Organizers of the March for Life in Washington, D.C., are anticipating a big turnout for the event on Jan. 27, the week after the presidential inauguration.
“The excitement this year is palpable with so many pro-life opportunities facing us in culture and public policy,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life.
“Our theme this year is the Power of One, and we plan to share a variety of stories showing the truth that ‘even the smallest person can change the course of the future,’ to quote J.R.R. Tolkien,” she said.
According to Kate Bryan of CRC Public Relations, the march is expected to draw larger than usual crowds, “in the tens of thousands,” with busloads of people from more than 1,000 parishes and schools nationwide.
Mancini invited students from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, to lead this year’s march. They’re sending more than 500 students, faculty, staff, friends of the university, people from the diocese and students from the region’s Catholic high schools. Senior Katrina Gallic will be a speaker.
“It’s inspiring to see how many people have jumped on board,” said Anne Dziak, a recent graduate now working in the admissions office.
This is her 12th March for Life since starting a pro-life group at her home parish in Chicago.
“When I got to the University of Mary, the first thing I wanted to do was become part of a pro-life group,” she said. “Now I have the honor of coordinating attending the march.”
Last year, the group, including University President Msgr. James Shea, who always attends, was snowbound for 54 hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. So were thousands of others returning from the event.
“The university is honored to be leading the march, and the students are excited to be on the front lines and ready to be the voice of the voiceless,” Dziak said. “It really builds camaraderie between all pro-lifers across America and starts the year off with energy to get them more involved. It gives a sense of urgency that all of these fellow Americans have the same mindset and encourages them to act upon their beliefs and become a witness for life.”
Jerome Richter, vice president for public affairs, noted that “standing arm in arm with half a million people” tells marchers that they’re not alone in this fight.
“If there’s anything that evil wants to do, it’s to tell you that you are the oddball,” he said. “Seeing that mass of people gives you the strength in numbers to do what’s right. Young people are sniffing out the lies of the culture of death. They want to give their lives to something that’s good and true, rather than to the selfishness of the culture around us.”
The Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, is sending 10 or more buses through the Office of Pro-Life and Special Ministries.
They’re from parishes and youth ministries, and this year, Christine Lansaw, diocesan coordinator for deaf ministry, is taking several hearing-impaired high school students. She will be their sign language interpreter, and two deacons who assist in the ministry are also going.
“This is a good opportunity for them to understand the Church’s position on abortion and to see the process of becoming politically involved,” she said.
“We tend to think of this as a women’s issue, but it’s everybody’s issue. This is a baby for the dads, too, and something to speak up for. I think that the rights of the unborn really resonate with the students.”
The Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, will be represented by thousands of people from the parishes. The night before the march, 8,400 youth will attend the sold-out Life Is Very Good evening of prayer with teens from all over the country. There will be Mass, speakers and music the next morning.
“When they find themselves in the George Mason Arena with 8,400 others saying ‘yes’ to life and ‘yes’ to Jesus Christ, it firms up their understanding and their commitment,” said Kevin Bohli, director of the Office of Youth Ministry. “When they see they are not alone, it helps them to live out the commitment.”
A West Coast approach
The Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco on Jan. 21 has grown in 13 years from 7,500 participants to more than 50,000.
“We wanted to do something local that was not political. That’s the main difference between us and the D.C. March,” said Vicki Evans, respect life coordinator for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, which participates in the event.
“We do not walk to engage our legislators,” she added. “Rather, we focus on how we can support and reach out to women in difficult pregnancies.Our message is that abortion hurts women and women deserve better than abortion.”
The walk is preceded by an info fair with information about counseling, housing, financial assistance, adoption planning and other resources for women facing unplanned pregnancies.
Other pro-life events can be found at MarchForLifeEventsFinder.com.
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.
|Moved by Mercy
Statement for Respect Life Month 2016 from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
| New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan. CNS photo by Bob Roller
My dear friends in Christ:
This summer, I traveled to Poland for World Youth Day, where millions of young Catholics gathered. A theme chosen by Pope Francis that I addressed in a talk I gave to young people was, “Now is the time for mercy.” It’s timely, isn’t it? Yet, as in a story I shared about Pope St. John Paul II, it’s also timeless.
For years, Poland had been oppressed, with no freedom of religion. Human rights had been trampled, and the sacredness of human life violated. Then Pope John Paul II visited in 1979 with a message that changed the world.
He spoke about God, about faith, about human dignity, truth, and the sacredness of human life. He spoke about Jesus and the Church. And what do you think happened? Over a million people responded, chanting over and over, “We want God! We want God!” Mikhail Gorbachev said it was Pope John Paul II’s nine-day visit that led to the fall of communism.
After my talk concluded, history repeated itself. Youth from all over the world chanted, “We want God! We want God!” The Lord was moving hearts with his mercy.
God offers his gift of mercy to each and every one of us, no matter what. But we have to decide to receive that gift — whether or not to turn away from sin and turn, instead, toward him. We have to decide whether we want God.
The theme of the 2016-17 Respect Life Program is “Moved by Mercy” (usccb.org/respectlife). When we let our hearts be moved by God’s mercy, it shapes everything. As Pope Francis said, “We are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us” (Misericordiae Vultus).
God made each of us in his own image and likeness. He desires to be united with us forever in a loving relationship. God loves us, treats us with respect, and asks us to do the same with others. Every person is sacred and must be treated with the dignity they deserve. No one should ever be treated callously or carelessly — everyone should be cherished and protected!
From each tiny child waiting to be born, to individuals nearing death, all are precious and deserve our care and protection. Women and men suffering after abortion, individuals tempted to end their lives, couples longing to conceive a child, people pushed to the margins of society by a “throwaway culture,” expectant mothers facing challenging pregnancies, and every other person — each “has a place in God’s heart from all eternity” (Amoris Laetitia, No. 168).
Let’s ask God to make us channels of his loving mercy: Lord, help us to receive your mercy and turn to you each moment. And please guide us in extending your mercy to others today. Now is the time for mercy.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities