February 2, 2024

Sisters of Life tell record Indiana March for Life crowd ‘you are a hope to this nation’

Some 2,000 pro-life advocates march around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument—the center of Indianapolis and of the state—during the Indiana March for Life on Jan. 22. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Some 2,000 pro-life advocates march around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument—the center of Indianapolis and of the state—during the Indiana March for Life on Jan. 22. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Natalie Hoefer

It was a united front like never before seen in Indiana as a record crowd estimated at 2,000—hailing from all corners of the state—marched through the streets of Indianapolis proclaiming the sacredness of all life and signaling hope for mothers and their children.

The Indiana March for Life in Indianapolis on Jan. 22 was the seventh such event. But it was the first one with groups from all five Indiana dioceses.

(Related story: Teens at Indiana March for Life youth rally reminded that ‘God is pro-your-life’)

“We just came from Washington, D.C.,” said Sister Mary Grace of the Sisters of Life during a rally outside the Indiana Statehouse after the march. “And I have to say, it’s incredible to see an entire nation come together.

“But it’s a whole other thing to come to one home state and see five dioceses unite, and [to hear] all of you on your own home ground say, ‘We will refuse to cease loving women in greatest need.’

“On behalf of those of us from states that are struggling a lot more than you, like Colorado and New York and Massachusetts, you are a hope to this nation.” (See photos from the event)

‘Exciting, energetic, fun … and peaceful’

Whether Indiana March for Life veterans or first-time participants, students from all corners of the state were impressed by the size of the crowd.

“My friends and I were just commenting on the numbers,” said Vivian Abdalla, a junior at Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville, in the Lafayette Diocese. She was one of a group of 42 students from the school to attend the day’s events. “We were just saying how we know that there are other pro-life groups in other high schools all around Indiana, and how inspirational it is to see them all here together.”

Those from farther away from the state’s capital, including Evansville, Fort Wayne and Gary, left as early as 6 o’clock in the cold, dark morning to take part in the day’s activities.

Noah Becker was one of them. The freshman at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, came with a group of 40 students from the school.

He chose to come because promoting the sanctity of life “needs to be defended. Even though Roe v. Wade has been overturned, there’s still a lot that needs to be done to help promote” the cause, he said.

A group of about 145 students and chaperones from the Evansville Diocese were also early-morning risers who came to Indianapolis. Students from Mater Dei High School in Evansville were honored this year with carrying the banner at the front of the march.

Walking with the group from that diocese was Aidan Mohr, a senior at Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville. The president of Reitz’s Students for Life club was excited to participate for the first time in the Indiana March for Life.

“I’ve done small local ones, so I’m excited for a bigger city one,” he said. “I’ve never been around so many Catholics [gathered] specifically for the pro-life cause—it’s terrific! And the march was amazing. It was exciting, energetic and fun, but at the same time peaceful.”

It was also the first Indiana March for Life for William Mulligdan—another early-riser, coming from the Gary Diocese with a group of about 50.

“It was loud, and it was exciting,” said the freshman from Lake Central High School in St. John, Ind. “I think if I was on Mars I could have heard those chants! But we still got our message across peacefully.”

This year marked the second time Jordi Martinez Morales participated in the march. The senior at Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School in Madison said this crowd was “much bigger compared to last year. You could really feel it in your heart and everywhere around you when people were chanting, and people were just happy to be here.”

‘You’re making an impact showing up’

The youths were obviously excited by the energy and size of the crowd marching through the streets of Indianapolis to the Statehouse.

Likewise, leaders of various groups present from Indiana’s five dioceses were excited to witness to the sanctity of life at the state level.

On the ride back to Evansville, the group watched catechetical videos to help the teens process the day’s events. One video featured Evansville Bishop Joseph M. Siegel.

“He explained what the importance is of a local state march, because we had gone to [the National March for Life in] D.C. for so many years,” said Jeremy Goebel, the diocese’s director of youth and young adults.

“He talked about local efforts being more to the heart of individuals and people in our own communities, that we need to start reaching out and listening and having more compassion.”

Jim O’Connor, director of campus ministry and student life at Guerin, said he brought a group of students to participate in the last two Indiana March for Life events because the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision “put the impetus for pro-life legislation on the state.

“The national side is still very important, yes, but the more pressing issue for us on a personal level is here in the state.”

Father Richard Holy, administrator of the Office of Pro-Life Activities in the Gary Diocese, agreed.

“As a diocese, we want to be a witness to the sanctity and dignity of human life, and especially to our legislators at the state level, so they continue to pass the kind of legislation that they’ve passed that protects the sanctity and dignity of human life.”

Roseanne Kouris, Father Holy’s assistant and the Gary Diocese’s coordinator of marriage and family life, explained that members of the diocese used to participate in the Chicago March for Life.

Not only does that march no longer exist, she said, but by participating in the march in Indianapolis “you really feel like you’re making an impact showing up. You feel like you’re more part of something that actually makes a difference.”

And unlike the Chicago march, she said, at the post-march rally outside the state capitol building in Indianapolis “you get to hear the people from your own statehouse talk.”

‘The walls of a unified state’

Nine pro-life state politicians were among those who addressed the crowd of 2,000 at the post-march rally. Marc Tuttle, president of march and rally organizer Right to Life of Indianapolis, served as emcee.

He noted that the state’s Termination of Pregnancy report for July 2023—the last full month before Indiana’s new law protecting most babies from abortion went into effect—showed 698 abortions. The same report for September 2023—the first full month under the new law—showed only 14.

“That’s fantastic news, and we know that’s not the whole story,” said Tuttle. “The number of women seeking help at the pregnancy resource centers in this state went up by 33% in those same months.

“So, we are saving lives. We are leading the way with the rest of the country. But we know there are still women out there who will seek abortions, and we have to be there for them.”

One such woman was Angela Mintor, founder of the pro-life group Sisters for Life in Louisville, Ky.

“I was that woman that had abortions when I was a teenager, 17 and 18 years old, paying money for two of my babies to be killed,” she said.

“We’ve got to learn to be such empathetic listeners that we enter into the mother’s world. We need to say, ‘You tell me what’s going on with you. You tell me what you need from me before I tell you what you need from me.’

“And then we’ve got to be very intentional and continue to walk alongside the mother, and the father, and the baby, and the families and our communities.”

Such accompaniment is the charism of the Sisters of Life. Sister Mary Grace shared with the crowd about a young woman her order helped.

“The thought of caring and providing for another life as a single mom, working in a factory and in danger of losing her own home, made this choice seem to her like it was impossible,” she said.

The woman’s “biggest encouragement” wasn’t the sisters, said Sister Mary Grace.

“It was people like you, people that stepped up in her neighborhood to build a crib, to take her to an appointment, to offer prayers for her. You were the hope in her life.”

Sister Mary Grace noted that, with most abortion now illegal in Indiana, some might wonder why the order chose to participate in the state’s march when other states are facing larger pro-life battles.

“You’re like a lighthouse for the nation,” she told the enthusiastic crowd. “Why? Because you hold out hope to the entire country that a culture of life is still possible. … No evil, no dark storm, no trial can destroy the walls of a unified state.

“So, we thank you, Indiana, for showing every state how it’s done.” †


Related story: Crowd of 1,800 at Mass before Indiana March for Life proves ‘united we stand’

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