By Karen Clifford
SOUTH BEND — Fred Everett, director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, recalled the excitement when he began taking the first diocesan bus for high school students to the March for Life in Washington D.C. in 1998. This year, six buses directed by diocesan ministries with 330 students and chaperones will journey to D.C. for the year’s march on Jan. 24 to add their support for the sanctity of life.
But diocesan participation does not end with those traveling by bus. In addition, “parishes like Christ the King take vans for their youth group, and buses from colleges like Holy Cross, the University of Saint Francis and the University of Notre Dame will include at least 250 more,” says Everett. “On Sunday, the 23rd, Bishop Rhoades will be celebrating a diocesan youth Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral in D.C., which will involve most of these groups and we expect over 500 to participate in it.”
Four students from Marian and Saint Joseph’s high schools, who have participated in previous March for Life trips, shared their reflections on the march’s importance with Today’s Catholic.
Marian seniors Mark Imus and Catherine Rice express the impact of being a part of the March for Life.
“Every time you travel you learn a lot. It’s the nation’s capital and you see people from around the world that share the same views as you. It’s empowering,” Imus remarked.
Says Rice, “Sometimes you feel like it’s just my youth group or my school that doesn’t believe in abortion. But then you go to March for Life and see people who feel the same way you do.”
Saint Joseph’s junior Kate O’Brien and sophomore Michael Madden note the friendships and connections that develop from participating in the march. “It’s a cool way to live your faith. You feel like you can make a difference because you are marching with thousands of other people,” remarked O’Brien.
Madden added, “I think it’s important because we put our names out there, like Saint Joseph’s High School. It’s powerful because we bond and there are a ton of people there.”
Events held during the March for Life trip were of special significance to the students.
Imus found the actual march to be a powerful experience. “It was great going on the (National) Mall and seeing the thousands of people who were there united for the same reason.”
O’Brien recalled the impact of the youth rally on her visit. “It was a bunch of youth groups and high schools in the Verizon Dome and it was totally filled with people. They all had different colored shirts to tell where they were from. There were performers, bands and speakers that were really cool.”
The enthusiasm for this year’s March for Life was felt at all of the Catholic diocesan high schools.
“We came back last year and we were so excited. This year everyone was racing to get their (signup) sheets in,” Rice said.
Madden added, “I got more friends to go and I can’t wait to see their reactions. I think there will be even more people next year and the following years.”
The students share ways that people can support those attending the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
“They can attend a local march (in their communities). Just showing that they believe in the same things we do will help us get our point across better,” noted Imus.
O’Brien added, “It would be really nice if we could get their prayers while we are at the march.”
Everett sums up the impact of the March for Life on students and the community at large: “Without question, young people are the new backbone of the pro-life movement. Recent studies all confirm that today’s young people are more pro-life than their parents or grandparents.”
He concluded, “When they congregate in Washington by the hundreds of thousands, they can see this for themselves as can those who hold a pro-abortion position. I think that participating in the march gives further encouragement to young people to continue to struggle for the greatest human rights issue of our day.”
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