Catholics raise their pro-life voices at March for Life

Tuesday, January 29, 2019 - Updated: 11:38 am

By JOHN FRANKO Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Thousands from southwestern Pennsylvania traveled to Washington, D.C., to express their message of hope and defense for the unborn at the 46th March for Life. The march convened under the theme of “Unique From Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science.”

“How can they (media) ignore a couple of hundred thousand people in Washington, especially with the vice president giving his testimony of life?” said Adam Miller of St. Alexis Parish in Wexford, who was attending his 16th march. He was joined by his daughter, Faith, 13.

The crowd roared as Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, addressed the pro-life rally Jan. 18.

“Be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have,” the vice president said. “Be prepared to defend life, but do so with gentleness and respect. They will attack you. They will question your hearts to silence others, but don’t listen to them. Listen to the truth.”

Some crowd estimates ranged from 200,000-300,000. In addition to Pence’s address, President Donald Trump promised to veto any legislation “that weakens the protection of human life” in a pre-recorded video.

“It feels wonderful that we have their support,” said Dot Lydic of St. Sebastian Parish in Ross Township of the two U.S. leaders. The occasion marked her 43rd appearance at the march. But while Lydic noted that there has been progress in the fight against abortion, she would like to see an end to the march, signaling that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.

Larry Emark came with a group from SS. John and Paul Parish in Wexford. He has three adopted children and has been a foster parent to 12 others. “I’m pro-life,” he said.

The pre-march rally on the National Mall also included speakers from both sides of the political aisle, as well as others, such as Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire; Abby Johnson, founder of And Then There Were None; and Dr. Alveda King, director of civil rights for the unborn with Priests for Life, who is the niece of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Led by Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, and other dignitaries, the march began at 12th and Constitution and covered some two miles to the Supreme Court Building. It commenced at approximately 1:20 p.m. and the last marchers reached the end just before 4 p.m. The route was filled with the usual mix of drums, chants and other observances such as recitation of the rosary.

The crowd was once again enlivened by the presence of many young people.

“We’re making a change,” said Seth Pepmeyer, 17, of St. Sebastian. “We’re not just coming out here and people aren’t listening. We’re actually making an impact.”

“It’s really powerful,” added Erin Lee, a freshman at Robert Morris University. “I think the country is changing for the better.”

Siblings in the Nypaver family — Thaddeus, 19, Eva, 15, and Gabriel, 22 — pointed out that their parents and six other siblings have attended the march.

“Everyone is just so happy and excited to celebrate life,” Eva said. “It’s nice to be part of something like that.”

“We’re here because our parents chose life,” added Thaddeus, who noted that he was encouraged to see so many young people who were thinking for themselves and standing up for what is right.

Carol Urbanek of Assumption Parish in Bellevue attended the march with her daughter, Natalie, 18. It marked her sixth march, but she said it was bittersweet because it might be the last one she will attend with Natalie, who heads off to college in the fall. 

“It’s wonderful to see people her age with the same enthusiasm and conviction,” Carol said. 

Bishop David Zubik led the rosary at the prayer vigil at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and concelebrated at the Mass for Life and Youth Rally. Auxiliary Bishop William Waltersheid accompanied diocesan seminarians to the march.

He noted that it’s important for seminarians to experience the event because they are the future preachers of the Gospel, and they will be counted on to support the respect and dignity of every person, from conception to natural death.

“They’re the ones who not only will preach it in their words, but also need to witness it by their lives,” Bishop Waltersheid said.

Father Tom Sparacino, rector of St. Paul Seminary, said that the seminarians were “energizing” in their witness and an inspiration to the other young people in attendance.

“Youth speaks to youth,” he said. “They’re able to speak youth heart to youth heart and proclaim life in all forms.”

Seminarian Sean Farrell was encouraged by the presence of so many young people.

“It’s a wonderful display of faith here,” he said. “It’s something that’s really optimistic for the church.”

Fellow seminarian Dan Roberts added that it was a powerful witness to the sanctity of life in the world, not just for Catholics, but for all people.

Jim Haupt led the contingent from Assumption Parish. He visited the offices of Pennsylvania congressional representatives who have taken pro-choice stances. He noted that it is important to be rational and avoid being the stereotypical pro-life supporter, who is often portrayed by mainstream media as being fanatical. It is a message that he passed on to his fellow travelers.

“I can’t argue that away,” he said. “I have to demonstrate it away.”

But Haupt noted that he is firm in his convictions, and he voices his resolve when he meets with lawmakers.

“This is too important for us to just walk away,” he said. “We’re not going to give up.”

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