|Members of the Diocese of Nashville, including students Ryan Porterfield, left, and Alex White, center, walked in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. in 2015, to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion. Students and chaperones from the diocese are again gearing up to head to the march, which will be held this year on Jan. 27. Tennessee Register file photo by Rick Musacchio|
The Diocese of Nashville will once again have a strong presence at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.
The diocese has been given 465 tickets for the Mass and rally held at the DC Armory on the morning of the march on Friday, Jan. 27, said Bill Staley, diocesan director of youth and young adult ministry.
High school and college students and their chaperones will be filling up as many as nine buses to make the trip to Washington. Staley’s office will fill two buses with students from Pope John Paul II High School and parishes at St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro, St. Philip Church in Franklin, Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville, St. John Vianney Church in Gallatin, St. Patrick Church in McEwen and St. Pius X Church in Nashville.
At the same time, students from Father Ryan High School will fill three buses, St. Cecilia Academy will fill two, and Aquinas College and University Catholic will be taking one each, Staley said.
Music City will be represented at the Youth Rally and Mass, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., where Catholic singer/songwriter PJ Anderson of Nashville and his band will lead the praise and worship music. “This is his second year being chosen by the Archdiocese for that honor,” Staley said.
The Youth Rally has grown so big over the years that it is held in two locations, the DC Armory and the Verizon Center, which are linked by satellite for the event. The Nashville delegation and PJ Anderson will be at the DC Armory, Staley said.
Though the March for Life is not an event for people of any single faith tradition, Catholics from all over the country attend and are prominent, Staley said, particularly young Catholics. “You see a lot of brothers and friars carrying statues of the Blessed Mother, praying the rosary,” he said. “There will be students from other Catholic schools around the country marching and chanting.”
“This definitely shows students who don’t have a day-to-day Catholic environment this is a universal church and there’s definitely more of us,” Staley said.
The march is a good opportunity for the youth to learn more about their faith and why the Church teaches respect for life, Staley said. “It all comes from what Jesus said in Matthew 24:40: whatever you do the least of my people you do to me. You don’t get much smaller than an unborn child.”
Using the march to teach about the Church’s teaching on life issues is also important, Staley said, “so they can go to their friends and share what we’re teaching them and evangelize their parish.”
While many of the students traveling to Washington will be making a return trip to the march, Staley said the group also has “a lot of students who maybe don’t have an opinion on this yet. They hear from their friends about what a great epxerience this is. They come back on fire for this cause.
“It’s the beauty of their faith and their country coming together,” Staley added. “Everything they learn in government class and their theology class or what they received in their parish, it brings them to this event where that experience is tangible. And the stories become real.”
After the Youth Rally and Mass, the marchers will make their way to the National Mall where they will hear a variety of speakers. From there they will march to the U.S. Supreme Court, where they will conclude the march with a silent prayer, Staley said.
This year’s march is about a week later than normal because of the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Friday, Jan. 20.
The change in date is not the only way the inauguration is affecting this year’s march, Staley said. “There’s a different atmosphere. This potentially could be one of the last few March for Life we’ll ever have to do.”
Many in the pro-life movement are hopeful the new president will appoint Supreme Court justices who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. “We’re just a justice or two” short of the majority needed, Staley noted.
The diocesan group will leave Nashville for Washington on Thursday morning, and after a day of sightseeing in Washington, including a visit to the St. John Paul II National Shrine and Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, the group will head home on Sunday.
Before they set off for Washington, Bishop David Choby will celebrate a Mass for the marchers and “any pro-life supporters who want to join us,” Staley said. The Mass will be at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the Catholic Pastoral Center, 2800 McGavock Pike, Nashville.