For about a half-hour on either side of noon Jan. 20, students and parishioners from St. Alban Roe Parish and School bore powerful witness to the pro-life movement.
About 200 people — 30 students in the middle-school youth ministry joined by roughly 170 parishioners of all ages, from babies to seniors — marched on the bike path along Highways 109 and 100, chanting, singing and carrying signs.
The lead sign, carried by three students, asked drivers to "Honk For Life," and honking horns accompanied the group throughout the two-mile hike from the parish church to Wildwood City Hall. There, Mayor Jim Bowlin greeted them.
"Thank you for voicing your support for this important cause," he said in brief remarks to the group. "It really is great that we live in a country where we can do that. ... Thank you for what you do."
After music and song by the school's Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, along with a little dancing by the students, the event closed with prayer, just as it had begun an hour previous.
Eighth-grader Anna Mallon marched at the front of the group carrying the "honk-for-life" banner and described the march as, in a word, "awesome."
Well, two words, actually: "Really awesome," she said.
Mallon volunteered to help carry the banner for a simple reason.
"I just felt leading would help me get more into the mood of pro life and helping stop abortion," she said, adding that the supportive honks of passing drivers "kind of put a positive point on the whole thing. It was a really awesome thing to do."
Sister Veritas Wilks agreed with that sentiment. In her third year at the school and first as middle-school youth minister, she organized the pro-life march to give seventh and eighth graders, both in PSR and the school, a local event in conjunction with the parish's high school students who traveled to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life.
"We wanted to have something smaller for the middle school, then we invited the rest of the parish," Sister Veritas said. "Everything went really well."
The march accomplished its mission of witnessing the pro-life cause, along two major thoroughfares in west St. Louis County — 109 and 100. Drivers, even those not honking, noticed.
Seventh-grader Thomas Rozman called the march "a great way to speak volumes about what you believe in. If you don't express what you believe in, then there's no point in believing it."
Silence only makes one complicit, while expressing an opinion might inspire another person to do the same.
"It's really good to voice your opinion," he said. "If you voice it, other people might think, 'Hmm, it's a good idea to do that as well. I believe in that, too, but I'm a little scared to do it.'"
"Show what you believe in," he advised. "Don't be afraid of what anyone says. Be courageous, step up, believe what you believe and voice your opinion."
Marches in the archdiocese
The march in Wildwood was among many at parishes and schools throughout the Archdiocese of St. Louis held in support of several thousand St. Louisans in Washington, D.C., for the March for Life. Several held pro-life marches at precisely the same time as the march in Washington, including Most Sacred Heart in Eureka and Valle Catholic School in Ste. Genevieve.
At Most Sacred Heart, fourth- through seventh-graders marched with a police escort through the streets of Eureka while eighth-graders marched in the nation's capital. At Valle, grade school students joined high school freshmen and sophomores to walk at the same time as juniors and seniors in Washington. They also got a police escort around the Ste. Genevieve County building.
Sophomore Maria Marzuco described it as "very cool" to march at the same time as classmates in the nation's capital, but she lamented "missing a little bit of" television coverage of that march to make the local march. She plans to make up for it by being there next year.
In the meantime, the local march "is a good way to advance our faith and show our community what we think is right," sophomore Caleb Hoog said.
The silent march ended with a candlelight service in the church, with a reading of the creation story in Genesis and the sobering reality of possible accomplishments of the estimated 60 million babies killed by abortion in the 45 years since Roe vs. Wade.
"It's so sad," Marzuco said, softly.