Marching for life in 2017

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.

Campus leadership

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.”

Diocesan participation

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

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New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan. CNS photo by Bob Roller
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