GREENVILLE — Since 2016, young people from Saint Philip Parish have participated in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., every other year, with each trip being for them a new and memorable experience. But for parish youth minister Melissa Roberts, this year’s event was truly exceptional.
“What set this year apart from any other year was the feeling of truly being representatives for our entire parish and school community,” Roberts said.
“As we shared our journey through social media, our parishioners shared their support and prayers and thanked us for representing them. It truly felt as though we had brought Saint Philip Parish to the March for Life.”
The March for Life’s Education and Defense Fund chose “Together Strong: Life Unites,” as the theme of this year’s event, held as they nation marked the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s controversial 1973 Roe V Wade decision that legalized abortion in the U.S.
And in keeping with that theme, Saint Philip Parish and school made sure to include all of its young people in the support of the pro-life movement as the nation marked the grim anniversary with the hope that the decision will one day soon be overturned.
As the small group of high-school-age students from Saint Philip Parish marched in the nation’s capital, along with Roberts and Assistant Pastor Father Phillip J. Dufour, the middle school youth of Saint Philip School marched on the campus grounds, uniting their prayers with those of their parish peers.
“Although we were separated physically, spiritually we were united as one,” Roberts said.
In addition, young people in high school who were not able to attend the March this year coordinated a baby shower over the weekend, with help from the parish’s Respect Life ministry. After all Masses, young people greeted and received baby gifts and supplies from the parish family to be donated to the Mother of Life Center.
“All of these things, together, really made this particular march one that will not soon be forgotten,” Roberts said.
“In our celebration of daily Mass, and recitation of our rosary and Chaplet of divine mercy, we remembered our parish family in our prayers as they remembered us in theirs during our trip. We were united in this beautiful cause for life. Where there has been so much division in our country over the last couple of years, there was nothing but faith, hope and charity in this year’s pilgrimage, engulfed in unity.”
The March for Life, held on Jan. 21, was the first such in-person event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also a critical year for the pro-life movement as the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to render a decision later this year in the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization case — which concerns the constitutionality of a 2018 Mississippi state law banning abortions after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy and could lead to the overturning of Roe v Wade, returning all restrictions on abortions to the laws of the individual states.
Father Dufour said that in light of these historic times it was necessary for the Saint Philip group to show its support for pro-life issues by marching with the tens of thousands who descended on Washington, D.C., for the pro-life rally.
“It was all the more important that we march to show our country that nothing will deter us in defending the unborn — those most vulnerable in our society — and supporting mothers in crisis pregnancies,” he said.
“It is always an honor and a great responsibility to stand with hundreds of thousands of other Americans to defend the sacred gift of life, to represent my parish and our diocese at the March for Life.”
On the eve of Friday’s march, members of the group Catholic for Choice marred the celebration of Mass for pro-life Catholics gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception — where Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, was preaching the homily — by projecting slogans supporting a woman’s right to abortion on the façade of the basilica.
“While sad and disheartening, it is a reminder that the fight for life is not simply a political or social battle, but above all, a spiritual battle,” Father Dufour said.
Joshua Kline, a freshman at Bishop Hendricken High School, described the feeling as “surreal” to see the tens of thousands of people standing up and marching in support of the unborn.
“The right to life is a gift that all humans are entitled to, no matter their size,” he said.
“The fight for life is more than a ‘feel-good’ thing, but rather a conviction, a duty, an obligation, a fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. The onus to stand up for life is truly written on people’s hearts,” something very apparent at an event like the March for Life.
“To have other people, throughout the world, from different races, nationalities, cultures, and tongues, all espoused to the same belief, is the true testament to the pro-life movement.”
Madison Lawton, a freshman at La Salle Academy, said it meant a lot to her to have the opportunity to come to March for Life this year and fight for the end to taking innocent lives by abortion.
“Seeing so many joyful people my age, excited to be fighting for life, was unifying and inspiring,” she told Rhode Island Catholic.
“In today’s society, the majority of teenagers are more for following trends and trying to do what’s ‘cool’ and less for following their faith because of what people might think or because they think that no one else does. It was unbelievable to see so many teenagers and young people marching for life and knowing that we are all united in a cause that needs as much support as it can get.”
She added that in seeing for herself how many young people are excited to be in the fight for life it shows how far from alone we all are in the pro-life fight to end abortion.
“I’m so glad that I got to witness such an amazing display of faith,” she said.
Avery Lough, a freshman at Bishop Feehan High School, said that this was the first time that she had attended the March for Life.
“It was amazing to see so many people all gathered in one spot, from all over the country, all supporting the pro-life movement,” she said.
“As a teenager, it was also very comforting to see other kids and teens all around my age walking for life. Though it was very cold, it was a great sacrifice and an even better way to offer it up for the babies who have died from an abortion, and their mothers who committed the abortion. I hope and pray that the Supreme Court will hear us and take a minute to listen to all of us and vote for life, always.”
Riley Morin, a sophomore at Ponagansett High School, said in coming to Washington, D.C., for the march she thought she knew what to expect.
“I knew that there would be so many people, but when you are in the middle of thousands of people who support the right to life each unborn baby has, it’s surreal,” she said.
Morin said she especially enjoyed the camaraderie of the march, in which everyone was supporting what you believe in, as well as each other along the way.
“It was truly moving to see so many individuals fighting for the right to life that every unborn baby has,” she said.
“I was especially moved by how many young people were there. I have never seen so many people of my generation at one place, at one time. This experience is something I will never forget, and it will continue to remind me that the world has our back in this fight.”
While the Diocese of Providence’s Office of Life and Family Ministry usually takes pro-life pilgrims to the March for Life, the recent spike in cases resulting from COVID-19’s Omicron variant kept the number of people signing up to attend too low to charter a bus.
But Office of Life and Family Ministry Coordinator Lisa Cooley said she was glad that Saint Philip Parish, as well as the Servants of Christ for Life group, were able to attend this year’s march.
“It is such an important year because of what is happening with the case before the Supreme Court,” Cooley said.
And if there is a national March for Life again next year, she would like all Catholic schools in the diocese to encourage their youth to go on this trip to join the many youth that go every year from all across America.
“We must build the Culture of Life, and that starts with the young people,” Cooley said.
“We need to show them that all life is precious and equality begins in the womb. We should all continue to pray and fast for the unborn.”
For more information about Life and Family Ministry in the Diocese of Providence, please visit dioceseofprovidence.org/life.
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