Local students march for life year after year

| Jennifer Janikula for The Catholic Spirit | January 15, 2014 | 1 Comment
A group of students from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis attend the 2013 March for Life in Washington, D.C. This year, four busloads of students will attend the Jan. 22 event that protests legalized abortion on demand. Photo submitted

A group of students from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis attend the 2013 March for Life in Washington, D.C. This year, four busloads of students will attend the Jan. 22 event that protests legalized abortion on demand. Photo submitted

Nearly 200 local high school students and chaperones will board four buses on Jan. 18 for a 24-hour ride to Washington, D.C., to participate in the annual March for Life.

For a few days each January, the Capitol swells with more than 400,000 people committed to promoting the sanctity of life. They gather in peaceful protest around the Jan. 22, 1973, anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis organizes an annual six-day pro-life pilgrimage for high school students. The students participate in the National Rally and March for Life, attend a Students for Life of America Conference and celebrate Mass at the National Basilica. There also are daily opportunities for confession, adoration, reflection and testimonies.

“This trip is a transformative experience for many of the students,” said Bill Dill, youth ministry events coordinator for the archdiocese. “They get fired up in a way that changes their lives and teaches them to stand up for others. They learn to live out their Catholic faith in a concrete and meaningful way.”

The March for Life experience is so inspiring that many students become repeat pilgrims. This year’s trip will be the fourth adventure for seniors Luke Gion, Max Puffer and Isaiah Schick. (Another four-timer, Maddie Schulte, shares another pro-life experience on page 9.) These three young men appreciate how the March for Life has deepened their faith and brought them closer to God.

For Luke Gion, a member of St. Pius X in White Bear Lake, March for Life is an annual retreat — it inspires him, expands his perspective and prompts action.

“The trips have altered my high school experience in a positive way,” said Gion, a student at White Bear Lake Area High School. “I see past the drama of high school, with its superficiality and appearances, to realize there are bigger issues at hand in my life.”

Since his first March for Life experience, Gion has started sharing his pro-life beliefs with others and plans start a pro-life group at his high school. The goal of the group will be to educate and inform, but not alienate students.

He explained that students are uncomfortable talking about abortion because it’s so “prickly” and politically divisive. But Gion wants to “reach out and build up the innate worth of people in general, whether a one-celled person or an 86-year-old person.”

Like Gion, the March for Life helps Schick refocus for the upcoming year.

Schick, who attends Totino-Grace High School in Fridley and Epiphany church in Coon Rapids, described the March for Life as “a way to witness the culture of life as a community of faith.” He goes back each year because the experience is a unique opportunity that he can’t get anywhere else.

“The trip provides a personal faith encounter with God. You meet him in the people — in their joy, passion and enthusiasm,” Schick said. “Every year, I grow in my prayer life as I witness the desire that others have for a deep faith and a deep relationship with God.”

Isaiah’s classmate Max Puffer describes himself as a huge supporter of life. After three trips to Washington, D.C., Puffer continues to be inspired by the march, from the National Mall to the steps of the Supreme Court building.

“The number of people in the march — it’s amazing — all those people willing to stand with you,” Puffer said. “They believe the exact same thing you do and want the same thing. It’s so touching that they are all here for the unborn.”

The March for Life trip inspired Puffer to write a poem, “Am I Human?”, which describes the abortion experience in the voice of a baby talking to her mother. Puffer brought many of the students and chaperones to tears when he courageously shared this part of his poem last year:

“Years pass till the day comes when I meet you. Jesus forgave you and brought me to the gates of Heaven. I ran to you, you ran to me. I said I love you, you said the same. After that we walked with Jesus into paradise together. I am human.”

Jack Dorcey, a member of St. Pius X in White Bear Lake, has chaperoned four March for Life trips. He values the opportunity for the kids to step away from their lives and reflect.

“Adoration and confession inspire kids to get active in their faith,” Dorcey said. “The March for Life — it will change you. You will be convicted, and you might save a life.”

Before they depart for Washington, D.C., students and chaperones will attend Mass together at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Cathedral of St. Paul. The Mass is open to the public. The pilgrims welcome your prayers.

Local events celebrate life

Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States, was decided 41 years ago on Jan. 22, 1973. In response, many local churches and organizations will mark the anniversary by hosting events that celebrate life and promote healing.

Minnesota Youth for Life Conference

9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday, Jan. 20
Sacred Heart, Robbinsdale

All Night Prayer Vigil for Hope, Healing and Mercy

7 p.m. – 7 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 21,
to Wednesday, Jan. 22
St. Mary’s Chapel at St. Paul Seminary

Prayer Service for Life

10:30 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 22
Cathedral of St. Paul

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) March for Life

12 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 22
State Capitol grounds

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Category: Respect Life