BY CATHERINE TROLL
January 25, 2013 marked the 40th occurrence of the March for Life in Washington, D.C., which EWTN has dubbed “the largest, most important Civil Rights protest in the world.” This year the attendance reached a new record with 500,000 protestors assembling at the National Mall and marching for life. This exceeded the number of those present at Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech, which was between 200,000 and 300,000 people.
The march was preceded by many Masses and rallies in the D.C. area and across the states, and followed the next day by the annual Walk for Life on the west coast in San Francisco, Calif.
Franciscan University of Steubenville’s catechetics professor Bob Rice led the youth rally at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C., while hundreds of Franciscan students and faculty arrived with many others for Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The homily given at that national shrine stressed the correlation between the Israelites’ 40 years of misery and wandering in the desert and the 40 years of Roe v. Wade and the March to overturn it. It also focused on the Promised Land and hope.
This was the first year the March was held without its founder, Nellie Gray, who passed away a few months ago. The date for the march had to be moved due to the presidential inauguration. Instead it was held on January 25, which is the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.
At the rally, the board’s new chairman, Patrick Kelly, spoke about Nellie Gray’s passing, as did many of the pro-life legislators and other speakers there. Nellie Gray’s footsteps are being followed by the board’s new president, Jeanne Monahan, who relayed the news that more than 55 million Americans have been murdered as a result of legalized abortion. This is one sixth of the nation’s current population.
Despite these numbers, Monahan remained optimistic about the pro-life movement: “There is hope,” she said. “We are entering a new era.”
Speaker Chris Smith was of a similar attitude when he fiercely exclaimed, “Mr. President, we will never quit!” The Rev. O’Malley, now Archbishop of Boston and a 40-year veteran of the march, read a tweet from Pope Benedict XVI, who said he was with all those who marched for life.
The 10-degree weather and falling snow in the nation’s capitol did not keep half a million people from standing up for life. It was reported that about half of those who attend the March for Life annually are college students or younger. This year, Franciscan took eight charter bus-loads – hundreds of students, some of whom were venturing out for their first time at the March.
Franciscan’s students shared their experiences and reactions to the march. Greg Downs, a freshman who has been attending the March for the last 10 years, reflected: “It was very interesting going on my own and seeing everyone from school there rather than going with my family, because it really felt more like I was standing up for the cause,” said Downs. “Going on my own gave it new meaning because when you’re younger, it’s hard to really understand that you’re there for more than just a fieldtrip.”
Steve Pass said, “My first-time experience was very inspirational, but at the same time it was very difficult. It was inspirational because while we were all freezing, we stuck together as a group for the unborn souls. I thought we aren’t having fun out here at all. We’re offering it up. If I was having fun, I might’ve forgotten why we were there.”