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WASHINGTON — In record-breaking numbers, young people from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend poured into the streets of the nation’s capital Monday, to mark the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision, making abortion legal throughout the land.
Over a dozen buses from Fort Wayne and South Bend traveled overnight so people could express their pro-life beliefs. The group of young people and their chaperones joined hundreds of thousands of others in a peaceful yet enthusiastic march up Constitution Avenue.
Described as a pilgrimage due to the hardships of travel, lack of sleep and bad weather, the trip was sponsored by the Office of Family Life.
Organizers say Saint Joseph’s High School in South Bend doubled the number attending this year’s March for Life, sending three buses and over 200 students to Washington, D.C.
Joe Watkins, a senior, has attended the march all four of his high school years and said he has seen enthusiasm and involvement grow. He’s hopeful that will continue so politicians take more notice of whom is voting them into office.
Watkins is also inspired by the dedication and direction of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, and is especially encouraged by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades’ exhortation at the previous afternoon’s Mass to stand courageously for his religious beliefs in the public square.
“I will voice my opinion and support my religious beliefs,” Watkins told Today’s Catholic.
“It’s hard for us to disobey the (civil) law and our own law with God,” he said, “but when I see something contradicting my faith, I’m going to have to do something about it and at least voice my opinion.”
Lydnsey Cyr, a sophomore at Saint Joseph’s High School, echoed that sentiment as she prepared to march through the mud and rain.
“Simply walking and showing you’re not afraid to believe in something is very powerful in many ways,” she said.
Although it was cold and rainy, spirits remained high throughout the march, which culminated with a gathering in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill.
The Fort Wayne-South Bend diocesan banner was hoisted near the Notre Dame Right to Life banner. They were joined by students from Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s Colleges and the University of Saint Francis. Pro-life groups from Indiana University-South Bend Right to Life and Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne also made their presence known.
Taking Bishop Rhoades’ words to heart, many young people expressed encouragement and agreed that “we have a right and a duty to make our voices heard.”
“It takes more than one person,” said Jesse Gettinger, a senior and president of Marian High School’s Right to Life Club.
Gettinger hopes Bishop Rhoades’ words, coupled with the experience of marching together in Washington D.C., will keep the momentum going strong.
“I’m really interested in getting more freshmen involved in the club to continue the pro-life culture at Marian High School,” added Gettinger.
Homeschool student Mary Johnston from Fort Wayne, making her second trip to the March for Life, summed it up as she made the last muddy leg of the journey.
“It’s all the more encouraging that people are willing to stand in the freezing rain for hours, just for this cause, which is pretty awesome,” she told Today’s Catholic.
Mark Hosbein stood on the corner of a busy Washington intersection under the steady rain Jan. 23 with a small duffle bag at his feet and a simple message for passers-by: “Please consider spiritually adopting an unborn baby who is in danger of abortion.”
Handing a reporter one of his brochures, Hosbein said as president of Hearts For Life, he is following the lead of the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who promoted the idea of spiritual adoptions for the unborn years ago.
People who commit to such an adoption agree to pray once a day for a year for an unborn child, he explained. “Our belief is God will save the life of the baby. It’s a simple and powerful devotion.”
Hosbein, a member of St. Lawrence Parish in Indianapolis, said in the past five or six years, his organization has passed out 100,000 of his brochures.
He was among several people hanging out signs and literature to pro-lifers as they walked toward the March for Life rally on the National Mall near the Smithsonian Castle. From the castle, the Washington Monument in one direction and the Capitol in the other were barely visible, as they were shrouded in fog.
The weather in Washington was uncooperative, with intermittent rain and temperatures hovering in the high 30s.
But as most years when the weather was bad, the tens of thousands of pro-lifers, a majority of them high school and college age, were undeterred, descending on the nation’s capital to mark the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
As they streamed toward the rally site from various points, rallygoers carried signs that declared their pro-life views. Among the messages were: “Adoption is an option,” “Every time a baby is aborted, love is denied,” “Praying for a culture of life” and “If it’s not a baby, you’re not pregnant.”
One woman wrote her message on the back of her yellow rain poncho: “God is pro-life: Thou shalt not kill.” One group carried yellow balloons that simply said “Life.”
She told CNS, “I’m here to put my feet in the direction of what my heart believes.”
Julie Asher from Catholic News Service contributed to this story.
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