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Students gather around the Omaha archdiocese’s banner to begin the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19.

Members of the Omaha archdiocese group join Archbishop George J. Lucas at St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where the archbishop celebrated Mass.

Sunny skies and sunny outlook highlight pro-life march

Weather – sunny. Mood – exuberant. Turnout – inspiring.
 
Unlike some recent years, sunny skies and moderate temperatures greeted tens of thousands of pro-life supporters Jan. 19 as they gathered for the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.
 
Archbishop George J. Lucas and about 400 students, clergy, religious and lay people from the Omaha archdiocese were among the thousands of people who marched, carried signs, prayed and sang, bearing witness to the dignity of human life.
 
“I think this was probably the largest March for Life I’ve ever been a part of,” said Whitney Bradley, coordinator of the archdiocese’s Respect Life Apostolate and organizer of the trip. “The nice weather might have brought out more local people.”
 
Traveling from several locations in the archdiocese – some by bus and some by plane – the groups also visited religious, historic and other sites on trips lasting several days, but came together for Mass with the archbishop at St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington the morning of the march.
 
HOPE FOR CHANGE
The size of the crowd at the march inspired Sydney Kerkman, a member of St. Boniface Parish and a senior at Pope John XXIII Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School, both in Elgin. “It gives me hope that we can actually change things,” she said.
 
Kerkman, who had attended the march twice before, said the experience was a spiritual one as well, with participants offering up the sacrifices and inconveniences of the trip, praying for the unborn and attending a “Life is Very Good Evening of Prayer” rally at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., the night before the march.
 
“That program was really amazing,” she said, and included opportunities for confession, a concert and speakers. “There also was eucharistic adoration, and that was really powerful.”
 
But this was her first opportunity to attend a rally on the National Mall the day of the march, which this year featured live comments by President Donald Trump from the White House Rose Garden.
 
The first sitting president to address March for Life participants by live video feed, he said his administration “will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life.”
 
“Every child is a precious gift from God,” the president said.
 
He also praised marchers, calling them “living witnesses of this year’s March for Life theme … Love Saves Lives.” 
 
STORIES OF LOVE, FAITH
Nate Hubschman, a member of St. James Parish and a junior at Roncalli Catholic High School, both in Omaha, said this year’s march was a first for him. Impressed with the president’s comments, Hubschman said he hopes the decisions he makes in office will help the pro-life cause.
 
 “And, seeing all those people gathered for a good cause was incredible. It gave me hope that abortion will eventually end,” he said.
 
For some people at the march, the stories of how love made the difference in choosing life over abortion had the biggest impact.
 
Andrew Franzluebbers, a member of St. Mary Parish and a junior at Guardian Angels Central Catholic School, both in West Point, was touched by the speeches of U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, and Pam Tebow, mother of former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.
 
Both were encouraged to seek an abortion, with Herrera Beutler warned during a pregnancy that her unborn child could have severe defects, and Tebow experiencing a difficult pregnancy.
 
But through prayer and medical intervention, both bore healthy children.
 
Franzluebbers, attending the march for the third time, said those stories reinforced his commitment to the pro-life cause.
 
“It gave me more of a realization of the problem of abortion and the problems that mothers experience,” he said.
 
Another speaker at the pre-march rally, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, noted “the vigor and enthusiasm of the pro-life movement.”
 
Young people’s attendance at the march is “so inspiring, because it tells us that this movement is on the rise,” Ryan said. 
 
Like every year, the mood was joyful, Bradley said. “Our kids tend to be one of the louder groups, chanting, praying and enjoying the atmosphere.”
 
Youthful involvement and enthusiasm speaks to a brighter future, Bradley said. “If these kids continue in their pro-life beliefs and are educated well, we may see a change and not have to wait another 45 years for an end to abortion.”

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