Giving the Unborn a Voice: March for Life 2017 Preview
Countless thousands will be marching across the country in companion events to the national March for Life.
WASHINGTON — On Jan. 27, tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. (broadcast live by EWTN).
But countless thousands more — adults, teens, school groups and families who cannot travel to the nation’s capital — will be marching in companion events held across the country, praying for the end of abortion, which has claimed nearly 60 million unborn babies in the past 44 years.
On Jan. 13, the 11th annual Charlotte March and Mass for Life (MarchforLifeCharlotte.org) in North Carolina begins with Mass. Main coordinator Tina Witt said that while the march averages up to 500 people, speakers are often major pro-life figures, such as Father Frank Pavone from Priests for Life, and speakers from Human Life International. The speeches always take place at the city’s historical main intersection. The Catholic participants will then pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet at the federal courthouse.
“Even though it’s not a whole lot of people,” said Witt, “it’s very visual.” Marchers walk over a bridge and side by side along sidewalks. “All the people driving by have to see us. We go in on the middle of the action — lunchtime — to capture” attention.
In colder climes on Jan. 14, the New Hampshire Right to Life (NHRTl.org) begins its March for Life with a memorial service for unborn children at Concord Landfill, where some years ago their remains were discovered to have been dumped. Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Concord follows; then the marchers will walk past an abortion business to the State House, before hearing speaker Jennifer Lahl, founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network.
As NHRL President Jane Cormier told the Register, “Typically, we have 400-600 people attend our event annually. It is a wonderful coming together of life supporters throughout New Hampshire and, indeed, beyond.”
The 11th annual March for Life St. Augustine (MarchforLifeStAugustine.com) in Florida will take place on Jan. 14. According to founder and coordinator May Oliver, this year’s theme is “A Call to Be Brave.”
The event will begin Friday evening with a Holy Hour, Mass and a “Living Rosary” at Our Lady of La Leche Shrine and Mission Nombre de Dios. Saturday’s events begin with Mass, after which thousands of participants will march from the shrine to the public plaza and gazebo to hear Olivia Gans Turner of National Right to Life give the keynote address.
“There’s a lot of interest and excitement,” Oliver said. “Every year, it grows larger. We had over 3,000 on the 10th anniversary.”
She explained this year’s theme: “The call to be brave is to really step up the dialogue for life, to keep praying, and to get all of us as prayer warriors,” she said. This theme is meant to inspire marchers to be more of a presence working with churches and elected officials to get the word out about the dignity of life, she added.
The following week, the March & Stand for Life Jacksonville will take place Jan. 23 at the U.S. federal courthouse.
Also on Jan. 14, the North Texas March for Life (DallasMarchforLife.com) promises to be another pro-life bonanza.
“We generally have about 10,000 people marching each year,” Kyllen Wright, president of the event, told the Register. “We are expecting a crowd that’s bigger and more energized than ever. There’s a new legislature convening this week and new president next week who has pledged to protect life.”
Events begin in downtown Dallas with a Youth for Life Rally at St. Jude Chapel. Running simultaneously will be prayer vigils outside of three Dallas abortion facilities. Next is the Procession of Roses to the city’s town hall by those born in 1973 or later, in memory of the unborn babies aborted each year since abortion was legalized in the United States.
Marchers proceed to the Earle Cabell Federal Courthouse, infamously the place where the Roe v. Wade lawsuit was filed in 1970. Rally speakers include Bishop Gregory Kelly of Dallas and Mary Ann Niles of Rachel’s Vineyard.
As the Dallas March for Life has grown, it has brought together different denominations of Christians.
Explained Wright, “[The march] has been instrumental in getting evangelicals back out on the streets. It’s a good mix and makes a strong public witness, while firing everyone up for the year.”
Back north, this year’s March for Life Chicago (MarchforLife-Chicago.org) on Jan. 15, sponsored by Illinois Right to Life and others, has several featured speakers, including Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich.
“Last year, we had 5,000, and it was pretty cold,” said Regina D’Amico, program manager for Illinois Right to Life. “This year we are expecting 5,000 again, but we’re hoping” for “a greater turnout over last year, with the warmer weather and conditions.”
“The march is the largest pro-life event in the Midwest. We have people coming from not only Illinois, but several surrounding states. This year we’re hoping to see more people coming from Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio.”
“We’re really excited because we have a diversified crowd coming from all over the Midwest,” said Dawn Fitzpatrick, head of the Respect Life ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Fitzpatrick, who also serves on March for Life Chicago as the president and co-chair, added that the march “includes people from all over the Midwest. We’re also having activities all weekend.” Among them are a Rose Dinner, college conference and youth rally — “all kinds of things going on including more and more people. We’re showing the country that Chicago and the Midwest are pro-life.”
D’Amico expects more than numbers. “The theme of this year’s march is ‘Life Wins.’ Every March for Life Chicago is a celebration of life. It’s very joyous,” she explained. “This year we want to place emphasis especially on the accomplishment we’ve made for life so far. No matter what trials may come, we will continue to work hard and strive for the protection of human life because, in the end, Life Wins.”
Westward in the Rockies, Celebrate Life and March Denver 2017 (RespectLifeDenver.org) expect thousands of participants on Jan. 14.
The day begins with six Masses in various churches, including one celebrated at the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception by Archbishop Samuel Aquila. Everyone will then rally at the State Capitol to hear speeches from the archbishop, pro-life activist Abby Johnson and Catholic evangelist Chris Stefanick.
In the past, the march has drawn 5,000 from Denver and surrounding states, according to Lynn Grandon, program director of the Office of Respect Life. “This is such a large hub for so many Western states, and we have more than 300 days of sunshine a year. We have very pleasant winters.”
Grandon said the march will be unique. Because more than 50% of the archdiocese’s parishioners are Hispanic, “we have a real Hispanic flavor this year,” she said. “We have four Masses in Spanish prior to the march. We have a mariachi band as part of the march and Aztec dancers in costume. There’s that really joyful, electric feel for this march, with the Latino intensity.”
Whatever the ethnicity of pro-life marchers everywhere, they all can march in unison.
As Oliver said: “This is the point in history where we have to shine and bring the unborn and all rights to the attention of our society.”
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.