February 3, 2017

Archdiocesan youths show their courage by marching, standing up for life in America

The youth group from St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus poses for a photo on Jan. 27, the day they participated in the 44th annual March for Life in Washington. (Submitted photo)

The youth group from St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus poses for a photo on Jan. 27, the day they participated in the 44th annual March for Life in Washington. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

The joy flows from Scotty Biggs as he mentions the best sign he saw from the 44th annual March for Life in Washington on Jan. 27.

The “sign” involved the transformation in the 32 youths who attended the march from St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, where Biggs serves as coordinator of youth ministry.

Before the march, Biggs noticed that many of the youths from St. Bartholomew often struggled to publicly proclaim their pro-life beliefs—because too few of their fellow students in the public high schools they attend share those beliefs.

“Since coming back from the march, they’re changing their Facebook profiles to photos of the march,” Biggs says, the enthusiasm filling his voice. “They’re posting on Instagram, and they’re posting on Twitter about the impact the march has had in their lives.

“It shows to me and to others that the Holy Spirit is at work here, because one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is courage. And I certainly see that coming through in their lives.”

Biggs credits that transformation to the youths’ experience during the march, where they “witnessed hundreds of thousands of youths from all across the nation who stood up for life.”

Hundreds of young people from across the Archdiocese of Indianapolis contributed to that witness. Buses filled with youths from the New Albany, Indianapolis North and Indianapolis West deaneries made the journey to Washington.

Other groups from the archdiocese included youths from All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington, St. John the Baptist Parish in Starlight, St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg, St. Mary Parish in Navilleton and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Parish in Bright.

At 18, Graydon Chisholm was one of the 32 youths from St. Bartholomew Parish who joined the March for Life.

“I see the trip to the March for Life as one of the greatest opportunities to grow in my faith,” says Graydon who planned and led most of his parish group’s trip to Washington. “But honestly, the march itself is not my favorite part of the pilgrimage.

“I enjoy the National Prayer Vigil for Life opening Mass. To spend time in the Basilica [of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception] and celebrate Mass with thousands of Catholics in the name of life is powerful to say the least. The Mass is a reverent call for the recognition of the sanctity of all life. I like the way the Catholic Church does it.” 

Grace Oberhausen was one of 49 students from Marian University in Indianapolis who traveled to Washington for the march—a journey to stand up for life that the 21-year-old college junior made for the sixth time.

“It’s a cause I’m very passionate about. I really believe in it, and it’s something that young people have a voice for,” says Oberhausen, a member of Our Lady of Good Hope Parish in Fort Wayne, Ind., in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. “I like that I’m able to be a voice for the voiceless.

“We want so badly to be heard. We’re desperately trying to bring cultural awareness to something we care deeply about.”

She experienced a different feel to this year’s march than previous ones. Part of that feeling was the increased national media coverage that the march received, coverage that had been mostly non-existent in previous years. Part of it was the people who protested against them for their witness for their pro-life beliefs. Part of it was all the focus on the start of the presidency of Donald J. Trump, she says.

“It felt much bigger, much louder this year,” Oberhausen says. “At times, it felt we were being attacked. There were a lot of people protesting against us. But it let us know our voices were finally being heard.”

The appearance of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence—who shared a pro-life message with the crowd on the National Mall—added another memorable quality to the day for her.

“Having the vice president there for the first time ever, being out there on the National Mall, it was particularly impactful,” she says. “During Vice President Mike Pence’s speech, there was all this cheering, and the amount of cheering was cool to hear.

“When he said, ‘Life is winning in America,’ that hit home with a lot of people. That became the motto for our march. It gave us a ray of hope.”

A similar impact was experienced by the 42 youths from Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood who joined the march.

“It was eye-opening to them,” said Patty Schnarr, the parish’s youth minister. “After the march, we had them do reflections on the experience. One of them said that while we were walking up the hill to the U.S. Supreme Court, it reminded him of Jesus walking up to Calvary. He said, ‘We are walking to save the babies, like Jesus saved us.’

“Another youth said it was amazing to see all the people who were there—and how important it was to people to be there. It really helped her realize that this is real, that someday we might convince Congress that abortion is wrong, that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.”

Schnarr hopes the experience reinforces how important “this issue is to our faith.”

“It’s not just about abortion, it’s about life itself,” she says. “So many teenagers attempt, commit or think about suicide. It’s something we need to pray about—that people can cope with situations in their lives. And we need to pray for people who plan their death.

“Pro-life is from conception to natural death. We have to pray to God to be with us through all parts of our life.” †

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