Samantha Buehler was in awe of the crowd. She expected it to be big. But not this big.
The eighth-grader at St. Charles Borromeo School in St. Charles had long dreamed of participating in the March for Life. She’d heard the stories from her friends’ older siblings, who had gone before her. But as she stood on the National Mall with hundreds of thousands of other marchers Jan. 18, Samantha was edified to stand alongside others who also hold the belief that every life matters.
“I think abortion is about the most awful thing thing you can do,” she said. “because they’re babies. Everyone else here, we were all babies. If we were aborted, we wouldn’t be here. I just hope people realize these are actual live children.”
The St. Charles Borromeo contingent — 33 in all, including teens and chaperones — was among the group of 2,400 attending the Generation Life pilgrimage, hosted by the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry. St. Charles Borromeo youth minister Kristin Williams, who has been on the march five times, said the experience gives them an energy that they can bring home with them as they live out a pro-life message.
“We want to stand up for life from conception until natural death — life at all stages,” Williams said. “We educate them on what abortion means and what happens. But it’s also standing up for the immigrant. It’s standing up for people who have Down syndrome, people who have autism. It doesn’t have to be something huge. Something little can make a difference, such as showing respect for everyone they come into contact with.”
The crowd was jubilant throughout the afternoon rally, and the sun broke just in time as the march began its way along Constitution Avenue. Headed by a large banner and flags with the archdiocesan blue-and-gold crest, the St. Louis crew engaged in prayer, pro-life chants and even some time for banter during the long walk.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann, a St. Louis native and now chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, called St. Louis “unique in the nation in its strong pro-life support, and particularly with the Church.“ He pointed to the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Carberry, who started the archdiocese’s first Pro-Life Committee in 1973, not long after the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision.
The March for life “is to energize us for the rest of the year,” said Archbishop Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan. “The real pro-life evangelization happens in day-to-day life. It happens in encounters with family and friends and neighbors. The job that we accept in coming to the march is to go back and reach others with what we experienced here.”
Other groups from the St. Louis area also made it to the march, including several bus loads with the Missouri Life Caravan, and Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. Seminarian Brad Baumgarten, who worked for several years with Coalition for Life St. Louis and march veteran, was attending his first march as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Baumgarten said he found a deeper faith through the pro-life movement, and was encouraged to see the energy of seminarians when he entered last fall as a pre-theology student. “The pro-life movement’s very much ingrained in faith, but now I get an even greater sense of how important it is to pray for the unborn. I get to see the spiritual battle a little bit deeper than when I did before, being in the seminary. It’s made my heart grow.”
Tyson Mansley, was among 49 people attending the march with Assumption Parish in south St. Louis County. The freshman at St. John Vianney High School was pretty straightforward in his understanding of what abortion is. “There’s literally no reason killing unborn babies should be allowed,” he said. “Life starts at conception no matter what. It’s still a human, even if it’s an embryo.“
But as he and fellow marcher John Paul Angeli explained, it’s important to take a loving approach and show support for mothers who are considering abortion. That happens through maternity homes such as Our Lady’s Inn, and other support organizations, including Birthright and Thrive St. Louis. But it also happens through personal encounters, and treating others with respect.
”This is what we’re called to do as Christians,” John Paul said.
Follow Generation Life STL 365 for updates from the March for Life.