BY HANNAH CRITES AND LAUREN RAMSEYER
“A little cold is never going to stop us,” exclaimed the Rev. Terrance Henry, TOR, as Franciscan University of Steubenville students gathered around the University’s banner in below zero temperatures at the 41st annual March for Life on Jan. 22.
Hundreds f students from Franciscan University packed into nine charter buses just before midnight the previous night. With roughly 55 people on each bus and many other students waitlisted, and still others traveling in their own vehicles, the journey to Washington D.C. began.
The University’s theme for the 2014 March for Life was taken from the Gospel of John 1:5: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
The morning of the March, Pope Francis sent his support via Twitter for the pro-lifers who were marching: “I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers. May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable.”
Despite the record temperatures, which led federal buildings to close for the day, students were eager to brave the weather to shine a light on the cause.
“We, as a university, believe in the (pro-life) cause,” said the Rev. Sean Sheridan, TOR. “It is inbred in our students in classrooms, with our staff as witnesses. It is important to be public about that.”
At the Wednesday morning Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Rev. Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, was scheduled to act as principle celebrant but was unable to attend due to the weather. He sent his homily to be read by the basilica rector, and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, took his place as principle celebrant for the Mass.
“All of us are here because we love our country and want it to embody in law and in practice the highest ideals of its founding,” wrote Chaput in his homily, although he was unable to attend due to weather. “Our job is to work as hard as we can, as joyfully as we can, for as long as we can to encourage a reverence for human life in our country and to protect the sanctity of the human person, beginning with the unborn child.”
Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly young adults, gathered together to begin the March. The theme for the March this year was “Adoption: A Noble Decision.” The March began at the National Mall then moved up Constitution Avenue to Capital Hill and ended in front of the Supreme Court Building where abortion was first deemed constitutional in 1973.
“It is important to stand up for the unborn who had their lives taken away,” said freshman Dennis Vu, who assisted in carrying the university’s banner. “Without the right to life, no other right can exist.”
In his opening remarks at the rally, March for Life Chairman, Patrick Kelly, said that the March is the “largest and most important civil rights demonstration in the world.”
Matt Maher, Catholic singer and songwriter, was present at the rally before the March and preformed only two songs “Hold Us Together” and “Lord I Need You” due to time constraints and extreme weather conditions.
Besides the early morning Mass at the basilica, there were also two opening youth rallies and Masses at the Verizon Center and the D.C. Armory where Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, served as principle celebrants.
“No one is an accident, no one is dispensable,” said the Rev. Michael Paris of Maryland, homilist at the Mass at the Verizon Center. “God said, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I appointed you as prophet to the nations.'”
Paris continued by saying that it is our job to be a witness for those who do not have a voice.
“Without life, every other cause wouldn’t be important,” said Nicole Sofield, a Franciscan junior. “I am excited to be a witness for others.”
Fellow student and first-time March attendee Chloe Dault said, “I don’t really know what I was anticipating, but it was really amazing to see all the people that could come together, even in the cold, to be here and to hear all the stories of witnesses and just to be here for the cause.”