by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — Soldiers for Christ. Armor of God.
Those are just a few of the images Bishop Carl Kemme of Wichita used throughout his homily during the annual Mass held here as part of the March for Life and Rally for Life sponsored by Kansans for Life.
The Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and concelebrated by the other Kansas bishops — Bishop Kemme, Bishop Ed Weisenburger of Salina and Bishop John Brungardt of Dodge City — as well as nearly two dozen priests, drew approximately 1,500, including archdiocesan Catholic school students from all levels.
After the Mass, another estimated 200 to 500 people joined those at Mass in marching the four to six blocks from the Topeka Performing Arts Center to the south side of the Kansas Capitol. The rally featured speakers including legislators and Gov. Sam Brownback.
Due to its pending closure later this year, Immaculata High School of Leavenworth, which normally sends just juniors and seniors, sent its entire student body of approximately 60.
Several other archdiocesan grade schools sent students, including, but not limited to, Holy Trinity School in Lenexa, Christ the King School in Topeka, Holy Family School in Topeka, St. Matthew School in Topeka, Mater Dei School in Topeka and Most Pure Heart of Mary in Topeka.
Additionally, high school students representing St. Thomas Aquinas in Overland Park, Bishop Miege in Roeland Park, St. James Academy in Lenexa and Hayden High School in Topeka were in attendance. St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center also sent a group from the University of Kansas, as did the Didde Catholic Campus Center of Emporia State University and Benedictine College in Atchison. Several Topeka home-schooling families also participated.
In his homily, Bishop Kemme thanked everyone for coming to pray for “a renewal of our culture” and respect for human life.
“We are so encouraged by the presence of so many young people,” the bishop said.
Recognizing the efforts of those who have been engaged in the battle for life since its legalization nationwide in 1973, Bishop Kemme said, “The battle has been long and oftentimes has seemed to be a losing one.”
But he reminded everyone that no one should ever feel alone in the battle for life. Everyone, he urged, should remember that God is always with them. Faith will provide them with hope and strength.
Near the end of his homily, Bishop Kemme discussed how, in doing spiritual battle, it’s important to study the tactics of the enemy who wants to spread division, fear, confusion and doubt. The enemy will also attempt to lead you to believe “what is, isn’t, and what isn’t, is,” referring specifically into the argument that an unborn baby is not a person.
He also exhorted those participating in the Mass to remember that even though the battle has been long and oftentimes discouraging, countless people have done so much to create a culture of life.
“We can do this. We are doing it in so many seen and unseen ways,” the bishop said.
While marching and during the rally, several area Catholics expressed their support for the pro-life movement.
Kelsey Palsay, a senior at Hayden, said, “We want to be their voices.”
Being the voice for the unborn is important to home-schooler Nicholas Werth as well; he is a member of Topeka’s Christ the King Parish.
“They (the unborn) don’t get a choice. People choose for them,” he said.
Eighth-grader Nayla Alvarado from Holy Family School in Topeka agreed.
“The children don’t have a choice,” she said.
Showing her support for unborn children is also important to Elise Tremonti, a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
“I think it’s important to show your support,” she said, adding she was glad to be able to stand with others for the cause of life.
Gretchen Mercer, a member of Topeka’s Sacred Heart-St. Joseph Parish, said she’s always been strong in her pro-life convictions. Now, her five children join her in pro-life activities.
As a high school student in the 1990s, she attended the national march in Washington, D.C., several times. It’s important, she said, to teach children a reverence for life.
“We come to the march so I can show my children how important it is to stand up for a just cause,” she said, adding she wants to make sure her children not only have a respect for life but that they never give up hope because God is always with them.
Standing up for a just cause is something Ruth Walker, a parishioner of Topeka’s Christ the King Parish, said is important.
“If we don’t stand up for them, who will?” she asked.
She and her husband used to take their children out of school to attend pro-life events. Now, she stands alongside her children and grandchildren. Seeing so many young people at the Topeka march gives her great hope.
“I tell my grandchildren that you are the generation that will turn it around,” she said.