June 12, 2003
Won’t Back Down
By Howie Mansfield
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Notre Dame student Patrick McQueen writes strong pro-life letter to Senator Clinton
UTICA — Standing up for one’s values can be daunting. That stance is especially difficult to maintain in high school with peer pressure and other outside influences. Patrick McQueen, 16, a sophomore at Notre Dame High School and parishioner of St. Anne’s Church in Whitesboro, holds strong to his pro-life position, despite what others might say.
During a recent Global Studies class assignment, Patrick wrote a letter to U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) in support of banning partial-birth abortion. The tone of the letter showed Patrick’s religious values and belief that all life is sacred. “To oppose a bill banning partial-birth abortion is both inhumane and un-Christian. How can you possibly call yourself a Christian if you support a woman’s right to choose, especially in such a brutal manner?” Patrick wrote. “For a mother to use the excuse that she can’t afford a child right now, or isn’t ready to take responsibility of parenthood, is totally unacceptable. These young mothers and fathers must be able to accept the consequences of their actions.”
Patrick said the issue of abortion really hits home for him. He is an adopted child and feels fortunate to be alive — that his birth mother chose to carry him to term and not abortion, he explained in the letter. “Adoption is a practical and simple answer. … I, myself, was adopted at birth. Although I do not know my birth mother, I thank her every day, through prayer, for giving me the gift of life. If she had chosen to abort me, my family would never have shared the simple joys of life in the same manner,” Patrick continued in the letter to Sen. Clinton. “As a Christian, an adopted child and a person, I am appalled by your decision to oppose the bill banning partial-birth abortion. … You have been afforded the wonderful opportunity to make a difference in this world, to set a standard, and have failed miserably. I only hope that the Lord will have mercy on you and your fellow pro-choice colleagues.”
Patrick explained that his parents, Bob and Christine McQueen, always talk about issues with him. “They are both very pro-life and when a political election comes up, one of the first questions they ask is whether they are pro-life or pro-choice,” he said. “They have always influenced me.” The learning atmosphere at Notre Dame has allowed Patrick to grow in his understanding of his Catholic faith, he said. “People here make it easier to talk about the tough issues. Not everyone is Catholic here, but we share similar values,” he said. “We can have discussions and disagree.” Patrick said he has role models of faith on both sides of his family. Father Edward Lenk, OFM Conv., a Franciscan priest who died a few years ago, was Patrick’s great uncle. “He really inspired me. He loved to talk about politics with me,” he said. “Sister Dolorosa Lenk, [OSF] is his sister. We have a strong Catholic family and upbringing. Having a religious background helps you make choices and decisions.”
Peter Troy, Global Studies teacher at Notre Dame, said Patrick isn’t afraid to stand up for his beliefs. “Patrick always asks very diverse questions about the issues,” Troy said. “He has a good grasp of so many complex topics for such a young guy. He’s a bright kid. He’s very gregarious and mixes well with others in this school.” Troy said asking the tough questions is a part of educating one’s self to be a better person and informed citizen. “One of the beauties of the Catholic school system is that these kids don’t have to be afraid to talk about the issues,” said Troy. “Patrick does a good job of that.” Michael Zasa, morality teacher at Notre Dame, said Patrick sets himself apart. “He’s an intelligent kid and very social. He’s so well informed about Catholic teaching that it comes out in every issue whether it be about capital punishment, abortion or any other justice issue,” Zasa said.
Patrick said morality class has given him more skills to better defend his pro-life stance. “Morality asks thinking questions and it forces you to make decisions based on your faith in God,” he said. “I concentrate on my faith on an everyday basis.” Patrick is more than just a good student. He is a member of the school’s varsity soccer team and Junior ROTC program. Through ROTC, Patrick has volunteered his time at various nursing homes and facilities. The entire ROTC experience has given him a taste of what to expect from military life. “I would like to go into the Navy after high school, probably focusing on science,” Patrick said. “A Catholic person can still be in the Navy and hold on to their values. Father Lenk did that in the Army. I feel that I can do the same.” Troy said that Patrick is an exceptional student Notre Dame is happy to have as a part of its community. “A good teacher might bring out the best in their students, but a good student also brings out the best in their teacher,” Troy said. “It’s fun to be here and we are very proud of all of our students.”