By Tanya Connor
Going to the March for Life requires sacrifice. But this year the sacrifice was not staying for it.
That’s how one local Catholic viewed the trip her parish made to Washington, D.C., last week.
Like others altering plans because of the weather, she found meaning in things she did do. One was reflecting on the role her baby’s death played in getting her there.
Winter storm predictions led to the cancellation of the Worcester Diocese’s annual trip to the Jan. 22 March for Life in Washington, and the trips of at least three other groups from the diocese.
Some people still attended the Mass Bishop McManus celebrated Jan. 21 at St. Paul Cathedral, after which they usually board buses for the march.
Some went to the nation’s capital anyway for the protest of the legalization of abortion. One group got stranded, one left right after the march, one left part way through it and one left right before it.
This year the March falls within the Year of Mercy, the bishop said at the Jan. 21 Mass. He said he expected that some day people will hang their heads in shame over 57 million babies aborted. He spoke of people turning a blind eye to this reality, said there will be a day of reckoning and called for prayers for their conversion during this Year of Mercy.
He drew parallels between the young martyr St. Agnes, whose feast was that day, and the witness of today’s youth who stand up for life. What the civil rights movement was to people his age, the pro-life movement is to youth today, he said.
People who went to Washington talked with The Catholic Free Press after returning home.
Linda Paquette, chairwoman of the Respect Life Ministry at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Webster, said her husband, David, was watching the news here while she was there. He called and said the snow was coming her way, fast and heavy.
She shared the report with their pastor, Father Adam Reid, and fellow parishioners as they neared the pre-march rally site. The march was to begin at 1 p.m.
Shortly after noon they reluctantly decided to leave, having heard that the march might be shut down, Father Reid said. Driving north, they moved ahead of the storm.
“Even though we didn’t get to participate in the march … the Lord will use our presence there for a higher purpose,” Father Reid said. They prayed and encouraged one another to keep advocating for life. He said he’s always inspired by the sacrifices many make to come; he met people who traveled 18 or 23 hours, despite the weather.
“The sacrifice was to leave what we came to do,” Mrs. Paquette said of what her group gave up. “I march to be a voice for the babies.”
But she said the trip was wonderful. They prayed while traveling and attended the vigil Mass Jan. 21 in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Father Reid also concelebrated Mass Jan. 22 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
Mrs. Paquette said that at St. Matthew’s she got very emotional, asking herself, “If I didn’t have that still-born baby, would I be here?” After her infant’s death in 1982, Father Anthony S. Kazarnowicz, a leader in outreach to pregnant women, invited her to help with pro-life work, something she hadn’t thought about. She and her husband took their other children on the March for Life. Decades later she’s still involved.
Nancy Kudzal, chairwoman of Sacred Heart’s rectory hospitality ministry, said she can pray at home, but she goes to the March and prays outside an abortion facility in Worcester to be a public witness. Although their group didn’t stay for the March, they prayed and supported other pro-life groups and brought home materials for their parish, she said.
Deacon Scott Colley said he and a couple people from Our Lady Immaculate Parish in Athol, one of the parishes he serves, were planning to go on the Worcester Diocese’s trip. Then Ginette Richard and her daughter Marissa Paton decided to go with Blessed Sacrament Parish in Greenfield, and he joined them.
They were to leave Washington early due to weather, so they got near the head of the line to begin the march, marched about three-quarters of the route, then veered off to get to their bus, he said.
He said he found it very encouraging to see the large number of young people at Mass and the march, because they can change laws which allow abortion, euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.
“We’ll keep going every year until we don’t have to” – or can’t – he said of marching to end abortion.
Deacon Robert S. Connor, who’s beginning service at St. Cecilia Parish in Leominster, went to the march with the group he usually joins – St. John the Evangelist Parish in Townsend. They went close to the front of the march, so they could leave right after.
“By the end of the march everybody was white, covered with snow,” he said. But after they’d driven for an hour or so, they got ahead of the storm.
“We got stuck there – all flights cancelled – for the whole weekend,” said Thu Nguyen, who flew to Washington with part of her family and other families, most from Our Lady of Vilna Parish in Worcester.
“We enjoyed every moment,” she said. It helped them be more patient and strengthened their trust in God. (They got home Monday.)