Over 1,000 students, faculty march through Washington for ‘March for Life’
Lucas Masin-Moyer | Monday, January 22, 2018
Growing up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., junior Julia Dunbar had been to St. Agnes Parish in Arlington, Virginia, to compete in various sporting events throughout her childhood, but she had never seen it as filled as she did Friday morning when scores of Notre Dame students packed into the pews for a mass presided over by University President Fr. John Jenkins.
“It was really loud and thunderous prayer in the church because there are 1,000 Notre Dame kids,” Dunbar said. “I think the mass was just a really beautiful way to start the day even if you were tired, it was actually recharging.”
The students were in Arlington, just across the Potomac from the nation’s capital, to participate in the 2018 March for Life.
The event, which has been held every year since 1974, was launched to combat the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion.
This year students sponsored by Notre Dame’s Right to Life Club packed into 19 chartered buses for a 12-hour overnight journey to Washington to participate.
The journey was anything but easy, Dunbar said.
“Our bus’ engine kept shutting off and losing power steering and we had to keep veering off to the side of the highway,” she said. “We were able to get everyone there and redistribute people onto busses with seats.”
The “whirlwind” journey didn’t end there junior Maria Gardner said, as the students, faculty and staff arrived in Washington at 5:30 a.m., long before St. Agnes opened their doors for mass.
“All 1,000 of us divided ourselves up and went to 16 different McDonald’s Restaurants in the area … and waited there for an hour or two,” she said.
Once the students had congregated back at St. Agnes — one of three parishes in Arlington where students slept in sleeping bags during their nights away from Notre Dame — Jenkins said mass for all the students.
Gardner said Jenkins’ homily, delivered just before students headed to the march, was particularly inspiring.
“[Jenkins] said, ‘we march not only for a change of laws but a change of hearts,’” she said “ … to change people’s hearts and show the value each human should have, that was my main takeaway.”
After mass, the students loaded back onto the buses to make their way to the National Mall where they joined hundreds of thousands of other pro-life activists to march towards the Supreme Court.
Before the march began, the activists were addressed via a live-streamed video by President Trump and Vice President Pence and in person by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, all of whom threw their support behind the marchers.
Junior Cliff Djajapranata said he found Ryan’s speech particularly compelling.
“Ryan talked about how inspiring it was to see young people at the March for Life, which is something that really inspires me,” he said. “I think most young people are stereotypically pro-choice … I didn’t really grow up with friends that were pro-life … so seeing that youth and enthusiasm around the pro-life movement is something that inspires me everyday.”
After the speeches, the crowds set off on their march. Djajapranata, who was attending the event for the first time, said he was amazed by the size of the crowds.
“There was a little incline on the road and I remember looking back and you can’t see the end of the people,” he said.
The ability to be around so many people holding similar beliefs was exciting for junior Matt Connell, the vice president of communications for Right to Life.
“So many people realize in this movement that we’re not alone … fighting to promote a culture of life,” he said.
Connell said he thought the march had a new energy this year thanks to recent legislative accomplishments by the pro-life movement.
“The march, and the bringing together of so many pro-life people, encourages people when they are voting to keep in mind the issue of abortion and making sure they’re voting for pro-life candidates,” he said.
For Gardener the event was successful not only because of its impact, but because of the happiness it brought all involved.
“It’s just such a joyful experience,” she said. “Everyone is singing and dancing and just really celebrating life.”