A blizzard could not keep a busload of 46 local high school teens, college students, and staff members from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona from attending the national March for Life in Washington D.C. over the weekend of Jan. 22.
This year marked the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions, ones that extended women’s rights to have legalized abortions in all 50 states. The March for Life is a pro-life movement that opposes the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions with demonstrations held across the nation, with the national event held in Washington D.C. annually, according to Ben Frost, the Diocesan Director of the Office of Youth and Young Adults in Winona.
According to the March for Life website, the vision for the annual March for Life is to “bring together pro-life leaders and groups to organize and strategize around a common message, and to communicate this message to the government, the media, and the nation in a way that is powerful and life affirming.”
While an impending winter storm deterred some groups throughout the United States from making the trek, around 15,000 to 20,000 young people attended, said Frost.
The weekend consisted of attending the “Life is Very Good” conference on the eve of the march, followed by the Rally and Mass for Life the next morning, presided by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington.
“They gain a real sense of courage; a courage to be able to go into this world, that oftentimes diminishes the worth of human persons,” said Frost.
It was Frost’s third time attending the march in Washington. “This was a unique experience,” he said because the weather provided some challenges, and a blizzard was on the way. Frost said there was a special message from Pope Francis given by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.
Carly Radke, a senior at Saint Mary’s University double-majoring in theology and psychology, and is president of Students for Life. She organizes events at SMU that align with the values of the pro-life movement, and this is one of their biggest events of the year.
This was also Radke’s third time experiencing the March for Life weekend in Washington. She says “just going and being around like-minded people to be a witness was powerful.”
On the bus ride from Winona, Radke said Father Andrew Vogel encouraged students to practice talking with each other about the power of respecting life from the time of conception, so they could educate others.
With the pro-life movement being such a hot-button issue, Radke said “it’s really encouraging” to see young people coming together as a community to serve as witnesses to life.
One of the highlights she said was after leaving the Mass for Life at the Verizon Center prior to the start of the March. Radke said she saw people looking out their windows at the demonstration and watching the group start their march towards the nation’s capitol. She said it was powerful because maybe they were able to influence some people who were on the fence about the topic of being pro-life.
Ultimately, the snowstorm forced the group from Winona to cut the trip short. Instead of participating fully in the march, they made the decision to climb back aboard the bus and head for home, but not before saying a prayer for all those who would forge ahead until reaching the nation’s capital. The risk of getting stranded on the highway was simply too high, Frost expressed.
In addition to a bus going to Washington, a bus of Saint Mary’s University seminarians, who participated in a similar rally in St. Paul over the weekend.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona is comprised of more than 100 parish groups. Eight of those parish groups helped raise funds to cover the transportation, hotel, and food expenses, according to Frost.
Frost said the trip cost between $275 and $300 per person.
The Diocese makes an annual trip to either Washington D.C. or Saint Paul, it depends on what day of the week Jan. 22 lands. If it happens to land in the middle of the week, Frost says it’s challenging for students to miss at least two days of school.
Though the trip got cut short because of the snowstorm, Frost was adamant when he said, “it was a beautiful witness of faith…it was a very powerful trip.”
For more information on the March for Life, find them on the Web at www.marchforlife.org, or call 202-234-3300.