Archdiocese Local

Even after Roe, the March for Life continues to matter

Archbishop Naumann marches down Constitution Ave. with tens of thousands of other pro-life advocates at the annual March for Life in Washington on Jan. 20. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Jack Figge
Special to The Leaven

WASHINGTON — Tears trickled down Dina Rickert’s face as she stood facing the thousands of pro-life advocates processing past the Capitol during the annual March for Life here. Two minutes earlier, she and her students had met the daughter of St. Gianna Molla, Gianna Emanuela Molla, a speaker at the rally for life. Surrounded by her students, Rickert shared why that encounter brought her to tears.

 “Once I got the job at St. James [Academy, Lenexa], Molla was the house community that was handed to me,” said Rickert.

Father Thomas Maddock, chaplain of Hayden High School in Topeka, leads a group of students from Hayden, Sacred Heart, Emporia and ReachKCK in prayer during the bus ride to Washington. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Molla was an Italian pediatrician who declined both a recommended hysterectomy and an abortion when she was pregnant with her fourth child, putting the life of the child she carried before her own. She died shortly after the child’s birth and was canonized in 2004.

“This appointment [to the Molla student community] was especially beautiful because when I had my fourth son, I had to risk my life to have him,” continued Rickert. “The doctors asked me to abort him, and I developed a great devotion to St. Gianna Molla during the pregnancy. It was very special to meet her daughter and just made me feel very close to Christ.”

Archbishop Naumann and Deb Niesen pose with Gianna Emanuela Molla, center, daughter of St. Gianna Molla, an Italian pediatrician canonized in 2004. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JACK FIGGE

Earlier in the day, Gianna Emanuela Molla spoke to the crowd gathered at the National Mall for the Rally for Life about her mother’s legacy. Other national pro-life figures from House Majority leader Steve Scalise to Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus in the popular media series “The Chosen,” also addressed the crowd, encouraging attendees to recognize the need to continue to build a culture of life in America.

Following the rally, the 50th national March for Life ensued. However,  this year, a new cheer rang out above the demonstrators: “1, 2, 3, 4 Roe v. Wade is out the door; 5, 6, 7, 8, now it’s time to legislate,”  referencing the overturning of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case this past June.

Nathan Brune, a junior at St. James Academy in Lenexa, carries the St. James flag in the March for Life. The school took 44 students to the March. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

“Though the overturning of Roe was a huge win for our country, it really put more hardship and pressure on Kansas and other states,” said Melissa Joerger, a parishioner at Ascension Parish in Overland Park. “I am marching for Kansas and the other states that are still fighting the battle against abortion.”

 Joined by her husband, over 200 pilgrims from the archdiocese and area high schools, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, Joerger and the others marched through the National Mall to the Capitol building instead of to the Supreme Court building, as in past years, now advocating for legislators to protect the right to life for the unborn.

“Congress can actually do a lot of things that could be either good or could be very bad for the pro-life movement,” said Archbishop Naumann. “It’s very important that Congress is aware of this movement — we still need a national movement, so the March for Life will continue in Washington. But we’re also going to build up our state marches and advocacy as well.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, processes with the monstrance during eucharistic adoration Jan. 19, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, after concelebrating the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Last August, the “Value Them Both” amendment that would have overturned the 2019 Kansas State Supreme Court decision ruling that a woman has a right to terminate her pregnancy failed to pass. With this setback, Kansas pro-life advocates saw this year’s March for Life as a critical event to attend to continue to show their support for the pro-life movement.

“It is very important for Kansans to be here because we want everyone in Kansas to know that even though we were not successful in passing the ‘Value Them Both’ amendment, we still value both the woman and the child in Kansas,” said Deb Niesen, the lead consultant for the archdiocesan pro-life office. “We want everyone to know that we are not going to abandon women. And we are not going to abandon preborn children to the despair of abortion.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann blesses the marchers from Benedictine College in Atchison. This is the first March for Life to be held after the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Despite this setback last August, the March for Life infused many of the pilgrims with a renewed vigor for the pro-life movement and a desire to serve expectant mothers.

“Being here has made me want to do more when I get home,” said Isabelle Connealy, a sophomore at St. James Academy. “I think I am going to hopefully volunteer at some different pregnancy centers and continue to participate in our school’s pro-life club, Thunder for Life, and go to all of their events.”

To view a full album of photos from the March for Life, click here.

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Jack Figge

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