Diocese’s March for Life pilgrims share ‘inspiring’ experience

Unforgettable. Inspiring. Amazing.

Those are just some of the words representatives of the hundreds of pilgrims from the Diocese of Peoria used to describe the experience of being in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 25 for the national March for Life and accompanying prayerful events.

“Looking behind me during the march and seeing thousands of pro-life people walking down the National mall was so inspiring,” said Emily Russell, a senior at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington who traveled by bus with a group of 49 from her school. Several Catholic high schools in the diocese sent contingents, and a pilgrimage organized by the Diocese of Peoria sent two busloads.

“Sometimes it is hard for us to stand up for our beliefs when are alone, but being able to unite with others who share our beliefs gives us strength to act,” said Russell.

That sentiment was echoed by pilgrim after pilgrim during interviews early this week with The Catholic Post.

“I’m never going to forget seeing just how many people there were,” said Alex Miller of Mendota, a freshman at Illinois Valley Community College who was attending his first march. Alex became interested in attending after becoming Catholic two years ago.

“You hear the number, but when you see the number it makes you feel more confident in your stand.”

PILGRIMAGES, NOT FIELD TRIPS
Craig Dyke, who coordinated the diocesan trip, said it was not only the overwhelming numbers attending the marches and accompanying Masses — including a Youth Rally and Masses at the Verizon Center and Comcast Center — but the pilgrims’ “joy, enthusiasm, zeal, as well as the authentic faith, hope and love.”

“At times the future of our nation and western culture can seem dark,” he said. “This pilgrimage was a great reminder that the light always overcomes the darkness, and in the end, Christ wins.”

These were no field trips. They were pilgrimages, enriched by frequent prayer with participants enduring all-night bus rides and long walks — all to witness to the sanctity of human life.

“I have hope that with each passing year and the growing amount of people joining the protest, our voices will be heard and we can get awareness out about abortion and educate people so that more will see why we are actually taking a stand in the cause,” said Kaitlyn Faley, one of a group of Teens for Life from Peoria Notre Dame High School who traveled to Washington by train.

Father Geoff Horton, parochial vicar at Holy Cross Parish, Mendota, and Sts. Peter and Paul, Peterstown, put it more succinctly.

“We’ve got to keep doing this until it works.”

Father Horton was one of several diocesan priests and seminarians taking part in the march and related events. It was his 10th march.

“Most countries have a national pilgrimage,” said Father Horton, moments after stepping off the bus at the Spalding Pastoral Center. “We don’t. This is it. I wish we had a better reason for getting together,” he said, adding that the faith boost that all participants receive is another proof that “God can bring good out of bad.”

Following are quotes from other diocesan pilgrims to the March for Life. To add your remembrances, email tdermody@cdop.org.

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PARTICIPANTS FROM PEORIA NOTRE DAME HIGH SCHOOL

Kathryn Starr —
The entire time we spent on the march was such a great experience, but the different people I met was the best part. I loved the Mass at the Basilica because it was filled with different people of all ages gathered together for the same cause. Talking to everyone and hearing different stories was amazing. I was so surprised by the number of people that came on the day of the march. Seeing everyone coming together to walk on Washington will be what I remember the most.
This was my first time going on the March for Life. The Pro-Life cause has always been an important issue for me, and this year I had the opportunity to go on the march, so I didn’t want to pass it up.
Knowing that there are so many people across the nation supporting this cause gives me great hope. It’s not the fact that we came to Washington that will put an end to the abortion problem we face, but the fact that we can take that morale from the march and go home to continue to advocate for the Right to Life.

Kaitlyn Faley —
I will remember most when I turned around and looked back and saw the sheer amount of people at the March. There were people on every side. The coolest thing is that there were so many different types of people: young, old, Catholic, and other religions; but all of these seemingly different hundreds of thousands of people all believed the same thing and were all taking a stand in that belief.
I attended once before and it was also a very moving experience, but it was definitely a different type of experience this time around. I wanted to go because it is such a fantastic opportunity to stand up for what’s right. But it was also a great opportunity to learn more about abortion and its evils and the beauty of believing in the right to life.
I have hope that with each passing year and the growing amount of people joining in the protest, our voices will be heard and we can get awareness out about abortion and educate people so that more will see why we are actually taking a stand in this cause. The louder our voices are, the bigger the impact so our message can be spread.

Katherine Schwarzentraub —
The thing I will remember most about the March for Life is standing at the top of Capitol Hill, looking down, and there were people as far as the eye can see. It made me so happy and filled with hope that I could make a difference in someone’s life just by being there.
This was my first year attending the March, and I hope it won’t be my last! Students who attended the March in the past have said it was life changing, and I wanted to be supportive of a cause I think is very important.
Being at the March for Life is the first sign that I know we are making a difference. Just seeing the sheer number of people who put their lives on hold to travel to D.C. and participate in the March is inspiring. Even the small thing of people commenting on our “Life Guard” vests and asking what they were for made me feel like I was making a difference.

Alexandria Massey —
I will remember the number of people that were there. There thousands and thousands of people there and they are all there for the same reasons. To me, that is so beautiful.
This was my first year attending the March for Life. I attended because I believe in the cause and I wanted to be apart of something that meant so much to me.
I think being a part of the massive young generation that is pro-life will have an impact. More and more young people are joining this movement, and that gives me hope.

Joseph Rudolph
I will remember the mass numbers of people at the march. I knew it was a large amount of attendants, though I had no idea what it looked like. The sheer mass of the crowd, spanning in all directions was not merely an awesome sight to behold, but a massive inspiration. The solidarity of the group and dedication gives me a hope, a confidence that we can, we must end this culture of death, this great injustice.
I had never attended the March for Life before this year, but I did this year. I needed the experience. I didn’t really know what the March for Life was, except that it was a protest to Roe v. Wade and in general a culture of death. I have always been pro-life and involved with my parents, but never had I independently done something myself. I needed to go and protest, to speak with those without voices.
The dedication of the people at the march gives me hope. Our group met a man who had gone on dozens of marches and was using a walker on this march. He faced a long walk through freezing weather on a walker. That’s dedication. But its not just one person-it’s the conviction of everybody. After going on the March, my friends have asked me why I did it and what the problem is with abortion. I have been able to explain the evils of abortion and why me must oppose it. I explained that, while I’m just one of the hundreds of thousands of people going, that’s what everybody is. It’s a community made up of individuals. If we don’t continue to protest, to demand this change, we have no hope of saving the unborn.

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Craig Dyke, director, Office of Evangelization and Family Life
I will always remember the joy, enthusiasm, zeal, as well as the authentic faith, hope and love of the hundreds of thousands of youth who were there to celebrate the awesome gift of life. It was an amazing experience for all in our group to be around so many of other teens from around the country who love Jesus, His Church and the are not afraid to proclaim Christ and speak up on behalf of the lives of the unborn.
At times the future of our nation and western culture can seem dark. This pilgrimage was a great reminder that the light always overcomes the darkness, and that in the end, Christ wins.
To be around so many Catholics with conviction is inspiring and gives us, especially the youth, such great hope.
In this, our first year organizing the youth pilgrimage, we took two buses. I am already planning on taking at least 3 buses for the March for Life on January 22, 2014.

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