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January 18, 2009

Local Catholics prepare for march on Washington, D.C.

By Alicja Pozywio


It all started with a deep concern and a feeling that something had to be done. In late October 1973, the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade was approaching.

A group of about 30 people devoted to the pro-life movement didn’t want the anniversary to pass without the world’s attention.

They calculated that during the first year of the legalization of abortions almost one and a half million unborn babies had died. The group didn’t possess the resources to organize a spectacular march in the nation’s capitol but their hearts told them they had to march. So, they did.

Their effort, concern and zeal gathered a group of more than 20,000 people in Washington D.C. on Jan. 22, 1974, the anniversary of the historic decision. Demonstrating in front of the U.S. Capitol sent a message that not all Americans had approved of the Supreme Court decision.

Thirty-five years later, despite the weather conditions, which usually are discouraging for an outside gathering, people not only are still going, but the number of the participants has increased about tenfold.

The theme of the 36th march held this year on Jan. 22 is: “Remember, Life Principles mean ‘Equal Care’ with No Exceptions.” The path of the march as in previous years, will lead to the steps of the Supreme Court.

Transformational time

“The walk is very symbolic. It ends in front of the Supreme Court, which is the place where the nine elected officials decided for the nation that it is OK to kill an entire class of vulnerable human beings,” said Mary- Louise Kurey, director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office.

This year the march will be a little different than in the past because it will take place just two days after the inauguration of the new U.S. president. The organizers take this as an opportunity to send a pro-life message to the newly elected president and the new administration.

“It is a transformational experience to see the incredible witness to life,” said Kurey. In many cases, the partakers of this witness spent hours on buses, on trains and in cars to make it to Washington. Thanks to Kurey, it has become a tradition that there is a representation of young people from the Archdiocese of Chicago in the crowd.

“This year we have a pilgrimage of about 250 young people. The number of college students participating in the archdiocese pilgrimage has more than doubled,” said Kurey, whose office coordinates the pilgrimage.

More than the march

The March for Life is not just a march. Each year there are several activities taking place before, during and after the annual event in Washington, D.C.

Usually the first steps of the 250 young participants after their arrival on the eve of the march, bring them to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

“It is a great blessing to us that the Mass with about 12,000 young people is always celebrated with our shepherd Cardinal Francis George,” said Kurey.

Cardinal George, as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops attends the Mass and the march. He also meets with high school students from the archdiocese while he’s there. The morning of the march there is another Mass and a rally for Catholics.

Some attendees also use the time to witness to the pro-life message in other ways.

“Last year after the rally, we prayed in front of an abortion clinic. It was amazing to see how much of a transformational impact that experience had on our students,” said Maureen Deitche, director of religious education at St. Ansgar Parish.

Deitche said she has participated in the event for the last seven years and spreads her enthusiasm for pro-life to her students. Forming young people to be prolife is key to our future, she said.

“Thanks to initiatives like the March for Life, leaders for the pro-life movement are being developed. They are the people who will carry on the message.”

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