SOUTHEASTERN OHIO RESIDENTS MARCH FOR LIFE IN WASHINGTON
The Right to Life groups of Gallia County (25), Meigs County (12), and Mason County (WV - 2) combined forces to mobilize 43 people to participate in the annual March for Life in Washington, DC on January 23, marking 39 years since the 1973 Roe v Wade Decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which legalized abortion. Invited people also came from as far away as Portsmouth (1) and Ironton (3). They sacrificed two days for this cause, most assembling at 7 am on Sunday January 22 at St. Louis Church in Gallipolis and the rest at 8 am at Sacred Heart Church in Pomeroy. Fr. Thomas Hamm gave the first group boarding a blessing and Fr. Tim Kozak gave all the pilgrims another blessing at his church. At the same time there was another busload leaving from Athens, another member of our deanery.
At St. Louis Church, a second Sunday collection of over $1,500 plus a hard earned $600 from the Catholic Women's Club of St. Louis Church made it more affordable for the participants. Thank you all so much for your generosity. In that way they had a part in the March. That lowered the price to $50 per person for bus, two meals, and one night at the Days Inn in Manassas, VA 35 miles southwest of Washington for a lower motel rate. The speedy M Train passes nearby and goes into the center of Washington, a great option for next year.
The St. Louis Group was dominated by Karen Davison Stapleton, her seven children including in-laws, and nine grandchildren, all less than six years old, including three toddlers and an infant. Throughout the two days Grandma Karen was constantly holding one of the babies, taking turns so as to distribute her love equitably. They behaved like little angels throughout the trip, Vigil Mass, and March. Bernadette Stapleton Lewis, an officer of Gallia County Right to Life, had three of her five children there, including an infant. Mike Merry, President of the movement in Gallia County and a veteran of about 23 marches, was an invaluable guide in assisting John Spencer, who was overall in charge and did a great job. His co-ed daughters, Danielle and Shelby Merry have been participating since they were children. For Naomi and me it's only three times (2008 as a family, 2010, and 2012). Fr. Bill Myers established the tradition in St. Louis Church, having marched about 25 times. Look for Mary Stapleton Angel's pictures on Facebook.
The Youth. Four members of the University of Rio Grande Newman Club plus its adviser participated. Cullen Harris, a recent convert, is enthusiastic about the faith and will be discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood at Josephinum in Columbus (See www.pcj.edu). Three young men from River Valley High School and a couple of girls from Meigs High School marched as well. These beautiful young women are a great witness to chastity and life. Steve Brown is captain of his football team and will continue his education at St. Thomas More College in Kentucky. Steve hopes to some day form kids as a teacher and football coach.
The effort was also ecumenical. Five non-Catholics attended and we had some beautiful dialogue that helped us to understand each other better. During the recitation of the rosary in the bus from the motel on the morning of the March, they respectfully listened after we explained what it was (a meditation on five events in the life of Christ with repetitive prayer as background). I had a great dialogue with Carrie Wolfe, pastor of Team Jesus Ministries and she admitted that Protestants have many misconceptions of Catholics. There was a realization that more unites us than divides us. That is a common belief in Christ and the sacredness of human life, created according to the image and likeness of God......that we are engaged in a great cultural war against secularism that threatens to destroy our Country. Thus it is vitally important to fight together than to fight each other.
The Vigil Mass in the Basilica, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, was an option that most of our group took advantage of. Hundreds of priests, deacons, and seminarians of the Roman and the Eastern rites participated in the procession. I could only pray for them as they passed. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, the Chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, was the principal celebrant and homilist. Hundreds of Cardinals, bishops, abbots, and priests concelebrated. It lasted about three hours with the procession alone at the beginning and end of the Mass taking almost an hour. Both the Mass and March was televised by EWTN (also www.ewtn.com).
The great overflow from the main church was put in different chapels of the crypt with television monitors. Even there the singing of the people was enthusiastic and vibrant. It was almost the same as sitting in the main church. Our children slept on makeshift beds made from coats and blankets in the rotunda of the crypt. It did not have television monitors, but one could still hear the Mass by loudspeaker. The priests brought us Holy Communion from upstairs. Many of the Ave Maria students, including our own John-Paul, maneuvered into the main church and squeezed into tiny spaces, some fifteen minutes before the start of the Mass.
The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a magnificent basilica of neo-byzantine architecture, breaking ground in 1920 and finishing in 1961. However, new chapels as Our Lady of La Vang in Viet Nam in the crypt are being added. There are 70 chapels dedicated to different manifestations of Mary all over the world. Virtually every Catholic country and most of the others have a manifestation of Mary according to its own culture. The basilica is the eighth largest religious structure in the world. Take a virtual tour of the basilica by clicking on the following URL:
and learn more at
Visit to the National Archives. Monday morning, the members of our group did some sight seeing or went to one of the national museums. I recommend the National Archives, which is conveniently located at the very start of the March on 7th St. and Constitution Ave. It makes history come alive as we saw the original documents that determined the direction of Western Civilization. The first are shown in the Rotunda in special titanium display cases with minimal light, low humidity, and moderate temperature to preserve them. The Magna Carta of 1215 was the precursor of our Constitution (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/). It guaranteed basic rights, which no king or no new law could violate.
One can see in the second paragraph of the 1776 Declaration of Independence (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. That is followed by the 1787 Constitution and the 1789 Bill of Rights (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/charters.html), which guarantee in the very first amendment the four pillars of freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly which we exercised in the March. However, these basic rights excluded slaves and the unborn, our reason for being here. Each required decades of conflict to obtain justice. The Civil War alone almost destroyed our country and killed more Americans than any war in its history. Even then freed slaves had to continue the fight for their civil rights for another century and more. Women had to fight for their voting rights and equal opportunity, treatment, and pay for the same work.
Only God knows how many men and women never reached their great potential because they were aborted......champion athletes, brilliant scientists, and world changing leaders. One story involves two missionaries in the Philippines, Pam and her husband. She contracted a tropical disease and was given heavy doses of antibiotics to save her life. Discovering that Pam was pregnant, the doctors urged her to abort the baby which they thought would be severely disabled. As a Christian, she refused and prayed, promising to give the baby to God as a preacher. After almost losing the baby four times, she continued to be firm in her faith and refused to abort. On August 14, 1987 Pam gave birth to a normal baby. He became a football player, won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, and is now playing for the Denver Broncos. Tim Tebow uses football as a forum to preach and tell people about God. Now you know the rest of the story. His pro-life story was censored by the network as a commercial for the 2011 super bowl.
The Rally. It rained through much of Monday morning and the 11:30 am rally. Among the speakers were clergy of different faiths, prominent people of the pro-life movement, and Congressmen. Most if not all who spoke, including Speaker of the House, John Boehner and Bill Johnson from our Congressional District, are Conservative Republicans. Most government offices were closed and pro-abortion politicians were absent, claiming to have “other commitments”. In previous years, most Republican presidents as George W. Bush, would speak from his office in the White House.
The March. The diversity of people with raincoats and umbrellas was inspiring.......more women than men; more young than old; white, black, and oriental; mothers pushing bundled up toddlers and infants in strollers. Impressive was the participation in the March of many Catholic colleges as Franciscan University (Ohio). Three buses of over 200 Ave Maria University (Florida) students made the trek of some one thousand miles, including my son John-Paul, a senior Math/Economics major. They slept in hallways, gyms, and classrooms of Catholic schools. Even a group from Princeton came. Nuns, priests, religious, and seminarians were ubiquitous. Numerous were Catholic high schools and elementary schools, churches, Knights of Columbus councils, etc. from Pittsburgh to Minnesota and beyond. Many of the youth were exuberant: “Obama, Obama, your Mama chose life”. Pro-life signs were everywhere.......”Abortion kills; Abortion is painful; I regret my abortion; Abortion hurts men; I regret my abortion”; etc.
The secular press, radio, and television barely cover the event, if at all. If they do, they downplay the numbers as being 60,000 people, when in reality it's in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million. The Rally and March are always orderly and peaceful. Just in case of any problem, the Capitol Police are out in full force. In case of any counter-demonstration, we were instructed not to react and if anything, say “We love you”.
The toddlers in our group were bundled up in covered strollers during the march and the infant was strapped to his father's (Scott Lewis) chest. The little ones did not realize their importance in the March in providing beautiful testimony, especially considering that the March is all about saving babies. They seemed to be enjoying the experience.
The fellowship and solidarity in a common cause among the members of our group and the other quarter of a million other marchers on a cold rainy day was beautiful. People did not seem to mind the weather. The rain more or less stopped by the time the March began at 1 pm. Clergy of different faiths were there. Participants were from all walks of life as in our group.......auto mechanic, dye-maker, insurance agent, school administrators, professor, students from kindergarten to college, retired, plant operator, pastor, nurse, etc.
They had a vision of participating in a cause greater than themselves. Over 53 million American babies have been aborted since this violent procedure was legalized in 1973. They have a common belief that life is sacred from conception to natural death and taking the life of any human being is murder. The mission was to exercise our rights as citizens and voice our protest to the leaders of our Country that the Roe v Wade decision is a gross violation of human dignity and the law of God. Noteworthy is that Ms Roe is now a militant for the pro-life cause. Even the little children understood that they were doing this for the cause of saving little babies and the toddlers perceived something special.
One can reflect during and after the thirty or forty minute walk of about a mile over ten blocks from 7th St. and Constitution Ave. past the Dept. of Labor, the two Senate Office Buildings to the left of the Capitol, then behind it past the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress to 1st St. and Independence Ave.
The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must also apply to the unborn if they are human life and that's scientific fact. Everything necessary for the development of a human being, including certain personality tendencies is programed in the genetic makeup of the union of an ovum and a sperm. It's only a matter of time until the baby reaches full maturity. If the fetus is not a person, then what is it? An animal? If they are not persons until a certain stage of development, who is to say when? Some could then say that the retarded or the handicapped are not persons or an illiterate slave is not a person as believed by many only 150 years ago. Dr. Robert George, an eminent professor of law at Princeton, masterfully develops this theme. See www.catholiceducation.org/articles/catholic_stories/cs0051.html. National Right to Life has a wealth of information at http://www.nrlc.org/.
In sum, participating in a March for Life makes the abortion debate less theoretical and makes one feel that he or she is part of the greatest human rights movement since slavery and beyond. Having come home and writing about this wonderful experience while feeling a part of an epic struggle, another very sobering experience comes to my mind. That is my visit to Auschwitz, the scene of human savagery at its worst, the systematic slaughter of over a million Jews plus a significant number of Christians by a nation, very advanced scientifically, industrially, and in the arts that let evil reduce a significant number of educated people to savages. As I reflected at a beautiful monument at the end of the tour, a thought came to mind. What about our holocaust? Nazi Germany killed some 10 million people; we killed 53 million since 1973.
Go to http://www.marchforlife.org/ and get ready for the March for Life 2013. Better yet, keep on praying and offer up your crosses so that Roe v Wade will be repealed and therefore a 2013 March would not be necessary. For those who are on facebook ask Mary Angel to be your friend for more photos. Her e-mail address is “Mary Stapleton Angel” <firstname.lastname@example.org>