WASHINGTON — To support a cause important to the Franciscans, members of Holy Name Province ministries participated in the 40th Annual March for Life, held Jan. 25 on the National Mall.
Friars, students, parishioners and Franciscan-spirited people were among the hundreds of thousands who participated to oppose abortion and other actions that violate the sanctity of life: capital punishment, euthanasia, war, and racism.
This year’s event was particularly poignant as it marked the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s controversial Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
Protecting the Unborn
Among the groups who took part were students from St. Bonaventure University and Siena College, the two New York schools sponsored by the Province.
Six students from Siena College’s Siena for Life Club, accompanied by Gregory Jakubowicz, OFM, the campus chaplain, traveled seven hours to Washington to show their support for the event’s cause. The students, who stayed at The Catholic University of America, participated in the prayer vigil held the night before at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
“At this point, although there is still much work to be done for pro-life activists to overturn that fateful 1973 Supreme Court decision, there is a mounting hope through events like this that public opinion is beginning to recognize the responsibility to protect the unborn and end the atrocity of abortion in the United States,” said student Matthew Herrmann, Siena for Life treasurer.
The purpose of the Siena for Life Club is “to raise awareness of not just abortion but of capital punishment, euthanasia, just wage and human trafficking,” said Greg, who first participated in the March for Life as a student at St. Bonaventure in 1985, traveling with a group that included the late Cosmas Girard, OFM.
“It was at the basilica that one could see not just a Catholic presence at the march but, even more importantly, the young support for the cause,” said Herrmann, a sophomore at Siena. Despite the sub-freezing temperatures and snowstorm later in the day, those who convened at the basilica (along with people from all geographic and spiritual backgrounds) huddled close to the stage on the national mall. Speakers included Tony Perkins, president of the family Research Council; Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., an advocate of defunding planned Parenthood; and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Emphasizing Sanctity of Life
Also at the event were John C. Coughlin, OFM, from Mt. Irenaeus in Western New York, who accompanied Peter Schneible, OFM, and a group of nine students from St. Bonaventure University in Allegany.
The group stopped at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md., where it was joined by Jud Weiksnar, OFM, and members of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Camden, N.J. The two groups, which were welcomed overnight by the Knights of Columbus of St. Camillus and Holy Name College, attended the 8:30 a.m. Mass at St. Camillus before heading to Washington.
“This is at least the 15th year that I have participated in the march with students from St. Bonaventure,” said Peter, a biology instructor. “The atmosphere was similar to previous years, with a wide variety of different people and organizations taking part. As always, it is very inspiring to be in the midst of so many people dedicated to protecting human life. This is especially impressive because there are many high school- and college-aged people at the march.”
Peter continued: “What touched me most were the positive signs emphasizing the sanctity of human life. Several of us put stickers on our coats that said ‘I am worth waiting for.’ I think that sort of message has a place in this debate because we ultimately have to change people’s minds about this issue. I think that it is important to continue to participate in the March in order to keep the issue before the attention of the nation.”
Kevin Downey, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle, Va., marched with eight parishioners. The parish had originally hired a bus to transport almost 60 church members, but the trip was canceled because of ice and snow the night before. Because the parish has participated in the march for so long — 20 years — the church arranged small groups to go by car to Washington.
Also participating from the Province were Mark Reamer, OFM, and several parishioners from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Raleigh, N.C., as well as members of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry.
— Wendy Healy, a freelance writer based in Connecticut, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today. Maria Hayes provided research for this story.