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Thousands march in D.C. in celebration of the joy of life

The approximately 50 pilgrims met on the southwest plains of Kansas in the frigid morning Jan. 16—some two-and-a half hours before the sun was set to rise—to  load onto a bus that would begin a 25-hour trek to Washington, D.C.

As the stars shone brightly, Bishop John Brungardt held out his hand, praying over the large group before they loaded onto a bus.

According to a Facebook post from one participant, “We had a few minor mechanical issues with the bus—nothing that a few ingenious farmers couldn’t handle, but they did slow us down a bit.”

Foggy weather all through Kansas, as well as freezing drizzle in Indiana and Ohio, further slowed the group, but it couldn’t quell the anticipation they felt as they came closer and closer to the nation’s capital.

“The long, 25-hour bus trip was filled with Liturgy of the Hours, Rosaries and personal stories of life and reflection on how fortunate we truly are to live in a Country that allows us these freedoms,” participants Tom and Lisa Ridder told the Southwest Kansas Catholic. “It is a spiritual journey that has a profound impact on those who attend.

“The March for Life Pilgrimage is much more than a walk down Constitution Avenue,” the couple added. “The March is inspiring in itself by the sheer numbers marching respectfully and peacefully for a cause that so deeply affects our nation and its citizens. 

“This year’s march seemed much greater in numbers than in previous years,” the couple noted.  

“It is our hope that the momentum that has been created from the time we boarded the bus will not end now that we are all home and back in our ‘comfort zones’,” the Ridders said.

“We must continue to witness to life, in all stages from conception to natural death.  We must not be afraid to reach out to those in need and, our hope is to someday not have to go and march, but to go and celebrate the day that Roe v. Wade was overturned and that abortion is no longer legal in the United States!” 

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The couple wanted to offer their sincere appreciation to all those who worked to make the trips a success.

“On behalf of the 51 pilgrims who made the trip to Washington, D.C. for the 46th Annual March for Life, thank you!

“Thank you to Bishop John, Gayla Kirmer, Janeé Bernal and the chancery staff who supported us in this pilgrimage. 

“Thank you to the parishioners, Knights of Columbus Council 2930 and Bishop Franz Assembly 2567, who supported our youth through their donations and fundraising efforts and prayers. 

“Thank you to Father Tim Hickey who was unable to attend, but spent countless hours preparing flyers, the Liturgy of the Hours books for the bus, preparing a Mass kit for us, obtaining Magificat books for everyone, and for volunteering his sister, Trice and her friend Brenda’s assistance in walking tours in Washington D.C. 

“Thank you to Father Louis Trung Hoang for being our Spiritual Leader for the trip—your spiritual leadership and life story was so very inspirational to us.”

Voices from the March for Life

By Jeanne Marie Hathway

Washington D.C. (CNA) - “There are more kids here than adults!” said 12-year-old Angela from Rockville, Maryland, at the 2019 March for Life.

A crowd of 100,000 people marching on the politically divisive issue of abortion might not seem like the place for kids. But Robin Diller was one of thousands of mothers present who would enthusiastically tell you otherwise: “It’s such a positive environment, a happy and joyful place.”

The March, held Jan. 18, traced the annual route along the National Mall in Washington, DC. It was the Dillers’ second march as a family. Their group of 14 included the Diller brothers, their wives Robin and Lisa, and their collective 10 children. The crowd did not intimidate even the smallest Diller, a 10-month-old blinking out from Mr. Diller’s chest, zipped into his dad’s jacket for warmth.

Mr. Diller said he sees the March as a lesson in civic responsibility: “It’s important to show our kids what positive activism looks like.”

High school history teacher James Flannery loves the March for a similar reason. He said that his biggest concern for his students is apathy. “That’s why it’s so reassuring to see so many of them here, to see them stand for something.”

Though often labeled “anti-abortion,” people like Mary Bonk from Lexington Park, Maryland, think of themselves as marching for many different life issues—not just against abortion.

Bonk adheres to the consistent life ethic, which opposes all forms of violence against the human person, including things like war, torture, embryonic stem cell research, and the death penalty.

Krista Corbello and Alex Seghers, 26-year-olds from Pro-Life Louisiana, shared Bonk’s expansive sense of what it means to be pro-life.

Corbello agreed that it takes humility to welcome diversity into the movement. But in her experience, the spirit of “welcoming hospitality” is always present “when change is really happening.”

One such change is the growth of “pro-life feminism.” Seghers identified herself and her unborn daughter as pro-life feminists: “She’s marching before she’s even born.” To them, pro-life feminism means advocating nonviolence and nondiscrimination for all people, including those in the womb.

“It’s inclusive of anyone from any background.”

These women appear to have struck a nerve with their inclusive message: their group brought 1,500 young people to D.C. for the March this year.

“Consistency is key for young people,” Corbello said, adding that young people from Louisiana are lucky to have a legislature that is bipartisan on life, including Rep. Katrina R. Jackson, who spoke at the March this year. Seghers attributes the bipartisanship to Louisiana’s diversity and “culture of family values.”

Though “family values” often connotes religion, Pro-life Louisiana’s events are mostly secular in tone. “Abortion is wrong because it is violent,” Corbello said. “That’s not a religious belief.”

Family is a common theme among young people at the March. Though many of them march for religious, political, and educational reasons, almost all point to their families first when asked about their interest in pro-life issues.

Mother and daughter Claudia and Taylor Turcott did this in a literal way, carrying signs with arrows drawn toward each other. Claudia’s reads: “25 years ago, I thought abortion was the only way, but I walked out of that clinic with my baby that day.” Taylor’s read: “October 1994: I survived my mom’s abortion appointment.”

Taylor began volunteering at a crisis pregnancy clinic in college after learning about her mother’s near decision to abort her. The Turcotts see their advocacy, especially the March, as an opportunity to share their gratitude.

Although many people who saw Claudia’s sign thanked her for choosing life, she simply said: “I just feel so, so grateful. I don’t think I’m unusually brave.” Claudia wants to encourage young women facing unplanned pregnancies: “You will be amazed by how many resources there are to help you.”

Friday’s crowd was full of extraordinary stories like the Turcotts.

One woman, Francis Reciniello, has attended the March for more than 30 years. As an immigrant from Honduras, she said she had never supported abortion because it was antithetical to her culture and upbringing. So when a friend got pregnant in college, Reciniello offered help and begged her to choose life.

It worked. “She told her boyfriend and he married her, and they named their child ‘Francois,’ after me” Reciniello said.

Though Reciniello’s own children are active pro-lifers, most years she marches with her friend, who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. “She’s a cancer survivor, and every year we say: ‘Can we make it?’ And we do. Even though we go at our own pace now.”

The two expressed their amazement at how young the March has become. “Young people are really stepping up!”

Perhaps the most extraordinary part of the March for Life was that the thousands of people who attend each year think of their peaceful activism, loving families, and joyful sacrifices as ordinary.

“This is just, like, normal,” said Garrett, a high school student from Philadelphia, about being young and pro-life. “It’s how we grew up.” His classmates Evan, Miguel, and Charlie nodded.

“It’s normal to respect each other, to have respect for other human beings.”

 

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