Local teens march for life
The evening was cold. Snow was in the forecast, but our Canonsburg group maintained an unquestionable decision to travel to the 40th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. After all, this would be our eighth March for Life, participating each year since Father John Batykefer (Father Jack) was assigned as pastor of St. Patrick Parish. We were not about to cancel.
Pillows, blankets, hats, gloves, hand and foot warmers and wearing multiple layers, we boarded the bus at midnight, arriving in time for the early morning Youth Rally and Mass for Life at the Verizon Center. Teens carrying signs or wearing jackets, hats or T-shirts announcing hometowns across the U.S. were easily recognized: An amazing 13 buses from Dubuque, Iowa alone.
Although most states were represented, groups from Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, California and Florida were other easy standouts. Some told of fundraisers they held to cover plane and hotel costs, others to pay for bus transportation. Some riding for more than 20 hours to attend the March and to fill the Verizon Center for the sole purpose of making a stand for unborn lives.
Enthusiasm and positive energy prevailed among the crowd composed mainly of teens who came as witnesses to the gift of human life.
At the Youth Rally, musicians, authors and speakers held the young marchers attention prior to Mass concelebrated by Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C.(former bishop of Pittsburgh), Bishop David Zubik, current Pittsburgh bishop, and hundreds of cardinals, bishops and priests from around the world. An awesome sight it was.
Following the indoor rally, an estimated half million plus headed to Capitol Hill. The snow and cold wind didn’t weaken spirits as walkers were neck and neck on the streets and overflowing the sidewalks. It was the largest crowd I had ever seen, all with a purpose to protest abortion.
“Our teens gave up 24 hours of their busy lives to join thousands of their peers in prayer for life and in protest against abortion, because they know how important this issue is,” said Nicole Guyton, youth minster at St. Patrick. “They are pro-life, and I believe young people will be the ones to bring about a change in the laws that fail to protect life.”
Snow began filling Washington streets by the time we headed home. Prior arrangements had been made for a food stop at St. John the Evangelist Church in Frederick, Md., to refuel. Members of the church welcomed our group, offering a place to warm and a wonderful pasta dinner. Father Kevin Farmer also provided a tour of the historic church, this year celebrating the 250th anniversary of its founding.
St. John’s opened its first worship space in a small brick home in 1763. In 1789, Pope Pius VI created the first Roman Catholic Diocese in the U.S., the Diocese of Baltimore. During America’s Civil War, St. John’s novitiate building took on a dual use. Out of necessity, it became a hospital, filled with cots, medical supplies and the war’s injured soldiers, both Union and Confederate.
Reluctantly, we said our goodbyes and headed home as the snow and slippery conditions followed us to Canonsburg. Our bus driver was great and our young people were amazing. We may have been cold, but we were safe and quite happy to make a stand supporting human rights and unborn children, who cannot speak for themselves.
The controversial Supreme Court decision of the Roe vs. Wade abortion issue of 1973 began the March for Life’s pro-life movement. Focusing on the sanctity of human life, the National Right to Life Committee was founded after Roe vs. Wade’s pro-choice outcome. The committee’s goal is to reverse the court’s decision by making abortions illegal.
The estimated number of abortions performed in the U.S. alone since that Jan. 22, 1973, day is estimated to be more than 55 million. PA Department of Health reports more than 36,000 abortions were performed in PA in 2011; Allegheny County alone reports 3,900.