by Jack Figge
Special to The Leaven
Twenty-four years ago, Deacon Chuck Welte of St. Benedict Parish in Atchison rode one-and-a-half hours from his home in Virginia on a charter bus with his wife and daughter to participate in his first March for Life.
This year, he once again boarded a charter bus — only this time, he was joined by over 200 Benedictine College students and area Catholics for the 24-hour bus ride to Washington, D.C.
Every year, thousands of Catholics journey to the nation’s capital to participate in the annual March for Life with other pro-life advocates. This year marks the 50th annual March for Life and the first march to occur in a post-Roe America.
Over the summer, the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade case which had legalized abortion at the federal level in 1973. Although the longstanding constitutional right to abortion was overturned, the national March for Life continues.
Now, it provides pro-life advocates from across the country a new opportunity to come together in a sign of unity for the ongoing pro-life movement.
“Our society has changed so much in what we value — and that we no longer value life from conception to natural death,” said Deacon Welte. “I still think it is important to march even though Roe was overturned because I think a national get-together is important to show national unity.
“As they say, united we stand and divided we fall.”
Marchers from across the archdiocese piled onto buses to make the 24-hour trek to Washington D.C. Each carried with them a duffel bag, backpack, and a different reason for coming.
Some, such as Church of the Ascension, Overland Park, parishioner Gabe Joerger, decided to make the journey to celebrate the overturning of Roe and continue to advance the pro-life cause.
“We want to celebrate what happened in June when Roe v. Wade got overturned, but we are also marching for what still has to be done because a lot has to happen at the state and the federal level,” said Joerger.
Others, such as Benedictine freshman Helen Harris, boarded the bus to make the trek for the first time, excited to witness the size of the pro-life movement and participate in an action bigger than themselves.
“I am most looking forward to seeing how many people are there and the expanse of the pro-life movement,” said Harris. “I want to make a difference in the world and going to this march seemed like a perfect opportunity to do some good.”
Undaunted by the long journey, participants see the long bus ride as a small sacrifice to make for the movement they are marching for.
“The bus ride is so worth it,” said Sacred Heart of Jesus, Shawnee, parishioner Grace Wohltz. “I offer it up for all the unborn babies who are not with us today.”
As they journey to the nation’s capital, veterans share stories from past marches, whether it be funny anecdotes from marches years ago, or favorite memories from last year.
“Last year, we marched to the Supreme Court building, and all of the Benedictine students prayed a rosary together in the freezing cold,” said Joerger. “It was a sacrifice, but it was awesome to pray after marching for so long.
“It allowed us to stop and reflect on what we are doing this march for.”