This issue of OSV Newsweekly looks at the pro-life movement in conjunction with the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., held on Jan. 19 this year. Our coverage focuses on an undeniable element of the pro-life movement: While with each passing year Roe v. Wade is feeling more like a relic of another age, the throngs of pro-lifers converging on the capital continue to be dominated by the leaders of tomorrow.
They include Alisa Zacharia, a 21-year-old University of Maryland senior who has been attending the March for Life since seventh grade. When she isn’t serving as an usher at a mega-event such as the Youth Rally and Mass for Life, she’s a pro-life catalyst on her campus and in her community.
They include Anne McGuire, the 29-year-old professional in charge of education and outreach for the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. It speaks volumes that even the administrative nerve center of pro-life issues for our nation’s Catholic hierarchy is animated by the efforts of young Catholics. The bishops recognize that the energy of young people around this issue is a gift, and they draw on it.
Anyone who has ever attended the annual March for Life can’t help but be affected by the tremendous energy of the young people in the pro-life movement. It’s an energy that sees busloads from dioceses coast to coast braving long hours, January weather and the Pennsylvania Turnpike to show the halls of power and the world their commitment to defending human life from the moment of its conception.
It’s an energy that not only shows the rest of the world the fervor of the pro-life movement but encourages pro-lifers in their commitment to a cause that, 45 years after the Roe v. Wade decision, might be tinged with discouragement for ever advancing the cause of equal rights for the unborn.
It’s also an energy that speaks to the tremendous culture of life flourishing in our Catholic schools, where so many of the buses of young people originate. “The Gospel of Life” that Pope St. John Paul II proclaimed in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae 23 years ago has long since taken hold among our young people, setting them on a path of embracing and unpacking the fullness of the Church’s teachings.
This journey is reflected in the young pro-lifers of recent decades who have “graduated” to positions of leadership, including leading state Catholic conferences and pushing for pro-life policy and other Catholic concerns at the state level. It’s also evident in the vocations to the Sisters of Life, the religious order whose charism is prayer and advocacy for the cause of life.
The push to defend life even spans the globe, as witnessed in Pope Francis’ Jan. 8 address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See, an important annual message. At the center of his words this year was the importance of defending the right to life as a human right. “First among all of these is the right of every human person to life, liberty and personal security,” the pope said.
All of this should encourage the Catholic seeking to provide a positive witness and defense of human life, especially at its earliest stages. This important work is echoed at every level of the Church’s life and energized especially by the young. Even as the wider world drifts farther from recognizing the dignity of every human life, people of goodwill can raise their voices, knowing that they belong to a movement imbued with faith, fortitude and fervor.
OSV Editorial Board: Don Clemmer, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young