LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — A contingent of nearly two dozen Siena College students and alumni participated in the March for Life, the annual pro-life rally in Washington, D.C.
Proudly holding placards that read “I Am the Pro-Life Generation” and “Defund Planned Parenthood,” and “Families Deserve Better Than Abortion,” the Siena students were among thousands of young people and the reportedly more than quarter-million participants at the Jan. 18 event.
They attended the rally against abortion on the National Mall in the backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial, White House, Smithsonian and other iconic monuments and institutions. The group then marched in the bitter cold down Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court and Capitol buildings.
For Natale Schirripa, participating in the March for Life wasn’t even on his radar before attending Siena. But a flyer about a trip to D.C. caught his attention, and after attending a meeting and learning more about the march, he felt a calling to participate. A fall 2018 graduate of the Loudonville, N.Y., college, he helped organize and lead this year’s trip for the Siena group.
“Being able to walk peacefully through the streets of Washington with thousands of peers and educating others on the importance of life means so much to me. The March for Life shines a light on the importance of life from birth to natural death,” said Schirripa, a native of Utica, N.Y., who served as president of the Siena for Life Club through December 2018.
“The number of young participants was unbelievable. Hearing real-life accounts on why people march is always moving and keeps me wanting to return each year,” added Schirripa, who said the opportunity to plan the trip for Siena students was a privilege.
For Caitlin Lashbrooks, who was excited to participate in her second March for Life, the event is an opportunity to demonstrate her “support for the unborn, women, and life from birth to natural death.”
Lashbrooks, from Croghan, N.Y., said, “My mom always told me to be brave and support my beliefs – and that is exactly what the March for Life allows me to do. From the laughs we shared on the bus, to marching side-by-side, I got to bond with other enthusiastic Siena Saints.”
The group traveled overnight by bus from the Loudonville campus, arriving in downtown D.C. just in time for the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick’s Church, the oldest parish in Washington that was founded in 1794 to minister to the army of stonemasons, who at the time were building the White House and Capitol.
Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, the 10th bishop of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., presided at the Mass, which was attended by groups that traveled from as far as North Dakota, as well as other states, to participate in the March for Life.
“The highlight for me was seeing other passionate people from across the country. It was an honor to be in the presence of such caring, compassionate individuals,” said Siena third-year student William Carmello, the president of Siena for Life. “It was important for me – and other young adults who are inspired by the March for Life – to participate because we have to be the voices for life in this generation. It is truly a humbling experience.”
The March for Life began 45 years ago and is usually held on or close to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 that decriminalized abortion. In advocating for overturning Roe v. Wade, its stated mission is to “end abortion by uniting, educating, and mobilizing pro-life people in the public square.”
The Siena group joined Mark Frost, associate vice president of the college’s facilities management department, on the bus trip along with others from the Albany Diocese, Capital District and beyond, according to George Camacho, OFM, assistant director of Siena’s Damietta Cross-Cultural Center, which provides support, services and events that promote diversity.
Despite the frigid temperatures, George said the sun shone brightly and provided some warmth as “we marched through the nation’s Capital with enthusiastic groups from all over the country.”
Beatriz Cruz, a senior at Siena, used words like “phenomenal” and “overwhelming” to describe her first March for Life experience.
“Just being with so many great people who share the same faith and beliefs was overwhelming,” said Cruz, an immigrant from the Philippines, where she was raised until age 13.
“It’s important to come together with others who share the same beliefs to reinforce that everyone has the unalienable right to life, beginning from their conception and continuing until their natural death. The March for Life stresses that human life exists in the womb, and it celebrates the dignity of all human lives,” she continued.
“It has been a bit of a shock for me, coming from the Philippines, that life in the womb isn’t celebrated the same way in America that it is in the Philippines. It was great to be with other people in our nation’s capital who celebrate life the same way I was raised to celebrate it,” Cruz said.
Other people affiliated with Holy Name Province also participated in the 2019 March for Life. Among them were Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, of Silver Spring, Md., and Peter Schneible, OFM, who accompanied a group of St. Bonaventure University students from Western New York to Washington.
— Stephen Mangione, a writer and public relations executive based in Westchester County, N.Y., is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.
- “Thousands March in Washington at Annual Anti-Abortion Rally” – Jan. 18, 2019, The New York Times
- “Franciscans Speak out on Sanctity of Life” – Jan. 19, 2018, HNP Today
- “Marching for Human Rights” – Feb. 2, 2017, HNP Today
- “Why I Participated in the March for Life” by Jacek Orzechowski, OFM – Feb. 1, 2017, HNP Today