WASHINGTON, D.C. — Once again, busloads of students and pilgrims from the Fall River Diocese made the annual trek to the nation’s capitol for the 44th annual March for Life.
This year’s Pro-Life march — which was held later than usual on January 27 because of President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration the previous week — also marked the first time in its history that a sitting vice president addressed the thousands of attendees during the kickoff rally.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged Pro-Lifers to win over hearts with gentleness and compassion at the 2017 March for Life.
“I’m deeply humbled to stand before you today,” he told a cheering crowd.
“On behalf of the President of the United States,” he said, “we thank you for your stand for life” and “for your compassion, for your love of the women and children of America.”
“And be assured, along with you, we will not grow weary, we will not rest until we restore a Culture of Life in America for ourselves and for our posterity.”
“So I urge you to press on,” Pence told the audience gathered on the National Mall for the rally, imploring them “as it is written, let your gentleness be evident to all.”
“Let this movement be known for love, not anger,” he said, “let it be known for compassion, not confrontation.”
The vice president also promised the Trump Administration “will work with the Congress to end taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers” and will reallocate those resources to groups that help women.
Deacon John W. Foley of Holy Trinity Parish in West Harwich, who attended the event as a chaperone aboard the Cape Cod Bus for Life, said he was proud to have the current administration’s support for the Pro-Life movement.
“This year the addition of Vice President Mike Pence brought a level of energy and confidence and commitment to the group never before seen,” Deacon Foley said. “I thought it was much more positive with lots of energy than previous years. It involved many more youth than I ever recall seeing. We are always peaceful and respectful marchers when we come to D.C., and we have previously not received any positive press coverage — if any — at all.”
Deacon Foley’s wife, Barbara-Anne, also attended as a chaperone and she praised the ongoing efforts of people like Kevin Ward, Vincent Armstrong and Vanessa Cloutier along with members of the local Knights of Columbus chapter for providing affordable transportation to and accommodations at the March for Life.
“We don’t want cost to be a barrier for these students to attend the March for Life and learn one of the most important tenets of our faith — the right to life,” Barbara-Anne Foley said. “Our major fund-raiser each winter is a Pro-Life Pancake Breakfast at the Commodore Inn in West Harwich owned by Fiona and John Rendon, whose daughter Sadie started this breakfast with her friends when she was in high school; she will graduate from Catholic University this summer. The Rendons are so incredibly generous in donating the venue (and) the breakfast has always been a huge success because of the enthusiasm and the very generous parishioners of Holy Trinity Parish.”
This year more than 20 parish youth were able to attend the March for Life — several for the first time with a parent who had never been before, which is “always an exciting adventure for us,” Foley said.
Among the first-time attendees this year was Joe Spinello, who attended with his daughter Emily, a senior at Sturgis East Charter School; and Scott Ramsay, who attended with his two sons, junior Ian and freshman Andrew, both of whom are home-schooled. Both parents were very excited to attend and noted how the march impacted their children.
“I didn’t know what to expect but I saw a whole bunch of people with a great attitude all getting along and enjoying the day together with the same mindset,” Joe Spinello said. “At the Mass especially, the enthusiasm of all the students was pretty spectacular — they were all having a great time!”
His daughter Emily called it “an amazing experience.”
“It was wonderful to see so many like-minded people working toward a common goal,” she said. “It made me feel like I was a part of something greater than myself. I was not in any way expecting so many people or the level of enthusiasm and amount of energy, especially at the youth rally. Being able to share this experience with my dad has been so cool!”
Scott Ramsay said he was pleasantly surprised as he “thought there would be more protesters or pro-choice people there trying to counteract us.”
He went on to say: “It was awesome, people were really energetic. Not having been before, as a parent having my kids there I was impressed with all of the youth and how Pro-Life they were. I am proud of my kids and how strong they felt; we are a Pro-Life family.”
Scott’s son Ian was already a strong Pro-Life supporter before attending, but said “it was good to see people come together for the same cause peacefully.”
“I’m not sure what I expected, but it was pretty awesome,” he added. “And it was cool to do the march with my dad, my brother and my friends. We should definitely get more young people to go with us next year for sure. I would definitely go again!”
Another first-time attendee, Cecelia Kane, a sophomore at Sturgis East Charter School, said she “didn’t expect it to be this many people, but once I got here I was amazed by the diverse group of people all united with a common belief. It is nice to be with so many other passionate people and pray with them.”
Genny Paige, a sophomore at Elms College who has been on several previous March for Life trips, said this year’s event was noticeably bigger.
“This year was stronger than ever and there was more (press) coverage on it,” Paige said. “It was certainly nice to have President Trump’s support.”
The only downside to the additional press coverage, according to second-time March for Lifer Kenny Shaffer, was that they were often referred to as being “anti-abortion.”
“Why do they call us anti-abortion protesters?” he asked. “We aren’t protesters, we are walking to stand up for life in the ‘March for Life’ — a Pro-Life Movement, which is a peaceful group.”
Alexa Paige, a second-time attendee and sophomore at St. John Paul II High School in Hyannis, said she felt that “this year was more of a learning experience for me as it deepened my faith and empowered me much more this time. I understand it all better now. I also got closer to the people I met that we came with and those who were on this march for the first time.”
Barbara-Anne Foley said she enjoys sharing the March for Life experience with her husband, John, and it’s important they be among the hundreds of thousands of like-minded youth and adults every year.
“This movement isn’t just about babies — we have to respect all life, including elderly people,” she said. “We always pray that next year our group will be larger and, each year so far, our prayers have been answered!”