By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published February 9, 2017
ATLANTA—More than 300 people from the Archdiocese of Atlanta joined tens of thousands from across the nation for the 44th annual March for Life at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Jan. 27.
Local groups traveling to the nation’s capital included high school contingents from Blessed Trinity in Roswell, Holy Spirit Prep in Atlanta, Our Lady of Mercy in Fayetteville, Pinecrest Academy in Cumming, and St. Pius X in Atlanta, as well as parish groups from St. Bernadette Church in Cedartown, St. Michael the Archangel Church in Woodstock, and St. Michael Church in Gainesville and college students from Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Lyke House AUC Catholic Center with their chaplains.
Before going to the National Mall to participate in the march, the high school students attended a morning rally and Mass for Life sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington at the Verizon Center. Nearly 18,000 youth participated in the Mass for Life, filling the arena.
The March for Life traditionally takes place on or near the Jan. 22 anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that legalized abortion. This year it was held several days later due to the presidential inauguration Jan. 20.
H. Patrick Dillon, a senior at Our Lady of Mercy, said he marched in the hope that someday all people will recognize abortion as the slaying of innocent human life.
“Today, we look back on human rights atrocities such as slavery and Jewish persecution during the Holocaust and wonder how humanity could have ever justified such crimes,” said Dillon. “How could we as a people, though not all of us, but any of us, have found these actions acceptable? As we humans work toward a growing respect of human life, I feel that we will come to view abortion in the same dark and shameful light.”
Dillon’s classmate, Mary Kate Walker, said she has always been pro-life and recalls a teacher sharing the painful experience of losing a child through miscarriage.
“Many parents today lose their children due to complications, and many lose their child just because they think it’s the best decision for themselves,” said Walker. “I proudly walked in the march for all the aborted babies who never even had a chance at life, but especially for my teacher’s child and all of the parents who lost their child due to complications.”
Youth carried preprinted and homemade signs, and some wore hats and T-shirts with March for Life logos.
“A powerful experience”
Pinecrest Academy’s contingent went to Mass on the school campus before departing for Washington on Jan. 23. The group was made up mostly of junior class members.
Their theme was “Understanding and Respecting the Sanctity of Life.” The teachers accompanying the students and tour guides helped them reflect on the theme throughout the week.
Pinecrest students also had the opportunity to tour the Pentagon, White House, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Arlington Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Holocaust Museum, the St. John Paul II Museum and other sites.
Holy Spirit Preparatory School students, led by four chaperones and Father Juan Hernandez, LC, are members of the school’s pro-life apostolate in grades nine to 12.
It was Holy Spirit’s fifth consecutive year to send a delegation to the march.
Brendan Dudley, director of the Respect Life Ministry for the archdiocese, traveled to Washington and connected with numerous ministry leaders.
“The March for Life was a powerful experience full of hope, and it appeared to have record-breaking crowds,” said Dudley.
The theme of the 2017 event was “The Power of One.”
Dudley also attended the 35th annual Rose Dinner, the concluding event on the night of the march, with keynote speaker Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. He said the cardinal’s address was a “rousing reminder” of the wayward ideologies that undergird the abortion industry.
“He concluded by sharing a message of hope through the life-affirming example of recently deceased Catholic New York City police detective Steve McDonald who was paralyzed in 1986 in the line of duty and went on to inspire many people throughout the nation,” said Dudley.
Visiting Georgia’s senators
St. Michael Church in Gainesville took its largest group to date with 54 people traveling by bus with Msgr. Jaime Barona, pastor. Group leader Tony Maturo said the majority were 21 or younger and first-time pilgrims.
Msgr. Barona concelebrated the opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The Gainesville group visited with senior staff members of Georgia’s senators with both committing to support pro-life legislation. The aides encouraged all to continue making their voices known on life issues by reaching out to lawmakers by email, letters and social media.
“I pray that the March for Life may have planted a seed to create a culture of life in all that attended,” said Maturo. “I pray that seed grows and spreads as all of us return home to our families, churches and friends and that the excitement and exuberance for life felt at the March for Life may fuel the fire of life within all of us.”
It was the sixth year for Alison Stone, visual arts teacher at Pinecrest Academy, to serve as chaperone on the trip. Stone said she is always renewed in her own convictions by the students’ joyful testimony.
“Several individuals and other groups commended our students for their zeal and their passion in the two-hour long march to the Supreme Court. By the end of the trip, one student changed her stance from being pro-choice to being pro-life,” she said. “This pilgrimage truly united the whole class and gave them a sense of purpose to stand up and defend the most vulnerable in our society.”