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MARCH FOR LIFE WASHINGTON St. Mary and St. Patrick eighth-graders, local Knights of Columbus join thousands at pro-life Mass, rally and march

March for Life 1

Eighth-graders from St. Patrick, Chesterton, lead the diocesan contingent among a quarter-million people at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 27. While it was the first march St. Patrick attended, St. Mary, Griffith, continued its tradition of sending its eighth grade class to the faith-meets-civic-duty event in the nation's capital.

(Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

 

by Anthony D. Alonzo

Northwest Indiana Catholic

 

      WASHINGTON – For local students, Knights of Columbus, and other travelers, participation in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., was more than a trip of 700 miles for activism in the nation’s capital; it was a journey of learning, fellowship and commitment to core Christian principles.

      Two chartered buses carried the eighth-grade classes of St. Mary, Griffith, and St. Patrick, Chesterton, who made a pre-dawn departure from Northwest Indiana on Jan. 25 and traveled 10 hours before arriving at their hotel in Arlington, Va. to prepare for a three-day stay.

       This was the first time St. Patrick students attended MFL activities in Washington, and principal Richard Rupcich called the trip a “new beginning” for his students’ involvement in political and civic issues.    

      Among other local attendees for the 2017 march, the Knights of Columbus hosted two busloads of travelers, most from diocesan parishes.

      Longtime St. Mary pastor and diocesan pro-life director, Father Theodore Mens has coordinated MFL trips with his eighth grade classes for more than a decade. He has participated in the march most years since its inception in 1974, the year after the controversial Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on demand in the U.S.

      “Our witness is always the same,” Father Mens said. “(We show) our faith in God – and that Jesus has saved the world and that all human life is a gift.”

      The 100 St. Mary and St. Patrick march-goers, which included parent chaperons, got a preview of the National Mall the day before the MFL rally, viewing Washington’s civic monuments and museums. On Jan. 27, the teen travelers queued up at the downtown Washington Verizon Center, where they joined 18,000 ticketed guests at the Archdiocese of Washington-sponsored Youth Rally and Mass.

      At the Mass, Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl praised the youthful worshippers for their enthusiasm and willingness to be a public witness for the right to life. Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Christophe Pierre conveyed a message from Pope Francis to March for Life participants.

      Archbishop Pierre said, “What does the Holy Father ask of you? To be revolutionaries against the throw-away culture and (build) one of life and love.”

      Schatara Neely, mother of St. Mary eighth-grader Alexis Cast, said she was heartened by the message so many young people proclaimed in the arena.

      “This makes me feel good because everyone deserves to live and it makes me feel good that all of these young people have come out to support the pro-life events,” Neely said.

      Exiting the arena, the diocesan eighth-graders walked in sunny, temperate conditions to an area just south of the White House. The youths were given pro-life signage by the Knights of Columbus that read, “Choose Life.” The teens pointed out other signs, some political: “Defund Planned Parenthood,” some philosophical: “We Love Them Both,” and many displaying the names of churches and dioceses.

      Anticipating a crowd to exceed the 100,000-plus that normally attend the annual march, the coordinating March for Life Education and Defense Fund cordoned off a larger gathering area, this year extending to the shadow of the towering Washington Monument.

      Extra security measures corresponded with an announcement a day earlier by MFL officials that vice-president Mike Pence would speak at the pre-march rally. Pence is the first vice-president or president to personally speak at the annual right-to-life event.

      The vice-president said “life is winning” because of the ongoing work of millions to promote a culture of life. He said the Trump Administration is also working to make the law reflect the public’s will to protect innocent human life.

      “Next week President Donald Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in the Constitution,” Pence said.

      Though many issues swirl in today’s political winds, many march participants spoke of how fundamental the right to be born is.

      Walking past the U.S. Capitol, some march signage featured images of two recently canonized saints ­– Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa. One quote from the late India-based humanitarian gave perspective: “The greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion, which is war against the child. The mother doesn't learn to love, but kills to solve her own problems. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”

      Some of the St. Mary and St. Patrick students did not know the extent of the loss of life – 60,000,000 unborn children aborted since Roe v. Wade, according to the National Right to Life and government statistics – or of the disturbing nature of abortion procedures, but they also said attending the march was an educational experience in learning about some sad realities.  

      “I think it is great because we are learning new things and we are using our voice, which is the greatest gift God could give us, besides life, obviously,” said St. Mary’s Elizabeth Correa.

      Cherishing her chance to “speak up to save lives,” the 14-year-old shared a personal family story about how abortion could have taken someone’s life, but the person survived and is here today.

      At a post-march banquet in suburban Virginia, area Knights gathered for fellowship and to praise the work pro-life advocates have done over the years to not only oppose abortion, but to support alternatives and care for women. Members spoke of a recent effort that equipped an Anderson, Ind. crisis pregnancy center with ultrasound technology.

      Past deputy for the Indiana Knights of Columbus, Steve Ziemba singled out state Pro-Life coordinator Mike Velasco for his tireless enthusiasm for supporting right-to-life activism in the Region and on the national stage. Velasco has organized trips to the nation’s capital for many years since the Roe v. Wade court ruling.

      If the balance of the Supreme Court tilts conservative and the unborn are afforded protection under the law, Ziemba said, he believes one day soon the march will take on a different feel.

      “We will have, through the Supreme Court, a chance to overrule Roe v. Wade,” Ziemba said. “It may not happen this year; it may take a couple years. But we will all come back and have a march of celebration.”

      As the marchers completed their walk to the Supreme Court, many expressed that they had really just started on the road to advocate a greater respect for life in our modern culture, from conception to natural death, as advocated by the Church and supported by Scripture.

      “Before I came on the march, I was already pro-life, now that we’re on the march, I realize this is a very important issue and things need to change,” said Anthony McCrovitz, of St. Patrick School.

      Whereas political dialogue can be difficult in a society where many are quick to label and shut down differing views, the March for Life was counted as an educational experience for Sam Yetsko, 17, of Chesterton, who said he looks forward to spreading a pro-life message by “having conversations and rational arguments.”

 

March for Life 4

Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl raises the host during the Liturgy of the Eucharist as he concelebrates at the Youth Rally & Mass for Life at the Verizon Center in the nation's capital on Jan. 27. About 18,000 youth, including 100 diocesan eighth-graders, packed the sports arena before walking to the annual March for Life gathering at the National Mall.

(Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

March for Life extra

Schatara Neely, mother of St. Mary eighth-grader Alexis Cast, waits with diocesan pilgrims to enter the Youth Rally & Mass for Life at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C., on Jan. 27. Neely said she was heartened by the enthusiasm for the pro-life message among the 18,000 ticketed guests who packed the sports arena before walking to the annual March for Life gathering at the National Mall. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

 

 March for Life extra

Local March for Life pilgrims join 18,000 ticketed guests at the Archdiocese of Washington-sponsored Youth Rally and Mass at the Verizon Center in the nation's capital on Jan. 27.
At the Mass, Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl praised the youthful worshippers for their enthusiasm and willingness to be a public witness for the right to life. Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Christophe Pierre conveyed a message from Pope Francis urging participants to fight the "throw-away" culture and promote a love of life.

(Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

 

March for Life 6

John Petro, 13, walks with the diocesan contingent among a quarter-million people at the annual March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 27. Petro, a Chesterton Middle School student, joined St. Mary, Griffith, and St. Patrick, Chesterton, eighth grade classes at the faith-meets-civic-duty event in the nation's capital. 

(Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

 

March for Life extra

Schatara Neely, mother of St. Mary eighth-grader Alexis Cast, waits with diocesan pilgrims to enter the Youth Rally & Mass for Life at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C., on Jan. 27. Neely said she was heartened by the enthusiasm for the pro-life message among the 18,000 ticketed guests who packed the sports arena before walking to the annual March for Life gathering at the National Mall. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

March for Life extra

Walking near the U.S. Capitol, participants from St. Patrick School lead the diocesan contingent among a quarter-million people at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 27. While it was the first march St. Patrick attended, St. Mary, Griffith, continued its tradition of sending its eighth grade class to the faith-meets-civic-duty event in the nation's capital. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

March for Life extra

Members of the Knights of Columbus from the Diocese of Gary and other Indiana locales gather near the U.S. Capitol during the March for Life in Washington on Jan. 27. The Catholic men's organization has maintained a strong presence at the annual pro-life event, among their contributions are thousands of "Choose Life" signs distributed to participants. (provided photo)

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