John-Henry Westen

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Coming and going: filling the U.S. national basilica and Metro with pro-life youth

John-Henry Westen
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WASHINGTON, DC, January 24, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The metro en route to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was crowded with various groups of youth from around the nation.  One such group was a lively young troupe from Milwaukee, WI.  Fr. Mark Carr led 40 youth from Marquette University High School and Divine Saviour Holy Angels schools to the Washington March for Life events.

Eddie Linn, 17, a junior told LifeSiteNews he was there because abortion is an intrinsic evil.  With counsel from a few friends (mostly T.J. Pyzyk and Clare Lococo) he added that he was inspired to be among so many young people uniting behind the cause of life.  Also in the group were Laura and Cari Brennan, who assured this reporter that they were not there to get out of class.  One Caucasian and the other African-American the girls explained that they were sisters, both adopted into the same family and thus knew well the preciousness of life.

Walking from the Brooklyn-CUA station to the Basilica, Peter Wigton and Cory Catron, two men dressed in long black cassocks explained that they were with a group of 100 seminarians from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio.  The group at the March for Life comprises most of the 140 seminarians at the seminary.  Peter explained that participation in the March was important for seminarians since “the gift of life is fundamental for humanity”.

For anyone arriving at 5 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. start of the vigil, it was already a struggle to get the front as it required wading through a tightly packed sea of friendly, happy people sitting or standing in all the aisles.  The seats were jammed with groups and individuals who arrived early in the afternoon to stake out their positions from the hordes certain to follow later.

Commandeering one of the side chapel’s was a huge group of over 120 youth and chaperones from the Archdiocese of Miami - Fr. Kidwell’s March for Life group.  Dr. James Dugard who led the group explained that they came in two planes.  Asked how the flight was with so many students, he replied, “interesting”, although with 19 chaperones including three priests, two nuns and an auxiliary bishop, the youth were well taken care of.

Sitting in the very front row, just behind the nuns seated on the first risers heading to the altar, was a group of 10 young people clad in bright green sweaters.  Mary Catherine Jadlos explained that they were from the State University of New York, Plattsburgh. They achieved their front row status by arriving for the noon Mass and saving seats immediately after.  Asked for the particulars, she explained they took turns guarding the coveted seats.  “It got more difficult as the time of the 6:30pm Mass approached,” she acknowledged.

Sister Dorothy of Guadalupe with the Sisters of Life, explained that in addition to her own order, the nuns sitting up front included Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and also the Little Sisters of the Poor.  The latter’s connection to pro-life is their work with the elderly - soon to be endangered by the culture of death.

Another group taking up a front side chapel was St. Benedicts’s High School from Memphis Tennessee.  Headed up by Sharon Masterson, 118 students and 7 chaperones braved a 16 hour overnight bus ride.  17-year-old Cody Hubbard admitted to LifeSiteNews that the bus ride was “horrible” but added quickly that it was definitely worth it. They were there she said to support people to make the right choice. “Life is the way to go,” she said.

All in red sweat shirts with the message, “A person is a person no matter how small”, were two groups totalling 480 from the Diocese of Springfield. The contingent arrived in eight buses, four buses of which were organized by Becky Bowerly, who has made this an annual trek for the past 25 years.  The other four buses were organized be the diocese and additional buses were arranged by a few parishes from the diocese.

Melany Wittman and Amy Phipps mothers of Jason (14) and Andrew (13) respectively told LifeSiteNews that they “offered up” the 18 hour bus ride from Springfield, and are to set out on the trek home directly after Monday’s March. Another student, Nicol Hartwig, said that they all got their seats near altar by arriving at 1:30. 

LifeSiteNews interviewed two men sitting on the floor in an aisle near the front of the Church. Bob Henlein and Tony Nicolli said they were in that spot since 3:30, with all the seats having been filled by then. They came down with a busload of fellow parishioners from St. Joan of Arc parish in Boca Raton. Florida.

Neither man had been to the march before and this was the first organized trip to the march by the parish. Their bus left at 2 p.m. Saturday, drove through the night and arrived in D.C. at 10 a.m. Sunday. They were scheduled to head back to Florida Tuesday at noon.

Molly and Mary came down with 60 fellow high school students from Kansas City in two buses. Every year the school sends a group down and this year it was their turn. They arrived on Saturday afternoon after a 24 hour bus ride. The students were escorted by 10 chaperones made up of parents and faculty members. Monday morning they were scheduled to attend the giant rally and mass at the Verizon Centre and head off to the march right after that.

Mothers Aimee Rogers and Kimberly Grande were found sitting on the floor in the large crypt area underneath the main church. Over 3,000 pilgrims viewed the mass on large television screens spread all around the crypt.  Aimee and Kimberly came with a group of 40 homeschooled students from two Buffalo, New York parishes.

As the massive Church emptied the Catholic University Metro station rapidly filled with the pro-life pilgrims.  The unwritten tradition of loud chant competitions on the Metro platform went on again this year with the uncontested champions being led by Fr. Richard Hermes, SJ.  The 25 young men whose chants drowned out the competition hailed from Jesuit High School in Tampa Florida.



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