Lake Charles Pilgrims Attend March for Life
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 09:18
WASHINGTON – A group of Catholic faithful from the Diocese of Lake Charles, 159 in number, joined the hundreds of thousands of other pro-life supporters last week on the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.
This year’s March for Life crowd was estimated by some sources at more than a half million people, up from last year’s 400,000 plus group.
The Roe v Wade decision, handed down on Jan. 22, 1973, has been the cause of the abortion deaths of more than 55 million children – nearly the population of the states of California and New York combined.. The annual protest draws throngs of people to sections of the National Mall and surrounding streets in the nation’s capital to defend life.
The local group of pilgrims was organized by offices of Pro-Life and Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the Diocese, headed by Kathy Owen and Milissa Thibodeaux, respectively, both of who made the six-day trip by bus. Representatives from many of the parishes of the Diocese also took part as did Father Nathan Long, Father J. Scott Conner, Father Rommel Tolentino, and Father Jeffrey Starkovich. The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles, joined the pilgrims in Washington for the March as it moved through DC streets from the National Mall to the U.S. Supreme Court Building. To view some of the photos taken on the journey, most by Father Starkovich, click here
The coverage of the march by the national news media was once again limited or none at all. Much of the coverage came from individuals who used their social media accounts – Twitter and Facebook – to provide running dialogue and images of the event. Even these actions did nothing to move the various networks or print and electronic media to provide even minute coverage of the event. CNN did provide streaming video of the rally.
Bishop Provost, who also accompanied the pilgrims to last year’s march, was moved by this year's participants. “Much could be said and should be said about the March for Life,” he said. “However, one occurrence of many I witnessed touched me deeply. Towards the end of the March, near the Supreme Court building, there was a group of women holding signs that read, ‘I regret my abortion.’ These women had had abortions, regretted the fact, and now witnessed to the value of life.
“People from the march would approach the women and embrace them,” Bishop Provost continued. “This simple and inspiring gesture was a sign to us all of the power of love, forgiveness, and solidarity in the “Pro-Life” movement.”
A 90 minute rally was held on the Mall before the March with speakers including Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator and staunch abortion opponent who last year unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination. He recalled the love and support the country showed for his young daughter, Bella, who was born with a serious genetic condition and whose illness led him to take some time off from the campaign trail. He cited his daughter's life – "she is joyful, she is sweet, she is all about love" – as a reason to discourage abortion even in instances when women are told that it would be "better" to have one.
"We all know that death is never better – never better. Really what it's about is saying is it would be easier for us, not better for her," he said. "And I'm here to tell you ... Bella is better for us and we are better because of Bella."
He said the anti-abortion cause was made up of people who every day advocate for their position outside abortion clinics and at crisis pregnancy centers.
"This movement is not a bunch of moralizers standing on their mountaintop preaching what is right," Santorum said
Father Long, Secretary for the Ministry of Christian Formation and Director of Vianney House, made his second trip to the March.
“This is a very tough trip,” he said. “The teens were asked to make sacrifices daily regarding rest and comfort, but this only served to widen their hearts to God's work. These young people truly addressed this issue as it really is - a question of social justice. They know that they are among the two thirds that "survived" Roe v. Wade, and they know well that if others are to survive, great sacrifice will be required of them.”
Father Conner, the Chaplain of St. Louis Catholic High School and Parochial Vicar of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church, noted that his "participating in the March for Life has always been a time of great blessing for me, but this year, more so than in the past, I experienced God’s consolation in such a way that it is difficult to adequately put into words. In particular, I was especially encouraged at how our young people, who made the long pilgrimage via bus, responded to God’s grace. Leaving behind many daily comforts, they sacrificed joyfully in support of life, and for the rights of the unborn. Their charity, generosity, and patience made me very proud!"
Father Tolentino, the Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Hackberry accompanied a number of his parishioners on the pilgrimage. “Thirteen youth and young adults from our parish, both Hackberry and Johnson Bayou, joined the diocesan pilgrimage to the March for Life,” he said. “Many of them have not been outside our small community. They were most impressed by the universality of the Church and the role the Catholic Church plays in the pro-life movement.
“Most of the people there were Catholics from hundreds of parishes all over the country,” Father Tolentino continued. “The Catholic Church is much bigger than Hackberry or Johnson Bayou, yet they felt at home in every church or shrine we visited, and felt comfortable with other Catholics because our faith and practice truly unite us. The major role the Catholic Church plays in the protection of human life, especially the unborn, made them proud to be Catholic.
Some pilgrimage facts:
Comments from pilgrims: “The March for Life pilgrimage is an inspiration each year. Peacefully and prayerfully marching towards our nation’s capitol and the Supreme Court surrounded by over half-a-million people in support of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our society made an impact on my outlook of our culture. One of the most inspiring elements of the march was average age of the participants. The vast majority of those marching were under the age twenty-five. I was surrounded by the young Church, future legislators and politicians, many future parents–all who believe that life is valuable from conception to natural death.
- Three chartered buses carried the pilgrims on their journey.
- The group stopped at the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecelia in Nashville for Mass as well as Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. enroute to Washington.
- Pilgrims stayed a stayed at a church camp outside of DC for the week where they took meals, listened to talks, participated in adoration and Mass, and prayed.
- The Lake Charles pilgrims gathered with the others from the dioceses of Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, and New Orleans for the march. Before the march, they took part in the Louisiana Geaux Forth Rally (www.prolifelouisiana.org/youth/geauxforth.html).
- Visits to historical sites in Washington included the United States National Holocaust Museum, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The pilgrims joined thousands of others for a Mass at the Patriot Center at George Mason University in the hours before the march.
The march is about the gift of life in all of its stages. It is not only about the issue of abortion, but it goes beyond it to the heart of human love itself. It’s a sign of support for parents in crisis pregnancy situations: we march to tell them that they are not alone in their suffering, that we as a society want to support them in their distress. We march in the name of love and in the support of human dignity. We march to support the women and men who suffer regret and mental distress from past abortions. We march to say that we cannot and should not terminate human life in order that personal desires can be fulfilled. Terminating human life does not ease human suffering; it only creates more of it. We who march do so out of love and compassion.
It is not only about changing our nation’s laws and policies. The march symbolizes and embodies a movement to change hearts. We wish to teach the truths about the beauty of human love and the gift of sexuality that can result in the most precious gift of new human life. We want these gifts to grow healthily according to the laws of nature and divine love. I was proud to march with our young people in support of the beauty of human love,” - Reverend Jeffrey Starkovich, Parochial Vicar, Our Lady Help of Christians, Jennings.
“The march for life pilgrimage was honestly one of the best ministry experiences I have ever had. To spend so much time praying and sacrificing on behalf of those affected by the tragedy of abortion was a humbling and sanctifying experience. As a youth minister I got to watch my teens grow in their love of Christ on this trip, and as a teacher I was able to see the hearts of my students truly converted to the power of the pro-life movement. Furthermore, this pilgrimage helped me grow in my own spirituality as God challenged me for the sake of the pro-life cause.” - Katie Prejean, youth minister at OLQH and theology teacher at St. Louis Catholic High School
“One of my favorite things about this pilgrimage was going to all the different churches and shrines. We had Mass everyday, and we prayed constantly. I personally feel like this has helped me create a stronger prayer life for myself. My favorite place that we visited was the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The sanctuary inside the church on the grounds was completely made of gold, and there was an eight-foot monstrance inside the church, too. Even though all the gold in the church is beautiful and fit for Christ the King, I think the true beauty of the Shrine is in God’s creation outside of the church. All of the trees, small hills, and river were absolutely beautiful. This pilgrimage has changed my life, and I will continue to spread God’s love in my life.” - Noah McNally, eighth grade student from Our Lady Immaculate Catholic School, Jennings, LA.
“The March for Life trip totally changed my whole idea of church, God, & my faith. I've never experienced anything like what we did over there and I'll never forget it. It helped me open up to God and see everything I was missing. When I go to mass now it's not like, ‘Oh well it's mass.’ Instead, it’s ‘Yes! I can't wait to pray to God and to receive Christ!’ I'll never forget it! Thanks to all who put it on.” - Tayler Myers
“This experience woke up my apathetic heart toward the issue of abortion and encouraged me to no longer be so afraid to stand up for life. You don't have to be awesome, eloquent, or powerful to shed light and truth to the world. The answer is love. How can we know if anyone around us is affected by the heartaches of abortion? We may not always know, and so the only answer is to strive to love all those around us, because love conquers all. I believe in love now more than I had before.” - Jessica Taylor
“The week spent with our young church gives me great hope that this generation will make a difference in the fight for life. Spending much of our time praying and sacrificing strengthened my resolve to bring the good news of Christ's love and mercy to everyone!” -Felicia Borel, adult chaperone As a youth group minister, I was very blessed see the lives of the youth unfold and blossom in their faith during the march. To watch the children stand up for what they believe in and to see them on their knees in front of Planned Parenthood, gives the world hope for our future generations. - Melody Trahan, Our Lady Help of Christians Youth Ministry