VIRGINIA — Seven local high schoolers were among tens of thousands of young people who gathered in the nation’s capitol a few weeks ago — taking part in the largest annual human rights denomination in the world.
The teenagers were moved by many things.
The togetherness of the crowd, the fellowship of others “celebrating life.”
And by the signs people carried, reading: “A person is a person no matter how small,” “It’s a beautiful day to save lives” — and one that asked, “Why are we looking for life on other planets?” It continued, stating there is so much beautiful life right “here.”
But the group of students from Holy Spirit Catholic Church who attended the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., were not expecting how greatly they would touch other people’s lives, simply by being there.
They were surprised at how many times they were thanked, such as by a man raising four adoptive children who was grateful for their show of support, for taking a pro-life stand.
And they were amazed by how many people they met while sightseeing who noticed their March for Life attire and thanked them for attending the anti-abortion event.
The girls — Cecilia Schneider, Mariele Paulson, Ava Fink, Abby Kramer, Ella Lamppa, Abby Keyport, Brylee Seitz, and Emma Avikainen — and chaperones Laura Pollak, Tisha Frost and Hannah Milani, spent three full days in Washington, D.C., first attending a youth rally and the Mass for Life before participating in the march from the National Mall to Capitol Hill.
They returned feeling empowered as young women to speak up for the pro-life movement, they said on a recent day, reflecting on the trip.
Kramer said the march made her think about the value of life and gift of children, such as the youngsters she babysits.
This year’s march was reported to have the largest attendance in its history, the students said. It included a speech by President Donald Trump as the first sitting president to appear in person at the event.
The March for Life began as a small, peaceful demonstration on Jan. 22, 1974, the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling which legalized abortion in all 50 states.
The event, according to its website, is not a protest. Rather, it’s a celebration of “each and every life, from the moment of conception, to the moment of natural death, and every moment in between.”
“It was cool to see how huge the crowd was,” Fink said.
Keyport said the students were told they might encounter protesters, but the group didn’t see any.
Schneider said there was a sense of calm, and while the group was at the march, she was focused on truly experiencing the moment. “Nothing else mattered.”
This year’s theme was, “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.”
Pollak said marchers were united in not only standing up for the unborn, but “making women feel supported.”
While in Washington, D.C., the students toured various museums, monuments and sites, including the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the White House and Washington Monument, veterans and war memorials, the National Archives and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“We were there two days before the 75th anniversary” of the Auschwitz liberation, Schneider said.
“I’m so proud of them,” said the Rev. “Father Brandon” Moravitz, pastor of Holy Spirit. The students not only represented their faith, but advocated for the “gift of life.”
“It was a joy to see these young ladies really put their faith and beliefs into action,” Frost said.
The students and chaperones thanked the Holy Spirit parishioners for their support and assistance. A group of young people from Holy Spirit first attended the march in 2018.
Paulson said she was happy to see so many people “brought together on one issue.”
And the experience, Schneider said, provided her with a bigger appreciation for life in general.