Wheeling Central Catholic High School students participate in the March for Life.
By Jeff McCoy
Well over 600,000 people came together on a cold Jan. 22 in Washington for the annual March for Life. Many people from West Virginia spent the day declaring their faith by showing support for the pro-Life movement. Each January the Mall in Washington is filled with people expressing concern about the 1973 Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion.
The majority of the pro-life groups from West Virginia were young. Weirton Madonna High School’s Emily Elias stood in front of over 9,000 people at the morning March for Life Mass and read the second reading. Young people from St. Bernadette Mission in Hedgesville, St. Joseph Parish in Martinsburg, St. Leo Parish in Inwood and St. James Parish in Charles Town also represented their churches well. Mikayla Azar and Angela Diaz of St. James led the rosary at the Rally for Life at the Washington Armory before the morning Mass. “The church is a very influential place. Deacon Dave is a great deacon and he encourages us to stand in what we believe in and he is definitely one of the key reasons why we come to this march,” Azar said.
Jeff McCoy Photos
(Above Left) Angelia Diaz, left, and Mikayla Azar of St. James Parish in Charles Town lead the rosary during the Rally for Life at the Armory in Washington.
(Above Right) Emily Elias, president of the Pro-Life Club at Madonna High School in Weirton, reads the second reading at the youth Mass at the Armory in Washington.
Their fellow parishioners, Claire Buede read the first reading, and Ambrose Rucker and Adam Nichols helped with the prayer at Mass. Campus minister and teacher Jeff Smay of Central Catholic High School in Wheeling left at 11 p.m. the night before to participate in the march with his students. “It’s amazing how it’s grown with young people. Every year there’s more and more young people. That’s encouraging,” he said. Blistering wind, below freezing temperatures and long travel times has all been an issue in the past but they continue to make the trip every year. “We really have good kids,” he added.
Smay said, “It’s not just a march to make a statement. It’s a pilgrimage where you go to pray, and all along the line people were praying. You win people to your side by winning their heart, the only way to win their heart is to pray for them and treat them with respect and dignity.”
Many marchers saw the rally as just that, a spiritual pilgrimage, a chance to stand tall, show solidarity and pray. Pray for the unborn, the abortionist, the mothers and fathers and the suffering and guilt and to ask God to forgive.
Sister Virginia Arellano from the Sisters Missionary Servants of the Word, now stationed in the Eastern Panhandle, made it clear that part of their mission was to help women in need, and pray “that when they listen to the word of God, they chose life.”
Kevin Lathway of St. Bernadette’s has been making the march for over six years. When asked if the march could really change things he said, “I think it’s going to make a difference. Every little bit helps.” Father Hall said, “The main thing that needs to happen is hearts need to be changed, the hearts of individuals, not so much the country but the individuals that make up the country. How do we change a country’s heart? One person at a time.” Over the years the marchers have become younger. Teenagers are picking up the banner and asking for change. Many carried signs with “We Are The Pro-Life Generation.”
(Above Left) Wheeling Central Catholic High School students participate in the March for Life.
(Above Right) Wheeling Central Catholic High School students are pictured at the March for Life. From left are Joseph Minor; Father Thomas Gallagher, school chaplain; Zack Fahey; Erin O’Leary; Caleb Estep; and Jacob Buck.
As the marchers moved up Capitol Hill and started the turn for the U.S. Supreme Court, a small amount of protesters blocked the street. After multiple attempts by the Capitol Police to open the lanes, several arrests were made. The remaining protesters shouted obscenities at the marchers as they passed by. A few marchers stopped and turned towards them, then prayed for the protesters.
“We’re not out to force anything on anyone,” Smay said. “We pray for them, that’s our main weapon and that’s how I have seen it change over the last 15 years.”