Monday, January 28, 2019
Juan I. Guerra
The alarm rang at 3 am. No time to waste. Soon I was on my way to Miami International Airport to meet the first group of 25 students and two chaperones from two area high schools who would be attending this year’s March for Life in Washington, D.C. Throughout the day, another 120 students and teachers from eight more schools would be flying up in three different flights from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to join us as part of the Archdiocese of Miami’s representation at the March. For the last 45 years, ever since the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, people from all over the country have assembled at our nation’s capital to mark this somber anniversary and affirm the right to life for all people.
Grey skies and a damp winter cold met us upon our arrival in Washington. The first stop of the pilgrimage was the American Holocaust Museum, which offered a stark reminder of how a highly educated and developed society could justify the callous slaughter of millions of innocent people. We see now how racial and religious discrimination was the human rights issue of its time. While the six million deaths are unthinkable, we were left to ponder the estimated 60 million deaths through legalized abortion since 1973.
The walk back to the hotel from the museum was long and pensive. Later that night, our chaplain, Father Michael Garcia, administrator of St. Coleman Parish in Pompano Beach, celebrated Mass for us. Father Garcia stressed to the high school students to not abandon their beliefs in the dignity of human life and their Catholic faith as they go on to college. Deacon Jim Dugard, one of the co-organizers of the trip, challenged the students with the simple question: “Why are you here?” Was it to be with their friends or to sightsee? Or was it to learn about what it means to be pro-life and take that message back with them to their friends, homes and communities? We ended Mass nearly at midnight. Despite many changes in the schedule, the miles of walking, the frigid sleet that buffeted us as we walked the city, and the fact that many of the students and chaperones had been awake for nearly 24 hours, it was impressive how everyone remained positive and cooperative throughout.
The next morning, after breakfast, we joined in the March. The sun broke out as we arrived at the National Mall and heard the opening blessing given by Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. His prayer included the words, “Almighty and Eternal God… Today we renew our dedication to the defense of all human life, especially among the unborn… Pour forth, we beseech, your blessing upon these your servants who have gathered to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.”
Politicians from both political parties were also present. Louisiana State House Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat, fired up the crowd saying, “When they ask me, why are you, a black female, fighting for life, I answer because I’m a Christian first!” Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana spoke of the establishment of the first Pro-Life Caucus in the U.S. Senate. He celebrated lawmakers’ recent bipartisan work on pro-life legislation. There was also a surprise appearance by Vice President Pence and his wife, where he exclaimed, “I see this rising generation embracing life as never before. Life is winning in America!” The speeches culminated with a simulcast from the White House, where President Trump addressed the enthusiastic crowd saying, “This is a movement founded in love, grounded in the nobility and dignity of every human life.”
Uplifted, we began the long walk up Constitution Avenue toward the White House and the Supreme Court. In front of the large pillars of the Court, we were met by men and women representing the “Silent No More Campaign.” This group seeks to expose the truth of abortion and its aftermath, shattered lives of self-condemnation. More importantly, their witness was to the healing power of God. Andrea Pearson from Virginia shared that she had procured three abortions. After her first one at Planned Parenthood, she said, “I fell into a tailspin of drugs, alcohol and a promiscuous lifestyle.” She went on to say, “It took me a very long time to recover. My message for women who are out there is there’s no sin beyond the reach of God’s grace.”
Our day ended with a tour of the nation’s monuments, including the Lincoln Memorial, which commemorates another grave injustice, one that resulted in a Civil War. From there we visited the relatively new monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we would soon celebrate. Rev. King’s words, inscribed in granite, were a hopeful message we could all could take home with us in our efforts to end the injustice of abortion, the human rights issue of our times: “Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”