co-founded Teen Defenders, a Pro-Life Unity organization.
He hopes that his upcoming presentation to youths at St. Mary Church in Solon about pro-life issues will inspire them to get involved as well.
“Teens are the ones being targeted” by media and pro-choice organizations that legitimize abortion and premarital sex, he said. “By being informed about what the Church teaches — instead of what society says — hopefully, (youths) will feel empowered and want to do something about abortion.”
During his 6:30 p.m. presentation at St. Mary’s on Dec. 1, Dagel will highlight fetal development, encourage respecting human life until natural death, explain Catholic teaching on artificial contraceptives, discuss Planned Parenthood and the concept of “choice,” touch on Theology of the Body, and promote Teen Defenders.
He also will show a video of an abortion, which individual parishioners may choose whether to view. Seeing a video of the procedure earlier in high school spurred him to launch a pro-life group on the social networking site Facebook, which caught the attention of Peter Shinn, founder and president of Pro-Life Unity. Shinn later invited Dagel to get involved in the organization.
Dagel believes “images, not words move people to compassion and action,” said Julie Agne, St. Mary’s director of religious education. “When we see pictures of famine-stricken countries or Holocaust victims, these images of human life needlessly suffering resonate deep within us. The truth in the images speaks louder than words can proclaim.”
Sammy Eckrich, a member of St. Mary’s and a junior at Solon High School, said she hopes Dagel’s presentation will help youths realize how “extreme abortion is and how important it is to do something about it.” Last year, at school, she and her sister Frances formed a Life Savers club, which took the initiative to bring Dagel to Solon. St. Mary’s is sponsoring his visit.
Unlike members of Life Savers, not all teens are receptive to Dagel’s message. He said that in response to his pro-life postings on Facebook, he receives hateful feedback regularly. “It’s hard to be confronted and have people yell at me every day. But I feel what I’m doing is right.”
He copes by reminding himself of the suffering Jesus endured before his death. “If he could get through that, I can deal with this.” Earthly trials are temporary, “but our rewards in heaven are forever.”
Dagel is reaffirmed by successes in his pro-life efforts. He said eight pregnant women he and other “sidewalk counselors” have spoken with as the women approached a Sioux City abortion clinic instead visited a pro-life pregnancy center nearby. Knowing babies will be killed if pro-life supporters stay silent keeps him motivated.
“If we don’t do anything, we’re just as much at fault as the abortionist.”
Dagel hopes to one day spread that message as a U.S. Congressman or priest. He’s currently applying to be a seminarian for the Diocese of Sioux City, with hopes of discerning whether he’s called to the priesthood.
“I feel called to become a better and stronger Catholic man by attending seminary even if only for a couple years,” he said. “…When you say, ‘OK, God, I’m here temporarily; use me any way you want,’ anything can happen. I just feel I’m being used by him to do whatever he wants.”