WASHINGTON — Friars and friends traveled from around the Province last month to show their passion for life and their opposition to abortion and other actions that violate the sanctity of life. They joined thousands at the 42nd annual March for Life on the National Mall on Jan. 22, displaying banners that communicated their desire for change.
Some came from as near as Maryland and Virginia, while others traveled from New York. Many voiced positive reactions to the experience.
Peter Schneible, OFM, traveled from Western New York with 10 students from St. Bonaventure University, where he is a professor.
“It is a long distance to travel when we’re staying for less than 36 hours, but it is important that we stand up for the dignity God gave to human life,” said the friar. St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring hosted the group the night before the march, and the parish’s Knights of Columbus provided breakfast and a boxed lunch.
Peter found himself inspired by a sign that he carried during the march. “It read ‘I am a voice for the voiceless,’” he explained. “This march is important for the students because it gives them a concrete demonstration that we are not alone in this cause. There were many high school and college students there, as well as groups from several foreign countries, to inspire them.”
Several members of Holy Name College in Silver Spring also took part in the rally. Student friar Casey Cole, OFM, provided his thoughts on his blog, Breaking in the Habit.
“As a Franciscan training for public ministry, I think that the march is a great model for leadership: remain among the sheep, follow where the flock is going, and do my best to keep it from harm, whether that be self-inflicted or external,” he wrote. “In the case of the ‘pro-life’ movement, there is little argument about the narrowness of its focus and that it would be better with a fuller understanding of the rich Catholic tradition. But there is energy that needs to be followed and encouraged; to scoff at it or discourage involvement for the sake of other movements, for which there is little passion outside of its leader, would be inappropriate and ineffective.
“As ministers, it is our duty to make sure that the faithful understand the stirring of the Spirit in them through the message of the Gospel and within the context of a Church of believers,” continued Casey. “Is there room for guidance and correction in this process? Absolutely. But as I have found through this experience, the guidance and correction go both ways: the sheep must be willing to expand or change their course at the direction of the shepherd, but the shepherd must also be willing to march with the sheep when they have their sights set on something that is good and true. This is why I chose to march yesterday, and I am glad that I did.”
On his blog, Casey posted photos of the event that he describes as “the most actively attended and supported advocacy initiative of the American Catholic Church.”
Postulant Angel Vazquez said, “I was very pleased to see so many people voicing their beliefs about the dignity of life, but at the same time I felt that the march was too narrow-minded. To me, the March for Life is more than just overturning Roe v. Wade. It is about the dignity of life from conception to natural death. It felt great to participate, but I hope the movement grows beyond the one topic of abortion.”
Other Holy Name College members who participated in the March for Life included postulants Eufemio Dimas Robina and Camilo Garcia, and student friar John Aherne, OFM.
Rob Goraieb, coordinator of Franciscan action and advocacy at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle, Va., said that the more than 50 parishioners that attended the march seemed to be inspired by the event.
“The energy was wonderful,” said Goraieb, adding that the age range of the people in the parish’s group was broad – from teenagers to seniors. “I think our people care very much about the cause.”
Before departing for the march from their northern Virginia town, James Toal, OFM, led a prayer service that set the tone for the day, said Goraieb. “We prayed for the whole spectrum of life.”.
Earlier in January, two friars from St. Joseph Parish in Anderson, S.C. — Gerald Hopeck, OFM, and Ignatius Smith, OFM — went to their state’s capital for an event with a similar theme. The Stand Up for Life March and Rally was held on Jan. 10 in Columbia.
Information about how Holy Name Province ministries advocate for life can be found on the Consistent Ethic of Life page of the Justice and Peace section of the HNP website.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.