By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
It was important – and “cool” – to be at the March for Life this year, according to a teacher and a student who participated in the annual event in the nation’s capital last Friday.
“This year I felt it was really important to go,” especially after the Women’s March on Washington the previous week, said Jaclyn Dutton, one of six teachers from St. Mary’s Junior/Senior High School in Worcester who went. She said she’d planned on going to the March for Life even before she learned of the women’s march, which supported abortion and excluded pro-life groups from being sponsors.
The best way to support women is to encourage them to be pro-life – before and after the birth of children – she said. The March for Life is an occasion to show that there’s a large contingent of people who believe that.
Larger than you can tell when you’re in the midst of it, she found. She said that, when she returned, she saw a photo of the march and “the people extended off the picture.”
Being free to share this with her students is one of the reasons she’s glad she’s teaching in a Catholic school, she said.
The St. Mary’s students and teachers rode one of the three buses that left for Washington from St. Paul Cathedral in Worcester Jan. 26 after a Mass celebrated by Bishop McManus, noted Allison LeDoux, director of the Worcester Diocese’s Respect Life Office. That bus also held the contingent from St. Peter-Marian Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Worcester and the run-over from a full bus of youth and adults from Trivium School in Lancaster. The third bus held everyone else.
This year’s march was different because Vice President Mike Pence spoke, noted 12th-grader Francisco Mandel, one of eight St. Mary’s students who went. It was his second time.
“I thought it was pretty cool” to be that close to him, Francisco said of Vice President Pence. “It was pretty good that he also supports life, just like me.” He figured he was a mile or two away from the vice president, whom he watched on a large screen.
Olivia Russell, a St. Peter-Marian 9th grader, was also impressed by the vice president. “It was inspirational to see so many people valuing human life. It felt like it was a new era with the vice president speaking and the government seeming more pro-life,” Miss Russell said.
Many started the day, Friday, at Mass.
“We arrived in Washington very early on Friday morning,” reported Margaret Dillon, a senior at Trivium School in Lancaster. “The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was packed for Mass. Every pew was filled and there was barely room to stand.
“Later in the morning, as we approached the rally, more and more people poured in and we could hear the cheers …
“When I heard the crowds, I had to smile. To be surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people who have all come together to protect the lives of babies is such a great and reassuring feeling. I could see that we are not alone. …
“We will not stop fighting until the lives of the unborn are protected. To be part of the fight fills me with joy. I thank God for the wonderful opportunity to march for life and I look forward to the day when we no longer need to fight for the rights of babies but can celebrate that their most basic right is protected.”
Veronica Prytko, a St. Mary’s senior participating in the march for a second time, said there were so many more people this year.
Asked why she thought that was, she said, “It’s becoming a more prominent issue and people want to fix it” (abortion and other “pro-life problems”).
St. Peter-Marian junior Victoria Doe said, “Lots of teenagers my age, when the topic of abortion is brought up, do not like to speak about it or even acknowledge the controversial topic. For me, living in a world where abortions occur way too much, I felt that I had to be in St. Peter-Marian’s Guardians for Life club, because they speak out about the topic of abortion and they educate my fellow classmates and peers on how damaging having an abortion is …”
“I can say that I am proud to be pro-life, and that I’m proud to be a part of the Pro-Life Generation,” Miss Doe said.
It wasn’t only students from the diocese who were at the March.
Before leaving from Greenfield, Deacon Scott Colley spent time in adoration. He lives in Templeton and serves the North Quabbin Catholic Community; two parishes in Athol and one in Petersham.
Deacon Colley said that after the all-night bus ride he continued his prayerful experience by participating in the Closing Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception celebrated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans. He was assigned to a Communion station at the basilica and “noticed that most of the attendees in my area were young, less than 30 years old. All were very reverent in receiving.”
He walked the march route alone this year so he was able to reflect more and watch the crowd. He said estimates of 500,000 seemed reasonable and the march had a different feeling.
“The number of people holding signs that said that they regret their past abortions, men with lost fatherhood, and people who were pro-choice converting to pro-life. God’s hands are in all of this. He will guide all of us if only we will take his hand and follow,” he commented.
“I intend to attend until I can no longer do it physically or there is no need to do it if and when the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. The plaintiffs in both these cases are now pro-life! This is a great hope for all of us,” Deacon Colley said.
Before sending marchers on their way from St. Paul Cathedral, Bishop McManus shared a story that illustrated problems abortion causes.
He recalled St. John Paul II saying that, for people of faith, there are no coincidences – all good comes from God. The bishop talked about that happening in his life, even the previous day. He was about to write the homily for this Mass when his secretary gave him an email.
The email’s sender said she’d read his pro-life letter in a parish bulletin. She mentioned Project Rachel, a ministry he’d written about, which helps bring God’s mercy and healing to people wounded by abortion.
The writer said she still struggles, even after receiving God’s forgiveness for her abortion; the hardest part is to forgive herself. She said she had another child and feels God is assuring her of his love through this gift.
She said that a few months ago she went to Mass for the first time in a long time – in the church where she grew up. The priest said when people come to him with struggles, he asks, “Are you praying?”
Her answer was, “No.” She said she started praying, asking God’s forgiveness and attending Mass, and she received hope and peace.
Bishop McManus’ voice started to break as he read this story of a woman who said she lives with hope, knowing God’s forgiveness, despite her struggle. She affirmed the good work he and the diocese do.
The bishop told the marchers to go forth being co-workers, like St. Paul’s companions SS. Timothy and Titus, whose feast the Church was celebrating that day. He’d noted that St. Paul told Timothy not to be ashamed of the witness he gave, but to be ready to bear the burden that comes from proclaiming the Gospel.