A march to remember

Archdiocesan pilgrims join forces at the National March for Life
——————————————————————————————————————

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The marching mass of 250,000 people slowed to a near stop, which gave Caitlin Fox, a student at St. James Academy in Lenexa, an opportunity to survey the scene spilling across the National Mall.

“I ran into a group of women from New York,” said Fox, a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park. “[One said] she was amazed by how many young people were there.”

But from Fox’s perspective, it was another generation’s commitment to the cause that came as a surprise.

“I was amazed by how many old people were there,” said the 17-year-old.

The archbishop said that, despite profound disagreements with the president on fundamental moral issues, Catholics could and should rejoice that his election symbolized the crossing of a cultural threshold. Even so, he urged the Kansans to continue the fight for life.

“In many ways, the challenges in front of us seem daunting,” said the archbishop. “We know we’ve lost ground in both chambers of Congress. We have a president who has already indicated he will use his executive powers to advance abortion.”

For this March for Life, the archbishop called upon his listeners to be like Gideon’s band of outnumbered warriors or David as a youth against the giant Goliath.

“Although our weapons perhaps appear as inconsequential as David’s slingshot, we look upon the Goliath of the abortion industry as a target so large that our pebbles cannot miss,” said the archbishop. “We are confident that the Lord will guide our humble efforts as he guided the pebble of David’s sling in order to achieve his victory.”

A public witness

The archdiocesan pilgrims rose early the day of the march to join more than 20,000 others at the youth Mass and Rally for Life in the downtown Verizon Center.

When it was over, they joined a growing river of people who emptied onto the National Mall. There, they listened to various speakers — and cheered wildly for Archbishop Naumann when he was announced.

The basic route of the march was a loop around the Capitol, passing the Supreme Court, by way of Constitution Avenue, First Street N.E., and Independence Avenue.

The marchers were upbeat, despite some hostility from the locals as they went about their work, or tried to.

“While we were walking to the Verizon Center, one lady [seemed] really mad that we were there,” said Hanna McCort, a student at Maur Hill-Mount Academy, who was elbowed by a local trying to get through.

“She was elbowing her way through the crowd, saying she had to go to work,” she said.

One young man reported seeing a woman in a window holding up a sign that read “Go Home.”

A few people yelled insults from street corners or passing cars.

“It kind of made me mad that they’d just drive by and yell, and didn’t give us a chance to respond,” said Alvey.

“That’s frustrating, but it made me realize that we’d been heard,” she continued. “If they feel the need to say something, then obviously we got their attention, which is what we were trying to do.”

Next came a surrealistic experience.

As they neared the south end of the Capitol, the police halted them. Two long, black limousines with police escort and black SUVs raced onto the Capitol grounds. The rear limousine flew the vice presidential flag.

One boy from the archdiocesan group said he had to make a quick decision: Take a photo or hold up his sign. He held up his sign.

With the afternoon shadows rapidly lengthening, the archdiocesan pilgrims loaded their buses for the long, nonstop journey home.

As many testified on the way home, this was only the beginning of their pro-life advocacy.

The march was over. But in a sense, it has only begun.

Pro-life nation

Fox and more than a hundred fellow pilgrims traveled half a day and a night in a two-bus convoy organized by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas to attend the annual National March for Life on Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C.

The march commemorates the 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, which made available abortion on demand. Some 50 million unborn children have been aborted since those landmark decisions.

The archdiocesan pilgrims were mostly students from St. James Academy, Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kan., Immaculata High School in Leavenworth, and Maur Hill-Mount Academy in Atchison. Some hailed from parishes in Ottawa, Shawnee, Overland Park, Leawood, Marysville and Wamego.

Other students from the archdiocese made their way to the march in other buses or airplanes, including those from the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Benedictine College, Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park, and St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park.

This National March for Life was the largest event most archdiocesan participants had ever experienced. When the crowd finally began moving down the mall en masse, the marchers were impressed to see a cross section of the pro-life movement in all its tremendous diversity.

One archdiocesan pilgrim remarked that the crowd was “like America itself” — converging on the capital for the 36th annual March for Life.

“It was really cool to be around so many people, all out there for the same reason, from all over the country,” said Juliana Alvey, a student at Bishop Ward High School and a member of Our Lady of Unity Parish in Kansas City, Kan.

She noted that not only were there young and old represented, but people from every race. Some individuals held signs indicating professional affiliations, like “Nurses for Life.”

Also, others held signs identifying their faith affiliations: Orthodox for Life, Presbyterians for Life, Lutherans for Life, and New York Rabbis for Life. But the majority — judging from the profusion of rosaries, Madonnas, and parish banners — seemed to be Catholic.

“I saw all those people, and I realized sometimes people stereotype pro-lifers — like they’re these really Christian people who stay home and don’t get out,” said Alvey.

“But when you go [to the March for Life],” she continued, “you realize that the pro-life movement is everyone. You can’t stereotype them. They’re everyone.”

Everyone, yes, but clearly the pro-life movement had a youthful cast, said Megan Wagner, from St. Patrick Parish in Atchison and a student at Maur Hill-Mount Academy.

“I noticed a lot of young people there. That gives a lot of hope for the future, because the young are the future,” she said. “I believe if we can get a lot more youth [into the pro-life movement], the future will be pro-life.”

Pro-life in a new era

The bus carrying the archdiocesan pilgrims literally drove into a new era for the pro-life movement when it pulled away from Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan., on Jan. 20.

A couple of them watched President Barack Obama take the oath of office on the tiny, snowy screen of a portable TV or on a laptop computer with a wireless Internet connection. Others listened to the ceremony on the radio.

When it was over, some of the pilgrims quietly discussed the new president’s strong pro-abortion record, his promise to sign executive orders revoking pro-life policies of the Bush administration, and pledges to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.

The advent of the era of President Obama was regarded with ambivalence, even by the pro-lifers who said they voted for him.

Although they celebrated the fact that the nation had elected its first African- American president, they recognized the challenges his policies presented to the pro-life movement.

This cause for both rejoicing and concern was noted in the homily by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who was the main celebrant at a Mass for all Kansas participants on Jan. 21 at Notre Dame Chapel at Trinity Washington University.

“It has been an eventful week in Washington with the inauguration of our new president, Barack Obama, our first president of African-American descent,” said the archbishop. “President Obama’s election signifies a mortal blow to the racial prejudice that has scarred our nation since its inception.”

The archbishop said that, despite profound disagreements with the president on fundamental moral issues, Catholics could and should rejoice that his election symbolized the crossing of a cultural threshold. Even so, he urged the Kansans to continue the fight for life.

“In many ways, the challenges in front of us seem daunting,” said the archbishop. “We know we’ve lost ground in both chambers of Congress. We have a president who has already indicated he will use his executive powers to advance abortion.”

For this March for Life, the archbishop called upon his listeners to be like Gideon’s band of outnumbered warriors or David as a youth against the giant Goliath.

“Although our weapons perhaps appear as inconsequential as David’s slingshot, we look upon the Goliath of the abortion industry as a target so large that our pebbles cannot miss,” said the archbishop. “We are confident that the Lord will guide our humble efforts as he guided the pebble of David’s sling in order to achieve his victory.”

A public witness

The archdiocesan pilgrims rose early the day of the march to join more than 20,000 others at the youth Mass and Rally for Life in the downtown Verizon Center.

When it was over, they joined a growing river of people who emptied onto the National Mall. There, they listened to various speakers — and cheered wildly for Archbishop Naumann when he was announced.

The basic route of the march was a loop around the Capitol, passing the Supreme Court, by way of Constitution Avenue, First Street N.E., and Independence Avenue.

The marchers were upbeat, despite some hostility from the locals as they went about their work, or tried to.

“While we were walking to the Verizon Center, one lady [seemed] really mad that we were there,” said Hanna McCort, a student at Maur Hill-Mount Academy, who was elbowed by a local trying to get through.

“She was elbowing her way through the crowd, saying she had to go to work,” she said.

One young man reported seeing a woman in a window holding up a sign that read “Go Home.”

A few people yelled insults from street corners or passing cars.

“It kind of made me mad that they’d just drive by and yell, and didn’t give us a chance to respond,” said Alvey.

“That’s frustrating, but it made me realize that we’d been heard,” she continued. “If they feel the need to say something, then obviously we got their attention, which is what we were trying to do.”

Next came a surrealistic experience.

As they neared the south end of the Capitol, the police halted them. Two long, black limousines with police escort and black SUVs raced onto the Capitol grounds. The rear limousine flew the vice presidential flag.

One boy from the archdiocesan group said he had to make a quick decision: Take a photo or hold up his sign. He held up his sign.

With the afternoon shadows rapidly lengthening, the archdiocesan pilgrims loaded their buses for the long, nonstop journey home.

As many testified on the way home, this was only the beginning of their pro-life advocacy.

The march was over. But in a sense, it has only begun.

Leave a Reply