Diocesan youth take part in national March for Life

Youth from the Diocese of Knoxville march at the the March for Life on January 25, 2013. Photo by Stephanie Richer

Youth from the Diocese of Knoxville march at the the March for Life on January 25, 2013.
Photo by Stephanie Richer

WASHINGTON — Gray skies, blowing snow, and sub-freezing temperatures didn’t deter two busloads of parishioners and youth from the Diocese of Knoxville from taking part in the national March for Life in the nation’s capital on Jan. 25.

This year’s gathering of pro-life supporters was especially poignant because it is the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade, a case that made abortion legal. Since the 1973 decision, approximately 55 million children have been lost to abortion.

Many of the marchers, including those from the Diocese of Knoxville, were youth, which is a hallmark of the pro-life movement.

“I’m expecting for there to be so many people, and for my outlook on more religious events to change,” said Connor Fenton, a student at Chuckey Doak High School and a parishioner at Notre Dame Church in Greeneville. “I just want to get closer to God.”

Bobby Riesco, a parishioner at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and a student at Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga said during the march that he was doing it to enact “change in our nation … to want to keep life sacred.”

Bobby said he hoped to see Roe v. Wade overturned in his lifetime.

For Turner Doges, also a parishioner at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church and a freshman at McCallie High School in Chattanooga, it was his first time at attending the March for Life.

“This is interesting,” Turner said. “Look at all these people.”

Doges said experiencing the march strengthened his faith, especially since he had the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation at the rally the group attended the morning of the march.

Bobby Riesco, a parishioner from Chattanooga holds a sign during the March for Life on January 25, 2013. Photo by Stephanie Richer

Bobby Riesco from Chattanooga holds a sign during the March for Life on January 25, 2013.
Photo by Stephanie Richer

The “Life Is Very Good” rally, sponsored by the Diocese of Arlington, Va., was attended by more than 6,000 youth, who filled the Patriot Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. The East Tennessee trip was sponsored by Chattanoogans for Life, who held a pro-life banquet that paid for the bus transportation. The trip was coordinated for teens through the Diocese of Knoxville’s Youth Ministry.

They were entertained by musician Matt Maher and motivational speaker/musician Steve Angrisano, who served as the rally’s emcee. The group also listened to a moving talk from Elizabeth McClung, one of the founders of the Coalition for Life in Austin, Texas, who is a pro-life speaker.

McClung told the crowd of the difference they can make in the pro-life movement. Quoting from the late Sen. Henry Hyde, she reminded them that when they face judgment at the end of their lives, a chorus of the unborn will be pleading their case for the love the youth showed by rallying for life.

Bishop Paul Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington celebrated Mass, with other bishops from neighboring dioceses concelebrating as well as nearly 150 priests from the diocese. A special message from Pope Benedict XVI was read by an emissary to the papal nuncio, Monsignor Jean-Francois Lantheaume.

In his Homily, Bishop Loverde held up the replica of a 26-week-old fetus that he removed from a shoebox, telling the youth that the baby was similar in size to him in 1940, when he was born prematurely and weighed only three pounds—so small that his grandmother remarked he could “fit in a shoebox.” Bishop Loverde related how he and his mother were expected to die, but that the power of prayer succeeded in keeping them both alive, and that same power was available to the youth to end abortion in their lifetimes.

After Mass and the rally, the diocesan youth crowded onto the metro subway in Washington, D.C., to make their way to the National Mall. There, they joined an estimated 500,000 marchers in making their way along Constitution Avenue to the steps of the Supreme Court. Along the way, the Knoxville group witnessed a wide variety of people—high school students, college students, seminarians, religious, parishes, and people from locations as close as the nation’s capital to western U.S. states and Canada.

Upon reaching the Supreme Court, the group spent some time listening to speakers from the group “Silent No More” talk about the detrimental effects having an abortion had on them and how God’s saving grace changed their lives. The Diocese of Knoxville group used that occasion to recite a decade of the Rosary for the children, women, and men who have been hurt by abortion.

The trip was a challenging one. After boarding the buses Thursday night in Chattanooga and Knoxville, the group drove through the night, arriving in Fairfax, Va., just after sunrise, where they immediately went to the “Life Is Very Good” rally. When they reached the National Mall, the wind had picked up and the temperatures had dropped ahead of snow forecast for the city.

Soon after starting the march, snow began falling. While the cold might have sapped the strength of the marchers, it didn’t affect their enthusiasm and commitment. After a full day, much of its spent on their feet, the youth attended another evening rally and spent the next day sightseeing in the nation’s capital before returning to East Tennessee.

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