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|Ryan Porterfield, left, a parishioner of the Church of the Nativity and a senior at Spring Hill High School, Alex White, center, and Kieran Altenbern, right, freshmen at Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, walk in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion. Hundreds of thousands of people, many them high school and college students, traveled to the nation’s capital to demonstrate their support for respect for life. Among the crowd, were nearly 600 students and chaperones from the Diocese of Nashville, the largest contingent from Middle Tennessee to ever attend the march. Photos by Rick Musacchio
Nearly 600 high school and college students, seminarians and chaperones from the Diocese of Nashville made the long trek to Washington, D.C., to stand up for their belief in the sanctity of all life at the March for Life, held Jan. 22.
It was the largest contingent ever from the diocese to participate in the march, which marks the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion, said Bill Staley, director of youth ministry for the Diocese of Nashville.
The diocesan Catholic Youth Office brought 102 students from across the diocese, Staley said. The group included large groups from St. Philip Church in Franklin and St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro, as well as smaller groups from Sacred Heart Church in Lawrenceburg, Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville and St. John Vianney Church in Gallatin.
Each of the three Catholic high schools in the Nashville area – Father Ryan, Pope John Paul II and St. Cecilia Academy – sent groups of students, as did Aquinas College and University Catholic, the campus ministry at Vanderbilt University. Several of the seminarians for the Diocese of Nashville who are studying at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, also were on hand to march with the contingent from Middle Tennessee.
The contingent from the diocese was the largest ever to go to the march, Staley said.
The March for Life has become an event dominated by young people, with high schools and colleges from around the country sending groups of students to participate.
Attending the march is important for young people, “because they get to be a voice for the voiceless,” Staley said. “But also their hearts are impacted with the pro-life movement. It’s popular with the teens, because it is their generation, their peers who are faced with the temptation or the pressure to get an abortion.”
|St. Cecilia Academy sophomores Emily Vick, left, and Grace Heller pray the rosary before Mass at the D.C. Armory during their trip to Washington, D.C. for the annual March for Life.
“The teens see themselves being activists in a peaceful way for something so important and so much bigger than themselves,” Staley said.
“Being in an environment with so many youths and Catholic youths who all believe in something I believe in, it was very empowering,” said Grace Roushdi, a junior at St. Cecilia and a parishioner at St. Henry Church in Nashville. “It was great to see all your peers working for a cause greater than yourself.”
“It’s crazy to see all those people standing up for one central cause,” said JPII junior Christopher Stinnett, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake who made his second trip the march. “It was an eye-opener. … It’s important that we try to get our message across to everyone.”
For Corey Maynord, a senior at Aquinas College who made his fourth trip to the march this year, the urge to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves has a personal element.
Several years ago, he said, he found out he had a little brother who was aborted. His participation in the march is a chance for him to be a voice for all the people who have lost the chance to be a big brother because of an abortion, he said.
|Father Ryan High School student Daniel Hayes takes a picture of, from left: Taryn Richter, Janet Lytle, Reilly Cordell and Morgan Thomson. About 600 youth and leaders from the Diocese of Nashville traveled to take part in the annual March for Life.
Earlier generations seem to have been more focused on themselves, Maynord said, but “my generation is returning to that thought that we really are a community of people, that preservation of life is really an issue to come together about.”
One of the greatest benefits of participating in the march, said Maynord, is seeing your prayers in action. “When you go and walk with thousands of people you really get a sense of what it means to be on the pilgrimage for life.”
Katherine Telford, a senior at the University of the South at Sewanee, made her first trip to the March this year. She helped start a pro-life organization on campus this year, and the pro-life point of view is a minority opinion on campus, Telford said.
But at the march, she was surrounded by as many as 500,000 people who believe as she does.
“You can see pictures of how many people are there … but it’s so mind blowing to see how huge it is,” said Telford, who attends Good Shepherd Church in Decherd. To see so many young people in the crowd “was really encouraging,” she added.
Kristen Hobbs, a senior at Father Ryan and a parishioner at St. Edward Church in Nashville, also made her first trip to the March this year.
|Philip Clark, left, leads a pro-life cheer during the March for Life. About 600 youth and leaders from the Diocese of Nashville traveled to Washington, D.C. to take part in the annual march.
“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. There were so many other people there,” Hobbs said. The march itself took several hours, she said, but “it didn’t seem long because you were surrounded by people who believe like you did. It was spiritual.”
Annette Whitaker, a junior at JPII, made her second trip to the march this year. “When I came to JPII, I did not really know much about abortion and the sanctity of life and how sacred that is,” said Whitaker, who is not Catholic. But she’s learned a lot about the issue in theology classes, especially this year when the class is focused on social justice issues.
“I definitely think our generation is raising more awareness” of the issues surrounding respect for life, said Whitaker, “especially when you’re at the march and look around and everybody else is our age.”
Roushdi is optimistic the culture will change the way it thinks about abortion. “It’s only going to get better. My generation can make a huge difference and actually make some changes,” she said.
Participating in the March for Life can change people’s attitudes, Staley said. “The transformation definitely takes place,” Staley said. “A lot of teens go because they hear its cool. But to be in the march and see seminarians praying the rosary on your right and a woman on your left carrying a sign that says ‘I am a product of a rape conception and I love my life,’ their hearts are transformed. Their understanding of why life is so important is totally changed.
“I think it’s something that surprises them,” Staley added. “It’s not something they planned for.”
The youth and their chaperones from the Diocese of Nashville and the Diocese of Knoxville pose on the front steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception after morning Mass on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. The group from Nashville are the left two sections of the steps and the group from Knoxville are on the right. They were in Washington, DC to take part in the annual March for Life held on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by the supreme court which legalized abortion. The walk was on January 22.