Students find empowerment at life march

Record Photo by Jessica Able
The Kerr family, parishioners of St. Christopher Church in Radcliff, Ky., took part in the annual Walk for Life in downtown Louisville Jan. 24. The local prayer walk is in solidarity with the national March for Life, which drew hundreds of thousands to Washington, D.C. The March for Life commemorates the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the U.S. 47 years ago.

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Report
Students, teachers and chaperones from the Archdiocese of Louisville who attended the March for Life Jan. 24 in the nation’s capital said they felt empowered, replenished and better prepared to advocate for life issues.

About 200 people from the Archdiocese of Louisville were among hundreds of thousands who attended the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Among those who braved cold temperatures and a long bus ride were students from Bethlehem High School. Stuart Hamilton — a theology teacher and campus minister at Bethlehem — said any sacrifices made to attend the national event are made for the unborn.

“It’s a sacrificial trip. It’s surrounded in prayer and sacrifice. It feels like that can be lifted up for the unborn,” said Hamilton during an interview while traveling back from Washington, D.C. Jan. 25.

He noted that the presence of Father of Mercy Ben Cameron and Father Patrick Dolan on the trip this year, made it feel more like a pilgrimage. They prayed during the trip and celebrated Mass daily for the pilgrims from the archdiocese, said Hamilton.

Ed Harpring, pro-life coordinator in the Family Ministries Office, said in many ways he feels this march was the “best ever.” Harpring helped to coordinate the trip for the schools that attended. The pilgrims gathered at St. Raphael Church Jan. 22, the eve of the trip, for a Mass to commemorate the National Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of the Unborn.

“We abided in the pilgrimage mindset. We started off with Mass at St. Raphael and it set the stage for us staying focused on something bigger than ourselves,” said Harpring in an interview Jan. 27.

Seniors Kennedy Mattingly and Mollie Ulrich were among the 16 Bethlehem students who traveled to the capital.
Mattingly, a member of Bethlehem’s Pro-Life Club, said it was her fourth time attending.

“There are so many different types of people … religion and race. It’s good to see everyone come together for this virtuous and righteous cause,” she said. After the march, Mattingly and the rest of her group attended the National Pro-life Summit, a day-long workshop organized by Students for Life that aims to educate, train and and provide networking opportunities to pro-life advocates.

The summit was informative, said Mattingly.

“A lot of people don’t know the reality of abortion and adoption though they say, ‘I’m pro-life or pro-choice,’ ” she said. The summit educated her on both those issues.

Ulrich, who has prayed in front of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in downtown Louisville, said this was her third time at the event and it’s always “eye-opening.” “People from all over the world come. It shows we can make a change in the world if we keep pushing forward.”

Trinity High School students also traveled to the March. The school has been attending for the past five years said Holly McGuire, a teacher who accompanied the students. Seniors Kyle Kinser and Tristan Thornsberry experienced the march for the first time this year.

“The march was enlightening. It’s an experience I will never forget,” said Thornsberry. “Being there with all those wonderful people marching for the right to life, which is a gift, was empowering and beautiful.”

Kinser said the march was “empowering more than anything else. Seeing all those people in one place for the one cause was empowering.”

Kinser noted he was raised to believe life should be respected. The experience at the national event left him feeling “replenished and refreshed” in that belief.

Lisa Wieland, an Assumption High School teacher, who accompanied students to the march said the students who’d never attended were “amazed by the size and scope” of the event and how important advocacy is.

“One of the things we teach our girls at Assumption is the importance of advocacy,” said Wieland. “They got to see the power of using your voice.”

Assumption senior Kadie Fahnbulleh and freshman Hannah McIntosh, who attended the march for the first time, said it was an “eye-opening” experience. Fahnbulleh said the issue “seems more real” now that she’s experienced the march.

“I’d never been part of such a big movement,” she said. “I was pretty undecided, but after going I feel I’ve moved more towards pro-life.”
McIntosh said “Some people don’t realize it is an issue. I didn’t realize it was such a big issue that impacted so many babies. I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll go back next year.”

This year the pilgrims were addressed by President Donald Trump before the march. This is the first time in the march’s history that the president has addressed march-goers in person.

The Archdiocese of Louisville held its own Walk for Life Jan. 24. It drew bout 40 people who took part in a 1.5-mile prayer walk, stopping at various sites to pray. The sites included the courthouse, hospitals, an abortion clinic and the site of Thomas Merton’s epiphany.

Karl Dolson, director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said the local walk was an opportunity to “draw attention to a variety of life issues,” including abortion, the death penalty, living wages and workers rights and children in foster care.

The participants included parishioners from St. Gabriel Church, St. Christopher Church in Radcliff, Ky., and students from Bellarmine University, Mercy Academy and St. Xavier High School.

In addition, Right to Life of Louisville held its annual rally on the steps of Louisville Metro Hall Jan. 22, the anniversary of the Roe. v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion-on-demand in the U.S.

Record reporter Jessica Able contributed to this story.

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