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Published: Tuesday, 1/21/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Prayers rise for end to sex trafficking

Annual service looks at modern-day slavery

BY TK BARGER
BLADE RELIGION WRITER
Jeff Wilbarger, center, director of the Daughter Project, talks to Central Catholic students about his organization and the effects of human trafficking at the annual Respect for Life service. Jeff Wilbarger, center, director of the Daughter Project, talks to Central Catholic students about his organization and the effects of human trafficking at the annual Respect for Life service.
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Central Catholic High School welcomed a teacher from Emmanuel Christian School on Tuesday to speak about human trafficking and recovery at its annual Respect for Life prayer service.

Jeff Wilbarger is founder and director of the Daughter Project, a nonprofit he formed to support human trafficking survivors.

PHOTO GALLERY: Respect life prayer service

Mr. Wilbarger said his presentation is “a prevention thing” for students to “maybe help some of these kids from getting wrapped up in something like this, but helping to raise awareness and maybe they can get involved and help to solve the problem too.”

He said the world has 25 million slaves, more than at any time in human history. In the United States, 100,000 children are victims of sex and labor trafficking.

Toledo has been listed at No. 3 for sex trafficking activity in the United States and the No. 4 top location per capita for underage abductions, speakers said.

In 2011, Mr. Wilbarger’s Daughter Project had $50,000 and started to build a house as a local recovery shelter for survivors. What amazed him was the scope of construction services donated. Upon completion in 2012, $50,000 remained on hand.

But toward the end of 2013, the project ran out of money, Mr. Wilbarger said. He laid off staff, closed the house. Then, in December, he said, donations enabled the project to get back up and running.

Among those featured at the prayer service: Connie Peebles, a theology teacher and pastoral assistant. She said her students chose to be involved with the Daughter Project and the school will stay involved. The school gave Mr. Wilbarger a donation at the prayer service.

Though the prayer service was held on the eve of today’s anniversary of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, Central Catholic’s prayer services have encompassed other issues about respect for life, including the death penalty and organ donation.

Connie Peebles, right, speaks to Central Catholic juniors Karlee Reny, left, and Meghan Suder before they present during the Respect for Life prayer service. Connie Peebles, right, speaks to Central Catholic juniors Karlee Reny, left, and Meghan Suder before they present during the Respect for Life prayer service.
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“Respect for life is about the natural conception to the natural end of life,” Mrs. Peebles said. “I want my kids to realize that respect of life, being pro-life, means that you are pro-life throughout the whole life of a person. You can’t just pick and choose what part of it you want to respect.”

Along with other schools from the Toledo area, Central Catholic is sending 30 students and the school’s priest leader, the Rev. Matthew Rader, to Washington for the annual March for Life today.

Laurel Schroeder, 18, a freshman at Bowling Green State University, is among the 110 parishioners from St. Thomas More University Parish who left from the church Tuesday to participate in the national event opposing abortion. Ms. Schroeder said she is very passionate about the issue because her own mother grappled with getting an abortion.

“When my mom went to check out a spot on the back of her calf, they told her that she had skin cancer and that she was also pregnant,” Ms. Schroeder said.

Doctors advised her to abort the baby. They felt the skin cancer had a higher chance of spreading to her blood if she were pregnant. “She risked the chance of cancer spreading to have me. I was born without complications and my mom has not had cancer since,” she said.

“Whenever I’m faced with a tough decision, I think about what my parents did.”

Contact TK Barger @ tkbarger@theblade.com, 419-724-6278 or on Twitter @TK_Barger.



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