Catholics join March for Life to mark Roe v. Wade’s 40th anniversary

Knoxville, Washington, D.C., events raise awareness of pro-life gains, losses from abortion


MARCHING FOR LIFE Holy Ghost Church parishioner Mary Grace Slocum walks during the Knoxville March for Life event Jan. 20. Joining her are daughters Ingrid, 6, Beatrix, 4, and Una, 2. Some 400 Knoxville-area pro-life supporters took part in the event. Photo by Bill Brewer

It might be a history or religion lesson to many of the Diocese of Knoxville students who took part in pro-life marches and rallies in late January.

But the landmark case that dealt a severe blow to the sanctity of life still is a fresh memory for Sacred Heart Cathedral parishioner Hazel Brimi.

Mrs. Brimi never considered herself an activist, although she was an ardent pro-life supporter. But 1973 changed all that. On Jan. 22 of that year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that abortions are a fundamental right under the Constitution, which prompted her to take action.

The next year she co-founded Knoxville Volunteers for Life, one of the earliest pro-life organizations in the region, which ultimately became Tennessee Right to Life.

And so what began as an interest became a mission and a ministry for Mrs. Brimi, who was honored with Tennessee Right to Life’s Lifetime Advocate Award at TRL’s annual March for Life event on Jan. 20.

“I had always been pro-life and worked with the Church. But when Roe v. Wade passed, I realized we had to do more,” Mrs. Brimi said. “Now I encourage young people to carry on because we need you.”

The March for Life ceremony marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and commemorated the August closing of the Volunteer Women’s Medical Clinic at 313 Concord St..

March for Life participants walked from Calvary Baptist Church down Kingston Pike, then onto Concord Street to across from the now closed Volunteer Women’s Medical Clinic.

Stacy Dunn, director of the Knoxville chapter of Tennessee Right to Life and a Holy Ghost Church parishioner, praised the work of volunteers for the pro-life gains made in Knoxville, highlighted by new legislation that prompted the clinic to close.

Groups of parishioners, including students from Chattanooga and the Tri-Cities, traveled to Washington to take part in the national March for Life ceremony.

Father Michael Cummins, vocations director for the Diocese of Knoxville and chaplain to the Catholic Center at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, traveled with 11 students to the Washington, D.C., March for Life event. He blogged about his experience on his site, The Alternate Path, and related an interesting story from a past event:

“This will be the 15th time that I have attended the march. Last year, after returning from the march a friend shared an editorial from a person who is pro-choice and who happens to have a comfortable office overlooking the march route. She disdainfully referred to the march in her column as the “great shlep”—looking down on the march-goers from her office window.


Lifetime Advocate Hazel Brimi, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Cathedral, receives the Lifetime Advocate Award from Brian Harris, state director for Tennessee Right To Life, a statewide pro-life organization that Mrs. Brimi co-founded soon after the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. Photo by Bill Brewer

Roe v. Wade“As you might imagine her article was not very complimentary. In honor of her, though, I now refer to the March (at least in my own mind) as the ‘great shlep.’ I googled definitions for “shlep” and this is what I found—“shlep”: to carry something heavy; to carry something in a dragging fashion; to go somewhere, particularly somewhere far away or otherwise difficult to reach; often implies resentment of putting forth such effort.

“I think that the word fits. The marchers do carry something heavy—they carry the conscience of a nation. It is a conscience that is hurting yet not silenced. It is a conscience that affirms that there is dignity to all human life which must be upheld. It is a conscience which recognizes that whenever life is devalued in one area, then all life is wounded and devalued. It is a conscience which recognizes that there is great harm in abortion—to the beauty of a child lost, to the soul and psyche of the mother and the father and to society as a whole.

“This year is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The millions of lives lost is staggering. In so many ways unimaginable. We are tired yet we will continue the shlep. Why?

“Because it is the right thing to do. History will judge every generation for what it stands for, and as our knowledge grows regarding life in the womb I predict that future generations will look on ours and wonder how we could have ever allowed such a thing to happen; just as today we look on past generations and wonder how could slavery and the oppression of women have ever been justified.”

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