A Teen's First March for Life

By Mary McClusky

December 7, 2012

Eighteen-year-oldErin made her first pilgrimage to Washington earlier this year to attend the March for Life. "It was so exciting to see all the other people there for the same reason. Listening to people tell their personal stories really connected me to what was going on," she said. Erin's experience had a lasting impact and shows that attending the March for Life or a similar local or diocesan event can transform young people into powerful pro-life witnesses.

Erin and her classmates traveled as a group, which she felt was important because she could be with her friends. They heard pro-life talks, attended a concert, and marched in the March for Life. "We all went back to school still talking about it and telling others what we saw and heard." The next time she hears about someone facing an unexpected pregnancy, she plans to speak up and share that there are other options besides abortion. Erin also took a stand for life when she voted for the first time in November. "When voting again I would keep my same pro-life stand and I'll try to convince others, too" she added.

For many young people, the March for Life is their first experience learning about abortion. For some, it comes as a shock to realize that the law since 1973 would have allowed them to be aborted. If society didn't care whether they lived or died, and if their survival depended only on how their mom felt about the pregnancy, they may wonder if their life really has inherent value. They need to hear our resounding YES! The memories of their first pro-life event can show them how they can make lasting, valuable contributions to building a culture of life throughout their lives, whether they go on to become parents, youth ministers, teachers, nurses, lawyers, pregnancy care center directors, or to work in any field where they can put their talents to use for life.

As Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston noted in the 2012 Respect Life Sunday Statement, "The youth who have come of age since Bl. Pope John Paul II inaugurated World Youth Day not only embrace the cause of life, they are actively involved in promoting life through social media and services to those in need." He named this as a positive sign that gives hope for the pro-life movement.

In January 2013, to help bring the memories of their experience home, pilgrims who attend the National Prayer Vigil for Life, which takes place every year at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington on the eve of the March for Life, will receive a decade rosary with the inscription "PRAY FOR LIFE" as a memento of their pilgrimage to Washington. These rosaries will be blessed by Cardinal O'Malley, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, during the Opening Mass of the all-night prayer vigil.

It is important to encourage young people to attend events where they can learn more about the sanctity of human life and become effective advocates for life. We should support their efforts to attend a pilgrimage to the March for Life in Washington or other local or state pro-life rallies, prayer events, concerts, walks and marches. One could, for example, sponsor a youth group, help with fundraising activities, be a chaperone or attend a send-off rally or prayer service that makes use of the Order for the Blessing for Pro-Life Pilgrims.

The highlight of Erin's trip was looking up into the stands during the concert and seeing a row of nuns singing along and dancing to the pro-life music. It's countercultural and pretty cool to be a pro-life Catholic! Young people like Erin who want to become effective pro-life witnesses deserve our support, encouragement and prayers.

For more information on local or Washington area pro-life events in January, please visit www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/january-roe-events.

Mary McClusky is Special Projects Coordinator at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To learn more about the bishops' pro-life activities, go to www.usccb.org/prolife.