Making history

| January 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

Aly May, left, and her mother, Maren, of St. Jude of the Lake in Mahto­medi will join a group of archdiocesan teens from 17 parishes and four Catholic high schools on a trip to Washington, D.C., for the national March for Life Jan. 24. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

For first time, archdiocese to send group of youth to D.C. for March for Life

When 14-year-old Aly May of St. Jude of the Lake in Mahtomedi goes to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life, she will present a powerful witness for life.

May is confined to a wheelchair because of a condition called spinal muscular atrophy, known as SMA, which is a nerve disease with symptoms similar to muscular dystrophy. Her presence is a reminder that there are plenty of other folks besides the unborn who need to be protected.

She is part of a history-making journey as the archdiocesan Office for Marriage, Family and Life is organizing, for the first time, a group of teens that will go down to DC together to participate in the march. A total of 196 teens are registered, plus 64 chaperones and 14 young adults, for a total of 274.

Mass send-off

Archbishop John Nienstedt is also going to DC and plans to join the group for the march after meeting the youth earlier at a rally and Mass.

The trip begins Jan. 21 with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Lee Piché. Afterward, everyone will of America Conference the next day.

“We booked two buses for the trip, which would hold between 90 and 100 altogether,” said Bill Dill, trip organizer for the Office for Marriage, Family and Life, which is sponsoring the trip. “We didn’t know what to expect, but we were quite happily surprised when we found that we had 274 registrations and a waiting list.”

Aly decided to go after hearing about it from her friend, Maddie Schulte, whose mother, Nancy, works with Dill. A ninth-grader at Mahtomedi High School, Aly went to DC a year ago with her eighth-grade class at St. Jude of the Lake School in Mahtomedi. An experience on that trip was a foreshadowing of her decision to go back this year for the march.

“We went to the White House,” she said. “There were a bunch of protesters there. We and a bunch of my friends made a sign that said, ‘St. Jude is pro-life.’”

Aly is one of 10 youth from St. Jude making the trip this year. A total of 17 parishes and four Catholic high schools are sending groups of teens. Also coming are a group of 34 teens from Community of Christ the Redeemer, a Catholic lay community whose members attend numerous parishes.

Also coming are two priests, Father Greg Abbott, associate pastor at Epiphany in Coon Rapids, and Father Mark Huberty, pastor at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Maplewood.

According to Father Huberty, parishioners have supported his group of eight teens and two chaperones in two ways. One is by holding a fundraiser to help pay the cost of the trip. Another is by scheduling eucharistic adoration for 24 hours starting at noon Jan. 20, the day before the trip.

“I’m very pleased,” Father Huberty said. “What I’ve been telling the congregation is these aren’t just future leaders in the pro-life movement, they’re our current leaders. They’re the ones who have the energy. It’s really been great to see the excitement of the whole parish and their enthusiastic support of this.”

Going on pilgrimage

At Providence Academy in Plymouth, going to DC is a natural extension of the pro-life work being done by the students’ pro-life group, Lions for Life. The leader of that group, senior Genevieve McCarthy, is going on the trip, along with eight other girls who also are members.  Leading them will be Katie Lahti, coordinator of campus ministry at Providence and a graduate of the school in 2006.

“When I first heard about the trip, I was excited to hear that the archdiocese was going as a group,” Lahti said. “It’s a pilgrimage in a sense because you’re going all the way across the country.”

For McCarthy, the trip will not be the end of her involvement in pro-life activities. She is looking far ahead into the future as she ponders how she can make a difference.

“I’ve always been interested in politics,” she said. “I think I’d like to get into politics and help [the pro-life cause] that way.”

Also coming for the march is a group of 19 seminarians from the St. Paul Semi­nary. They represent the first-year theol­ogy class and are continuing in the seminary’s annual tradition of sending this class to the march. Enthusiasm for the trek is running strong.

“I’m greatly looking forward to it,” said first-year seminarian David Gockowski. “It’s really a moving experience to be there. I’ve been there once before, but it’s been a few years now. So, it’ll be good to go back with my class and to see thousands of people there all supporting pro-life and in solidarity to bring an end to abortion. It encourages you to keep working for an end to abortion and for protection of life.”

An estimated crowd of 400,000 people participated in the march last year, according to the March for Life office in DC. Being there with thousands of others is sure to have an impact on the youth from this archdiocese, Dill said.

“It helps young people see how many others out there care about life,” he said. “Hopefully, it will deepen and broaden the pro-life convictions of the youth and, hopefully, it will show the universal church that our youth are not just concerned about themselves, but they’re willing to stand up for others.”

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Category: Featured, Respect Life