February 1, 2019

‘I wanted to stand up for life’: Groups from across the archdiocese participate in national March for Life

With the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop, a group from the Indianapolis North Deanery pose for a photo during the March for Life in Washington on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)

With the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop, a group from the Indianapolis North Deanery pose for a photo during the March for Life in Washington on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

The invitation—and the emotional stories that followed—came shortly after their group boarded the bus for the long ride home to Indianapolis from the national March for Life in Washington on Jan. 18.

One of the adult chaperones on the Indianapolis North Deanery bus asked the 29 high school students if they wanted to come to the front and use the microphone to share their thoughts about their journey to stand up for the rights of the unborn. (Related story: Hoosiers step forward to embrace gift of life during Indiana march)

When seconds passed, Mary Claire Cooke made her way from the back of the bus to take the microphone.

First, she thanked her youth minister at Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis—Ann Collins—for organizing the trip and for inspiring her passion for being pro-life. Then the 18-year-old senior at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis shared how this was her third trip to Washington for the March.

“I spoke about the feeling I get when I see so many people at the march—and how when I’m back home, it’s easy to get discouraged,” Mary Claire recalls. “But when I come to the event, I’m reminded that this—life—is the most important right you’re fighting for. And it’s inspiring to see all the people fighting for it, too.”

The emotional stories from other youths soon followed.

“A lot of people in the group talked about knowing someone who had been touched by abortion,” Mary Claire says. “A couple of people had siblings who had abortions and regretted it—or thought about it and didn’t. They talked about how that baby could have died. And how that kid was their favorite person in their life right now. They couldn’t imagine not having that person in their life.

“It was one of the most moving parts of the whole trip.”

‘I wanted to stand up for life’

The journey to the March for Life created similar lasting memories for the groups from across central and southern Indiana who traveled to Washington.

At 14, Michael Weisbrod considers it an honor that he had the opportunity to help carry his school’s banner that proclaimed, “Behold: Children are a gift from the Lord.”

But what stood out to him even more was seeing “all these banners from different schools and different organizations across the country. There were hundreds of thousands of people there.”

“It made me feel like this was something way bigger than my school and my parish,” says Michael, who marched along the streets of Washington with about 50 of his fellow students from St. Nicholas School in Ripley County in southern Indiana.

“I wanted to stand up for life and be part of something that unites everybody who wants abortion to be illegal.

“I’ve never taken part in something that big with mostly Catholic people. It made me know that there are a lot of Christians out there.”

Embracing the gift of life

At 17, Austin Jones has volunteered to help single mothers and families who struggle to provide the necessities of life for their children.

He’s seen the challenges they face.

He’s seen the love they give in tough situations.

So he viewed the opportunity to participate in the March for Life as an extension of his support for people who embrace the gift of life.

“I’ve always felt strongly about the pro-life movement,” says Austin, a member of the pro-life group at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. “Not just from my belief, but it’s been proven scientifically that a baby is human at conception.”

Austin was part of an Indianapolis South Deanery group of about 50 students who had a whirlwind, 36-hour travel experience to Washington—leaving the evening of Jan. 17 and returning in the early morning of Jan. 19. The group attended three Masses during that time.

“It was a lot more people than I expected,” Austin says about the march. “There were even schools from Sydney, Australia. It shows that there is more than our country in this fight. It was a good experience to get our voices heard and to have our faith grow.”

The essence of the March

It was just before midnight on Wednesday, Jan. 16, when Carol Wagner boarded a bus with the 29 high school students and five other adults bound for Washington from the Indianapolis North Deanery.

A grandmother, Wagner knew the trip to the March for Life would be a challenging one physically, but her spirits soared at that moment because the group had just emerged from participating in eucharistic adoration at St. Lawrence Church in Indianapolis.

She was also buoyed by the opportunity to lead the students into a better understanding of their Catholic faith and a deeper relationship with God—the goal that has motivated her during her nine years of involvement in campus ministry at Bishop Chatard High School.

And that’s exactly what happened, she says, for the students who made the journey from the Indianapolis parishes of Christ the King, St. Lawrence, St. Matthew the Apostle and St. Luke the Evangelist.

Still, the most poignant moment for Wagner—a moment that was at the core of the march for her—came when some of the students saw families marching in the parade and then asked her about being a mother.

“With tears in my eyes, I told them that the day our first child was born God told me it wasn’t about me anymore,” she says. “That was the day I became unselfish. When I held my baby in my arms, it was no longer about me.” †

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