This year’s national March for Life in Washington, D.C., went virtual.
Five adults and four eighth-graders from St. George Parish in Hermann were among a little more than 200 people who marched up Constitution Avenue on behalf of society’s smallest, most defenseless people.
“Our voices are being heard,” stated Megan Manning, a member of the group. “We’re here for everybody who wasn’t able to make it.”
The annual march marks the Jan. 22 anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion-on-demand throughout the United States.
It usually draws hundreds of thousands of participants from all over the United States.
Seventh- and eighth-graders as St. George School raise money every two years to travel to Washington for the march.
All bus pilgrimages from this diocese were cancelled this year due to COVID-19 and security concerns.
However, Monsignor Gregory L. Higley, pastor of St. George Parish and of Church of the Risen Savior Parish in Rhineland, allowed a group of students and their families who wanted to make the trip to sell M&Ms after Mass to raise money for airfare.
Members of both parishes wound up covering the entire cost of the trip.
“That was our sign from God that we needed to be here,” said Mrs. Manning, who teaches kindergarten at St. George School.
“We decided that with everything going on, our kids needed to be there and be Jesus’s shining light for everybody,” she said.
Just getting from Hermann to Washington was an adventure.
“We had that lovely snowstorm in Missouri,” Mrs. Manning stated.
Traffic on I-70 was slow and occasionally stopped as they made their way to the airport in St. Louis.
The delays provided increased opportunities for prayers in the cars.
“We did a lot of praying for people who were stopped on the side of the road and for the safety of our own trip,” said Mrs. Manning.
Catholic News Service reported that this was the smallest, coldest national March for Life in years and may also be remembered as the bravest.
A little over 200 people, tightly flanked by members of the Knights of Columbus, endured subfreezing temperatures and wind as they sang hymns and trudged a zigzag route with Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, from the National Museum of the Bible to the Supreme Court.
The theme was “Together Strong: Life Unites.”
Ms. Mancini acknowledged “that we’re all symbolically marching, and we’re all in solidarity with each other.”
Before they stepped off, she told the marchers, originally a group of 60, that although this year was a deeply somber occasion, “let’s be prayerful” and to fulfill the event “in the best way we can.”
Marchers included Auxiliary Bishop Joseph L. Coffey of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.
“Never despair, never give up and keep fighting,” Bishop Coffey told EWTN while marching.
Others included former NFL player Benjamin Watson and Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood clinic director who operates the pro-life ministry And Then There Were None.
The march, lasting about 90 minutes, was considerably quieter than the placard- and flag-filled processions of thousands toward Capitol Hill in previous years. And there were no counter-protesters.
The wind chill was 13 degrees.
62 red roses
The group from Hermann, wearing matching bright red hoodies, joined a group marching up Constitution Avenue from 12th Street, praying several communal Rosaries before meeting up with the rest of the marchers near the National Native American Veterans Memorial.
“The sky was dark and gray most of the morning but the sun came out while we were marching,” Mrs. Manning stated. “We took that as a good sign.”
She said participants did their best to follow health guidelines for slowing the spread of COVID-19.
In a throwback to a former March for Life tradition, Ms. Mancini and others in the core group carried single red roses, which, she announced, would “symbolize the profound grief pro-life Americans feel over the deaths of 62 million unborn children through legal abortion.”
They laid those on the sidewalk behind the fenced-off Supreme Court building as marchers broke into the “Ava Maria” and “God Bless America.”
Mrs. Manning said her most vivid memories of the event will probably be “marching next to big, tall fences and armed guards while praying the ‘Hail Mary.’”
“It felt like being in a different world,” she said. “Barbed-wire fences are not the first thing we think of, being in America.”
Eighth-grader Easton Stiers said he was surprised at how many people attended the March, despite most of the observances being cancelled this year.
Eighth-grader Connor Manning said was encouraged by how many people his age were there.
Eighth-grader Daeden Hopkins’s favorite part of the March was passing by the National Guard members on guard around the Capitol.
Eighth-grader William Manning took to heart a street preacher’s prayer over him and his friends.
“He talked about how we’re the future,” he said.
After the March, the Hermann group toured the National Museum of the Bible and planned to attend Sunday Mass in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
This was the first March for Life for all four of the St. George eighth-graders.
They said they would like to return next year when the March is hopefully back in full force.
“I was very happy that they went,” said Msgr. Higley. “A lot of unfortunate reversals of pro-life issues are about to take place.”
He hopes the experienced reinforced the need to stand up for innocent, vulnerable human beings, “inside and outside the womb.”
“That’s part of the greatness of our nation,” he stated. “This is not just our Church teaching. Our Constitution requires that of each and every one of us.”
Contributing to this article in Washington was Kurt Jensen of Catholic News Service.