WASHINGTON, D.C. – Young people from the Archdiocese of Baltimore filled multiple sections of the Capital One Arena in the nation’s capital early on the morning of Jan. 19 for the Mass for Life, which kicks off the annual March for Life.
Those sections erupted in applause as Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington and principal celebrant, read off the names of concelebrants Archbishop William E. Lori, and auxiliary Bishops Adam J. Parker and Mark E. Brennan. The day marked the one-year anniversary of the episcopal ordinatons of Bishops Parker and Brennan.
Young people from around the nation occupied the remaining seats in the arena best known as the home of NBA and NHL teams.
The morning began with a Youth Rally, which featured artists such as Emily Wilson and Out of the Darkness, along with group prayers led by students of local schools.
Catholics from each county in the archdiocese joined the estimated 100,000 pro-lifers who then gathered on the National Mall near the Washington Monument for the 44th annual effort. Throughout the day, the presence of the Baltimore Archdiocese was seen and heard.
Western Maryland sisters
St. Peter the Apostle in Oakland parishioners Colleen O’Brien, 19, and her sister Catherine, 17, have been coming to the March for Life with their family for years.
“Anyone’s presence fuels the movement,” said Catherine, a student at South Garrett High School.
Faced with a three-and-a-half hour from Maryland’s westernmost county, the sisters traveled the previous night with their mother and another parishioner and stayed with a relative.
“Abortion is wrong,” said Colleen, who is studying at Garrett Community College. “Something needs to happen; someone needs to change it.”
“Instead of saying, ‘Abortion is wrong,’” Catherine said, “you actually get to do something about it.”
Chaperones guided 12 students from St. Thomas More Academy in Middletown from the Shady Grove Metro Station to the Capital One Arena.
The pre-K-8 school brought some of the youngest participants to the event, including sixth-grader Jack Kosch, 12, who said he comes to the march to “try to help those who don’t have a voice and need to be saved.”
The Frederick County school closed to allow students the opportunity to attend the Mass and march with either the school-sponsored group, or with their families.
“We need to respect even the littlest (people),” said Laura Neumark, 13, an eighth-grader.
Passion for faith
Enzo Leone, a 15-year-old student at Mount St. Joseph High School in Baltimore, cited his strong faith background as a reason he attended with the youth group from his parish, Our Lady of the Fields in Millersville.
“I get to help the people that started me off in my path,” Leone said, referring to not just his family, but also to God. “At the basis, (faith) gives people the strength to do things they couldn’t do.”
Kathleen Jauschnegg, Leone’s youth and young adult minister, brought a group of eight that ranged in age from 15 to 19.
Jauschnegg brings them, she said, “so that they learn they’re not alone in their beliefs and their faith in Jesus Christ.”
While the youth group used public transit to make their way to the morning Mass, busses from Our Lady of the Fields brought others to the March for Life.
Included were twins Anna and Michael Dodd, 10, along with their mother, Christine, parishioners of St. Joseph in Odenton.
“We’re all made in the image and likeness of God,” Christine said. “This is the Gospel of Life, this is what Jesus wanted us to do.”
Christine has kept herself and her four children active in pro-life causes. In addition to participating in 40 Days for Life and praying outside of abortion clinics, the family is active politically. A few years ago, Anna and Michael helped distribute postcards to lawmakers in Washington promoting life.
Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia Joan of Arc Wicks led the largest group from the archdiocese on the trek from the arena to the Washington Monument, March for Life itself began
Sister Joan of Arc is a member of the social science department at Mount de Sales Academy, which bused 250 students from its Catonsville campus. With approximately 50 chaperones, the group’s total was nearly 300.
The group gathered at 4:45 a.m. for their departure.
“It was cold and early, I was tired,” said Maria Kolb, a tenth-grader and parishioner of St. Louis in Clarksville. “But it was worth it.”
“We’re given such an amazing gift from God – life,” said Mary Bartlinski, another tenth-grader.
A parishioner of St. Mark in Catonsville, Bartlinski loves coming to the march to be “the voice for those who cannot speak.”
Strong women and the next generation
A rally that began at noon at the Washington Monument that included music and speakers, including President Donald J. Trump via a live satellite broadcast. The march to the Supreme Court began at 1 p.m. Following the march, attendees were able to visit with their representatives and promote the respect life cause – from conception until natural death.
Sparks residents and Church of the Nativity in Towson parishioners Paul and Debbie Gurny were in their eighth march.
“We really want to encourage the next generation,” Debbie said. “It’s uplifting to see all these people.”
Paul said that people are beginning to see that what the secular media promotes about life is not always correct. More simply, Paul said that he comes to the march year after year “supporting life.” His wife added with a smile, “Supporting babies!”
Debbie was a member of Loyola University Maryland’s first class of women to attend all four years. Though many in the women’s movement call the pro-life movement “anti-woman,” Debbie said that is “false.” She hails from a family of all girls, and said that her father was very supportive and raised “strong women to do the right thing.”
A global cause
Leonor Castel-Branco is living in Baltimore City on a visa while her husband completes his doctorate. The couple intend to move back to their native Portugal. In the meantime, they have joined the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary community.
Even though they are not eligible to vote, Leonor and her husband decided to march.
“This fight for the right that is life is not the fight of just a country,” said Leonor. “It’s a global cause. We want to support this cause in our country, here or anywhere we go.”
They attended the March for Life in their home country, but always heard about the one held in Washington.
“We couldn’t miss this powerful event,” said Leonor, who currently works for the archdiocese as an assistant to Bishop Parker. “We want to be part of the movement.”
A parishioner of St. Joseph in Cockeysville attended the march for his first time. An undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, he requested that his name not be shared.
For four years, he has been going back and forth between the U.S. and Guatemala, where he has a wife and daughter, and his wife’s two children, to support. He has faith that he will find a way to stay in the U.S., to provide a better future for the children.
He chose St. Joseph because he identifies with the church’s patron saint. He said that the parish is a way for him to cope with the invalidity that he feels as an undocumented immigrant.
Attending the march gave him the opportunity to take information about what is happening in the U.S. back to Guatemala. He was amazed at the amount of people who showed up to support the cause.
St. Ursula in Parkville has sponsored a bus to the march for 15 years. This year, it carried veteran marchers, first-timers and a group from the Catholic Campus Ministry at Towson University.
Joy Stephanie Telan, a senior at Towson focusing in deaf studies, joined Catholic Campus Ministry in the fall of 2015.
She first discovered American Sign Language in high school, from a friend, because she is hard of hearing. Telan, a parishioner of St. Mary’s in Annapolis, came to the U.S. from the Philippines with her mother and brother when she was eight.
She is passionate about the respect life cause, and said, “people deserve to live.”
“Women think that they don’t have an option,” Telan said, “but they do have a choice.”
Trish Williams, parishioner of the combined parishes of St. Agnes and St. William of York in Baltimore, said that she would do, “anything to end abortion.”
“If I stop one person – just one person – from having an abortion,” Trish said, “then today was worth it.”
Trish lost eight children to miscarriage. She said that the medical term used for a miscarriage, spontaneous abortion, upsets her and she would like to see it changed.
Trish described the pain that she felt while she was in the hospital following her miscarriages, and seeing other women who were having abortions. She wanted her babies to live.
She and her husband, Glenn, have three sons. One, heartbreakingly, was murdered.
Glenn said that they have hope that the laws allowing abortion will change.
“If they think a speck of bacteria on Mars is life (but not a baby),” Glenn said, “then they need to change their way of thinking.”
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