Young people across the Diocese on Nashville are excitedly gearing up to attend the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Jan. 22.
The march, an annual protest against the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States, draws hundreds of thousands of people from across the country every year. The diocese is continuing a tradition of bringing a large contingent of young people to the event.
“We’re bringing about 600 people this year,” said Bill Staley, diocesan director of youth ministry. “This is the biggest group we’ve brought so far. The Mass for Life at the Verizon Center will have about 17,000 people. Plus there will be an additional 10,000 at the Rally for Life. It’s important for the young faithful to witness that and uphold the dignity of every human life from the point of conception to the point of natural death.”
Groups from all three Catholic high schools in Nashville are attending, as well as students from Vanderbilt University, Aquinas College, and youth groups from across Nashville. The students who go are enthusiastic about standing up for the unborn, especially since they were born after the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down.
“The issue of abortion is simple and complex at once,” said Patti Deffendall, director of youth ministry at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville. “It’s simple in the sense that the unborn child is a human being and should be protected. Young pro-lifers understand that very well. They understand the value of the baby’s life. But it’s also complex because we need to care for mothers who are driven to abortion. The key is to figure out how to protect the baby while caring for the mother at the same time.”
Pope John Paul II High School senior Natalie Wieber is especially excited about meeting other teenagers who share her pro-life views. “This will be my third year going, and every time I go, there’s such a sense of unity among the marchers,” she said. “It’s incredible to see thousands of other people my age standing up for the same thing as me.”
Adults accompanying the students want them to become aware of the sanctity of human life. “It’s very important that students become aware of the right to life as a human rights issue, and speak up for those who have no voice,” said Deacon Brian Edwards, Director of Campus Ministry at Pope John Paul II High School. “We want them to see the inherent value of all human life, from its very beginning at conception to the point of natural death.”
“Like St. Cecilia who so eloquently preached the truth of the gospel, our girls have the opportunity at the March for Life to proclaim by their presence the truth that every life is precious and sacred,” said Sister Michaela, O.P., religion teacher at St. Cecilia Academy. “For many of our girls, the March for Life becomes a yearly pilgrimage; it is not only a chance for them to witness to others, but an opportunity for them to be strengthened in their faith by the witness of thousands of other youth who gather for the Mass for Life and March.”
Elizabeth Coyle, Director of Student Life and Campus Ministry at Father Ryan High School, agrees. “We’re bringing 131 students from all four grade levels,” she said. “We see this as a time to help students integrate faith and justice through advocating for the unborn.”
Overall, the students believe it’s important for young people to dedicate themselves to the pro-life cause as a matter of social justice. “As a student, I go to stand up for what I believe in; and I believe that every person, from the point of conception to natural death, has dignity and value,” Wieber said.