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Think today’s young people are lost to politically correct ideas about what constitutes a family? You’ll think again once you meet the youth wing of the Family Institute of Connecticut.
BY Joseph Pronechen
Relativism. Immoral en--tertainment and attacks on the family. What’s a youth
to do to buck the trends? Why, join the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC)’s
new youth wing, iFIC.
The name of this offshoot purposely
reflects the iPod generation. Only these members aren’t out for amusement, but
to fulfill the rest of iFIC’s mission statement: “To promote and uphold
traditional family values in the state of Connecticut by encouraging,
challenging, and em--powering the leaders of tomorrow to dare, defy and do.”
“We want young people to dare to
make a difference, to confidently stand up for traditional family values and to
be witnesses of it among our peers and fellow citizens across Connecticut,”
says iFIC’s 24-year-old director, Leah Ackland.
Already 48 members strong, iFIC
worked arm in arm with its nonsectarian parent at the Family Institute of
Connecticut Rally for Marriage on Sept. 28 at the Connecticut statehouse.
Together they attracted 2,800 supporters. Among those working for the
protection of traditional marriage were Zach Wood and Jennifer Landry.
“It was our first rally, and it came
off incredibly well for FIC and iFIC,” says 18-year-old Wood, a college
student. “We were in the crowd handing out information on marriage and what
iFIC is doing. We knew we were having an impact right then.”
It was an easy move for him into
iFIC, which is made up primarily of Catholics and evangelical Protestants,
because he already had done some volunteering with FIC. “I was really excited,”
he says, “because iFIC was going to be a way for the youth of Connecticut to be
involved in what we believed had to be done to further pro-family issues.”
As a 2007 college graduate,
23-year-old Landry attended public schools and grew up Catholic. Her parents
always brought her to Mass.
“As a high school freshman with
conservative values,” she explains, “I was, in a way, naive to the evils in the
world.” Everything came to a head in one class whose weekly assignment was to
give a synopsis of a current-events article. One student used it to promote
homosexuality, and he asked for opinions. When Landry said this lifestyle was
morally wrong, “Every student but one verbally attacked what I said,” she
recalls. “I couldn’t believe it. They were brainwashed. That was my basis for
realizing how important these things are.”
Voice of Experience
The iFIC is becoming a boon to
like-minded college and high school students. “Conservative youth at the moment
feel isolated in their views. Our organization wants to unite these people and
give them the power to act,” explains Ackland, who works for the Archdiocese of
Hartford as Catholic campus minister at the University of Hartford and is
studying for a master’s in theology at Holy Apostles College in Cromwell, Conn.
“When you talk about the John Paul
II generation, Leah is it,” says FIC executive director Peter Wolfgang. He met
her at Hartford’s Cathedral of St. Joseph, where they attend daily morning
Mass. Wolfgang learned Ackland had already done pro-family work in college.
Once he explained his vision for an FIC youth wing, she added ideas, and iFIC
Wolfgang knew the potential impact
of a youth wing. Prior to what he calls his spiritual and political conversion
while in law school, he was active in left-leaning, liberal causes in his
“From my experience growing up in
Connecticut, I know how the anti-family groups get their hooks into the youth,”
he explains. “Members of our group would go to work for them and intern for
them in the summer. I saw how the groups working in favor of abortion and
same-sex ‘marriage’ have a long-range plan, a very sophisticated operation to
reach and to cultivate the youth and use them to perpetuate their
anti-Christian ideologies. I wanted to take what I learned firsthand growing up
as a left, liberal man and apply it to winning the battle for faith and family
Answering that call is the “dare” in
the iFIC’s mission statement. Ackland says the “defy” and the “do” are made
manifest in the work of young people like Valeria Barbier, a college junior who
gave key testimony before the state legislature that helped kill a bill that
would have given Planned Parenthood $1 million to teach sex education to
“Because Valeria was a young person,
she could say to Planned Parenthood what men can’t get away with saying,”
reports Ackland. “They have a vested interest in sexualizing the youth; it’s a
Barbier’s outspokenness is the kind
of daring action iFIC is encouraging.
“The ‘defy’ is to defy low cultural
expectations and reject the status quo by setting higher expectations for
ourselves and others,” Ackland continues, such as talking about abstinence
before marriage in the positive terms of chastity.
The “do” element means attending
public rallies, making promotional videos to post on YouTube, and countering
the “gay-straight alliance” clubs in schools by establishing a
Father Michael Dolan, the Archdiocese
of Hartford’s coordinator of campus ministry for 12 campuses and chaplain at
the University of Hartford and Trinity College, sees the iFIC as
“Most campuses are politically
correct, and it’s hard to get a message heard that doesn’t tow the line,” he
explains. “iFIC is learning how you speak a language people understand in order
to transmit a message of great and lasting value.”
the University of Hartford Father Dolan sees one woman in particular using her
faith to engage the people in her dormitory, where intense conversations take
place among friends and acquaintances.
“There’s no reason to think iFIC
will not make just as much progress and become just as accepted as groups on
the opposite sides of the issues,” he says.
group hopes to spread iFIC membership statewide and beyond. In September,
members were invited to make a presentation to representatives of the evangelical
organization Focus on the Family in Washington, D.C. Since then, people from
around the country have contacted iFIC, expressing interest in setting up
similar movements in their states.
“Hopefully,” says Ackland, “this
will become a national movement.”
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen is
based in Trumbull, Connecticut.
INFORMATIONCTFamily.org/youth (877) 33-FAMILific@ctfamily.org