Monday, October 22nd, 2007
By Margie Wuebker
Minster teens' pumpkins send message
  MINSTER - Pumpkins decorated the steps leading to St. Augustine Catholic Church Sunday night as local teenagers found a unique and timely way to share their message.
"We lose 4,000 babies each day in this country to abortion," organizer David Slonkosky said. "It's up to us to make a statement since abortion involves our generation."
The teens said a classroom discussion last year provided the impetus behind what is known as the Pro Life Youth Association of Minster. The 30 members, all Minster High School freshmen, decided Halloween would be an ideal time to make a statement unlike any seen previously in the community.
The teens began contacting businesses weeks ago about donating pumpkins. They hit paydirt at Green Thumb Farm Market north of New Bremen. Owners Ned and Sherry Warner liked the idea of using each pumpkin to represent 10 babies.
"They offered us all the pumpkins we needed free of charge," fellow organizer Ellen Thieman said. "There was just one provision - we had to go out into the field and do the picking."
Picking pumpkins, ranging from squat selections to misshapen critters, proved to be more fun than most expected, Sophia Richard said. Laughter wafted across the field as the pickers went about their work filling a trailer in short order.
Rather than carve the pumpkins into traditional jack-o'-lanterns, the teens concluded a simple cross would be more appropriate. They enlisted community aid with volunteers coming forward to cut off the tops, scoop out seeds and fiber, and carve crosses.
"We put a request in the church bulletin and passed out fliers during the cutest baby contest sponsored by Minster-New Bremen Right to Life at the Oktoberfest," Slonkosky said. "We didn't have to persuade anybody to help."
Teens spent the weekend gathering carved pumpkins before gathering at the church steps at the stroke of 3 Sunday afternoon.
"Doing something to illustrate the toll abortion takes makes all this worthwhile," participant Holly Brandewie said. "It's up to us to get the word out to members of our generation."
More than 300 area residents showed up for the 7 p.m. event that began in silence as teenagers worked busily up and down the stairs lighting small candles inside the pumpkins.
The Rev. Rick Nieberding, local pastor, looked out over a crowd of nearly 300 people and noted the Halloween season is an appropriate time for such an observance - one that goes far beyond pumpkins and refreshments."
"I am not surprised at the efforts of our youth," Nieberding later told The Daily Standard. "I am more surprised by the wonderful turnout."
  The audience, ranging from senior citizens to toddlers, accepted an invitation to take home a pumpkin and light it during the Halloween season.
"We hope to make this an annual event at least during the next three years," Slonkosky said. "Then we hope other youths will step up when we graduate."
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