February 4, 2013 | Volume 88, Number 7
The Diocese of Richmond had hundreds of people from various parts of Virginia at the annual March for Life in Washington, held this year on Jan. 25. Here the group includes Jay Brown, at left, crouching, director of the diocesan Office of Justice and Peace, and Deacon Robert Durel, right, of Holy Spirit Parish, Virginia Beach.
March for Life: Crowds show endurance, passion to continue
Participants at the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 25 demonstrated just how determined they are not only by showing up in such large numbers on a bitter cold day but by continuing a 40-year tradition of protesting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion.
“Forty years ago, people thought opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision would eventually disappear,” Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley told the crowd assembled on the National Mall for a rally prior to the march along Constitution Avenue to the front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The march grows stronger every year,” said the cardinal, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Various media outlets put the estimate for this year’s March for Life crowd at between 500,000 and 650,000. An official crowd estimate has not been provided by police since about 1995.
There were several hundred participants from the Diocese of Richmond, with chartered buses traveling from Hampton Roads, Richmond, Roanoke, Rocky Mount and Martinsville as well as Lexington, Staunton and Waynesboro.
“We had three buses from St. Francis of Assisi in Staunton — two from the Knights of Columbus and one from the Respect Life Committee,” said Angela McFarling, parish secretary, adding that the same buses had passengers from St. Patrick’s in Lexington, and St. John’s in Waynesboro.
Both Father Joseph D’Aurora, pastor of St. Patrick’s, and Father Joseph Wamala of St. Francis were among those traveling on the buses. The group also included eight cadets from Virginia Military Institute and 10 students from Washington and Lee University. Burr Datz, Catholic campus minister at both schools, was with the group.
“For most of the students, it was their first march ever,” Mr. Datz said. “I think it’s noteworthy that shortly after we began the march, it started to snow and the crowd immediately cheered.
“One of the students from our group said ‘it’s 25 degrees, it’s snowing and we’re happy.’”
Catholic campus ministry students from Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University in Lexington were among the participants at the March for Life Jan. 25 in Washington. With them is Father Joseph D’Aurora, lower left, Luci Majikas, director of liturgy and music at St. Patrick Parish, Lexington, and Mike Cross, Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus council at St. Patrick’s.
Those from VMI and Washington and Lee were energized by the massive rally and want to continue to raise awareness of the consequences of abortion.
“”We’re now again making plans to protect life on both campuses,” Mr. Datz said.
“We had two buses from Roanoke because we had so many folks who wanted to go,” said Shirley Joslin, of St. Andrew’s in Roanoke, organizer of the buses.
“I’m post-abortive myself,” the 75-year-old Mrs. Joslin told The Catholic Virginian. “That is why I do everything that I do — to help change the heart of a woman considering an abortion.”
Recently she was approached at an abortion clinic protest by a woman who previously derided her peaceful Saturday morning demonstration. The woman who once scorned the protest said she had earlier had an abortion which she deeply regretted.
“Praise the Lord! God has used me — even in my own family — in sharing my own experience with abortion I deeply regret,” Mrs. Joslin said.
She thanked the diocese’s Office of Justice and Peace for their subsidy of $500 to pay for the buses which allowed some people unable to pay to travel to the March in Washington.
“If it weren’t for Jay Brown of OJP, we wouldn’t have been able to get the two buses,” Mrs. Joslin said, adding the cost of the two buses which originated in Martinsville and Roanoke was a combined $3,400.”
Leland Remias, a senior from Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School in Virginia Beach, had also previously attended the March for Life in his sophomore and junior years. A member of St. Pius X Parish in Norfolk, he was among seven students from his school to attend.
A group of students from St. Matthew’s School, accompanied by Father John Abe, pastor of St. Matthew Parish, Virginia Beach, visited the office of Congressman Scott Rigell during the March for Life in Washington January 25 to thank Mr. Rigell for his firm support of pro-life issues.A group of students from St. Matthew’s School, accompanied by Father John Abe, pastor of St. Matthew Parish, Virginia Beach, visited the office of Congressman Scott Rigell during the March for Life in Washington January 25 to thank Mr. Rigell for his firm support of pro-life issues.
“I think growing up in the Catholic faith, my moral compass is set against abortion,” he said.
He was asked about how he felt about people who are pro-choice on abortion.
“I think you have to pray for those people that they will see abortion is wrong,” he said.
“I wanted to be part of it,” said Father Mark White, pastor of both St. Joseph’s, Martinsville, and Francis of Assisi, Rocky Mount, adding that this was the 16th March for Life he attended.
“We believe as a Church that for the sake of our nation, we need to have upright consciences about the unborn,” he said.
He admitted that for some Catholics the term “pro-life” is denying the right to choice.
“To be pro-life doesn’t mean reducing anyone’s choices,” Father White said. “It means embracing the truth of God and his love.
“There is no peace with having an abortion. An abortion means a heartbreak on top of a heartbreak.”
Many speakers praised the resiliency of the crowd, standing on snow-dusted ground, but they also spoke of the pro-life movement getting re-energized by young people who are becoming the movement’s new torchbearers.
This year’s march and rally took place three days after the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision to better accommodate participants, since the official Jan. 22 anniversary was the day after public ceremonies for the presidential inauguration.
Hundreds of high school and college groups were scattered throughout the rally crowd; their members, often in matching hats, were texting, taking pictures and creatively protesting by wearing pro-life stickers on their faces and carrying placards on the backs of their jackets.
Their placards did not have jarring images or messages but predominantly took a gentler tone such as: “Abolish Abortion Courageously” or “I am the pro-life generation.”
Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo stands with some of the more than 500 diocesan youths at the Life is VERY Good rally at the Patriot Center at George Mason University in Fairfax prior to the March for Life Jan. 25. The event was promoted among parish youth groups by the diocesan Office for Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults.
More than 500 teenagers from various parts of the Diocese of Richmond attended a rally at George Mason University in Fairfax the night before the March for Life. Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo was among those present.
This year’s rally did not include speeches by dozens of politicians as in previous years. Nine legislators were announced and only a handful spoke.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, addressed the crowd with a taped video message promising to work for passage of a bill to ban taxpayer funding for abortions. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., told the crowd she would fight for a bill she has introduced to prohibit family planning grants from going to groups that provide abortions.
Three seniors from Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School in Virginia Beach were among seven students from BSCH at the March for Life. Leland Remias, of St. Pius X Parish iin Norfolk, sits on the shoulders of Will Batchelor. With them at right is Josh Taylor.
Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., urged participants to continue to “stand courageously for life.” He said legislative battles will continue to take place to change abortion laws and that the pro-life movement “must be compassionate to change hearts and minds.”
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus, similarly praised those in the pro-life movement saying it is “comprised of noble, caring, smart and selfless people. It is an extraordinarily powerful, non-violent, faith-filled human rights struggle that is growing in public support, intensity, commitment and hope.”
Cardinal O’Malley read a tweet to the crowd from Pope Benedict XVI, which said: “I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life.”
Rueben Verastigui, youth activist, had a specific message for the crowd’s youths.
“You can’t just sit around waiting for change to happen; you have to get up and make it happen.”
He urged them to get involved in pro-life work and if they feel they are alone they should remember this experience. “Look around, we are not alone. We are not the future of the pro-life movement; we are the pro-life movement!”