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Jennifer Brinker is a reporter for the St. Louis Review and Catholic St. Louis.
Beats: Life issues, Young adult and youth ministries, liturgies and devotions
Geographic areas covered: Parishes and schools in the North City, North County, West County and St. Charles Deaneries.
A message of respect for all life was heard loud and clear from a contingent of St. Louisans who were in attendance at the 47th annual March for Life.
Roughly 3,000 people from St. Louis — including more than 2,400 from the archdiocesan Generation Life pilgrimage, and about 300 St. Louisans with the Missouri Life Caravan, not to mention countless parish and school groups that participated independently — were among the tens of thousands who gathered in Washington, D.C., Jan. 24.
Prior to the March, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson celebrated Mass for Generation Life pilgrims at the Gateway Crystal Marriott in Arlington, Va. In the homily, he said that more than 61 million abortions have occurred since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, but each abortion is more than just a number.
“Of all the creatures that God has created, only human beings share in His image, and each one of us is given the ability to know, receive and return the love of God,” said the archbishop, who has attended 14 marches. “The dignity of human life is determined by God and thus is always to be protected.”
The ultimate goal of the Generation Life pilgrimage, sponsored each year by the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry, is to move the hearts of young people to the reality of abortion so that lives can be changed and they can return home and take action, said Brian Miller, senior director of the archdiocesan Catholic Youth Apostolate.
“If what we do stays in D.C., it’s not worth it, and we should shut the whole thing down,” he said. “But if people come home and they’ve had their lives changed, we know it makes a difference.“ He cited past participants who have returned as adult chaperones, or have become activists on college campuses or youth ministers. “They’re going out and they’re doing it,” he said. “We continue to gain momentum this year.”
President Donald Trump spoke for about 10 minutes at the midday rally on at the National Mall before the start of the March for Life. He was the first president to speak in person in the 47-year history of the march. He specifically addressed the many young people in attendance, crediting them for their commitment to life.
“It’s your generation that is making this a pro-life nation,“ he said. “You are powered by prayer and motivated by pure, unselfish love.”
“You stand for life each and every day,” he said. “You provide housing, and education, jobs and medical care to the women that you serve. You find loving families for children in need of a forever home. You host baby showers for expecting moms. You make it your life’s mission to help spread God’s grace.
The president received resounding cheers from the crowd when he said, “we know that every human soul is divine and every human life, born and unborn, is made in the holy image of almighty God.”
Trump also said that religious liberty has been under attack in the United States, and cited efforts being made to protect the religious liberty of groups such as the Little Sisters of the Poor. He also spoke about states that have recently proposed legislation loosening restrictions on abortion, including New York and Virginia.
First-time marchers Ethan Schremp and Elizabeth Blessing of St. Vincent de Paul High School in Perryville said they certainly expected the large crowds, but they weren’t expecting to see something this big. Being pro-life means working “to save lives that can’t save themselves,” said Elizabeth, a freshman.
Jessica Steele, a junior at St. Vincent, has attended three marches. She said being pro-life means to speak “for those who can’t choose themselves, and defending their right — because they should be able to live.” She said it’s equally important to defend life year-round, not just at the march. The high school sponsors a chapter of Students for Life, which supports a local pregnancy center, including organizing collections of baby supplies. Once she returns home, Jessica said she would like to become involved in supporting the pregnancy center.
Twenty-eight eighth-grade students and chaperones represented St. Patrick School in Wentzville. These first-time marchers stood in front of the Washington Monument as they waited for the rally to conclude, and reflected on what it means to be pro-life.
“It means to protect all life, including babies who are unborn, to the elderly,” said Mia Schickler.
And what message do they plan to bring back to St. Patrick School?
”I’m going to tell them to respect life no matter what circumstances,” said Abby Schickler.
Michael Forget Jr., a student at St. John Paul II Preparatory School, was attending his first march with the Missouri Life Caravan. The St. Alban Roe Wildwood parishioner said he’s been involved in his pro-life club at school, participating in the monthly Helper’s of God Precious Infants Mass and Rosary procession to pray in front of Planned Parenthood. Michael also is a member of Life Runners, and enjoys running to daily Mass.
He said being pro-life means “defending life, not just from conception until natural death … but also nurturing life. I see that in my sisters who are having their first kids and I am helping to teach them their ABCs, and watching them walk. It’s wonderful to see them grow.”
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