January 29, 2010

Standing up for the unborn: Archdiocesan youths come out in large numbers for annual March for Life in nation’s capital

Archdiocesan pilgrims who rode on Bus 2 to the March for Life in Washington pose for a group picture on Jan. 22 with the archdiocesan banner before boarding the bus to return home. (Submitted photo by Josh Shaffner)

Archdiocesan pilgrims who rode on Bus 2 to the March for Life in Washington pose for a group picture on Jan. 22 with the archdiocesan banner before boarding the bus to return home. (Submitted photo by Josh Shaffner)

By Alea Bowling (Special to The Criterion)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The air was chilly and rain clouds loomed overhead, but the weather didn’t keep pro-life youths and adults from all over the country from gathering in record numbers for the 37th annual March for Life on Jan. 22 in the nation’s capital.

Every year, more than 1 million abortions are performed in the United States alone. That’s approximately 3,700 abortions every day.

These staggering statistics are what inspire youths and adults to travel to Washington every January for the peaceful, prayerful protest against nearly four decades of legalized abortion in America.

This year, an estimated 300,000 people gathered in the nation’s capital for the pro-life march, including three buses of pilgrims with the official archdiocesan pilgrimage as well as many more groups from schools and parishes in central and southern Indiana. (Related: March for Life photo gallery | Photos from the young adult pilgrimage)

For some of the youths, the march is an annual pilgrimage, but for others the pro-life trip was a new experience. Whether they were veteran pro-life marchers or first-time participants, each person was ready to stand up and defend the sanctity and dignity of life from conception until natural death.

Archdiocesan pilgrims arrived in Washington early on Jan. 21 then spent the day touring the Capitol, The Catholic University of America and the John Paul II Cultural Center, a museum dedicated to the pope’s life and papacy.

The highlight of the first day was the opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception adjacent to Catholic University.

The basilica was packed to the brim with pro-life supporters from throughout the country. The sheer number of Catholics there was awe-inspiring as was the opening procession of seminarians, priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals, which lasted almost 45 minutes.

In a moving homily which celebrated St. Agnes as a model of joy, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, praised the presence of so many youths at the Mass, calling them “a sure sign of infectious joy, the sign of life.”

Jan. 22 began with a Mass for archdiocesan pilgrims celebrated by Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein in the crypt church of the basilica.

Newly ordained Father John Hollowell, the chaplain at Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis, spoke directly to the people during his homily.

“The one thing that people respond to is witnesses—you,” Father Hollowell said. “When they see your joy, that is the only thing that will get them to question how they approach this issue of life. You are called to be a witness for life.”

Strengthened by the Mass and holy Communion, the pilgrims set out for the march along Constitution Avenue in downtown Washington.

Archbishop Buechlein said he was impressed by the presence of so many youths at the March for Life.

“I think the youths being here is a tremendous sign of hope for our Church now as well as in the future,” the archbishop said. “There’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm as well as high ideals in these good and faithful Catholic youths. It is very encouraging.”

The teenagers’ excitement, energy and passion for the pro-life cause were evident by their songs and cheers during the march.

The presence of so many youths was a great topic of discussion among some of the marchers.

Taylor Whittier, a homeschooled student from Morgantown, said the high turnout was encouraging.

“I think it says something about this generation, my generation,” Taylor said, “and also the generation that’s coming because it says that we care about life regardless of what our government is saying. It says that we really care [about] what’s happening in our country.”

Taylor said she was impressed by all the people who came to march for an end to abortion.

“I came on the march because I think it’s amazing to see all these people here standing for life even though the country [is] saying it doesn’t matter,” she said. “I just feel really passionate about it.”

The passion and dedication that the pro-life cause inspires in people are just two of the reasons that show how important it is to defend the life of unborn babies.

Ben Seiwert, a homeschooled student and member of St. Joseph Parish in Jennings County, said he is enthusiastic about doing his part to work for an end to abortion, and is “willing to stand up for all the babies who can’t talk for themselves.”

His sister, Courtney, who is a member of the Archdiocesan Youth Council, and Ben were glad that they traveled to Washington to stand up for the cause of life.

“I think it’s pretty cool seeing 300,000 people all [here] for the same cause,” Ben said. “You don’t see that for anything else really. It’s just a great thing to be a part of this, and I feel like I’m part of something so much more than just a small group.”

The March for Life is a much anticipated event every year because so many youths and adults are eager to stand up for their beliefs and try to make a difference in the country.

Ashley Niemeyer, a member of St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville, has participated in the pro-life pilgrimage for four years.

“It’s just something I love doing,” Ashley said. “There are so many people, and the energy is great out here. I just love being here.”

Hopefully, many of the teenagers said, next year’s march will be a celebration of pro-life victories and the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion during all nine months of pregnancy.

But until then, like many Catholics across the nation, the archdiocesan pilgrims said they will continue to support life every day at home, at work and at school.

(Alea Bowling is a homeschooled senior and member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. She serves as president of the Archdiocesan Youth for Life.)

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