Participants in the Nebraska Walk for Life rally in front of the Nebraska Capitol on Jan. 16. A portion of the crowd, estimated at about 2,000 people, is shown before they proceeded toward the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Newman Center. SUSAN SZALEWSKI/STAFF


Walk for Life speakers express concern, hope for future

Even on a gray, overcast day, shadows hung over the Nebraska Walk for Life in Lincoln on Jan. 16.

Speakers at the 10 a.m. rally in front of the State Capitol expressed concerns about the new administration of President Joe Biden, which has publicly declared it would undo many pro-life efforts to protect children in the womb.

Recent violence at the U.S. Capitol, inconsistent with the pro-life message, was mentioned, and participants were reminded of the life-and-death spiritual battle before them.

But there were also rays of hope on that cloudy day, as pro-lifers celebrated recent political victories in the state and were encouraged to persevere in their fight, especially through prayers and sacrifice, reassured that the Gospel of Life will prevail.

Ty Tucker and his children, members of St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn, bring their smiles and enthusiasm to the Nebraska Walk for Life in Lincoln. In front of Tucker are, from left, Wesley, Adalyn and Mya. On his shoulders is Amelia. SUSAN SZALEWSKI/STAFF

Organizers estimated a crowd of about 2,000 people at the walk. That number was down from other years, likely because of COVID-19 concerns and talk of further political violence at state levels, said Sandy Danek, acting executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, which organizes the event annually.

The walk commemorates the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that legalized abortion across the United States. Since then, more than 60 million abortions have occurred in the United States.

Bishop James D. Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln wore purple vestments at a Mass preceding the walk at the nearby St. Mary Church. The color is penitential and appropriate for the occasion, he said.

Gov. Pete Ricketts earlier had proclaimed Jan. 22, the Roe v. Wade anniversary date, as a statewide day of prayer.

Danek told the crowd that the pro-life effort is a marathon, not a sprint, and that the Gospel of Life will continue to be proclaimed no matter what.

“We must continue,” she said, for the sake of the unborn, mothers and fathers and the vulnerable elderly.

“We will persevere another 48 years if necessary,” Danek said. “We must never weary of doing what’s right.”

Other speakers at the outdoor rally included Gov. Ricketts; Lt. Gov. Mike Foley; U.S. Reps. Don Bacon and Jeff Fortenberry; State Sens. Suzanne Geist, Joni Albrecht and Julie Slama; and Denny Hartford, director of Vital Signs Ministries in Omaha.

After listening to the short speeches, participants marched about six blocks to the Newman Center-St. Thomas Aquinas Church at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. There keynote speaker Sarah Zagorski of New Orleans talked about her experience as an abortion survivor and as a pro-life, foster care and adoption advocate.


Bishop Conley said he is praying that God will strengthen the witness of pro-lifers – a witness for the sanctity and dignity of every human life.

“Our witness is making a difference,” especially among young people, he said in his homily at the Mass, organized by the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

The battle over abortion is a spiritual battle, Bishop Conley said, of good versus evil and of the culture of life versus a culture of death.

“But God is on the side of truth and goodness and beauty and life,” he said, and those who work for an end to abortion are doing the work of God.

Aamira Tran gives a youthful witness to the dignity of life. She participated in the Nebraska Walk for Life with her mother, Uyen Tran, a member of the nondenominational Elevate Church in Lincoln. SUSAN SZALEWSKI/STAFF

Violence is contrary to that work, he said.

“We tend to want to solve our problems through violence,” the bishop said. Abortion, euthanasia, suicide and the death penalty are examples, he said.

Bishop Conley’s mother, Betty Jean Conley, 92, of Overland Park, Kansas, died about a month ago of COVID complications. He described her hospice care as “beautiful,” and that hospice is the answer to the violence of physician-assisted suicide.

Hospice is a “yes to God,” he said, and a way to accompany people in their last days.

Bishop Conley asked people to pray, do penance and implore God for wisdom for civil leaders “to protect life from conception to natural death.”

Suffering and death are “the gateway to heaven” and shouldn’t be feared, he said. “We’re not made for this world. … Our culture has lost sight of that.”

The bishop urged pro-lifers to keep their eyes fixed on God, pray for each other, “stay in the fight and be joyful.”

Linda and Ed Janeczko, of St. Matthew the Evangelist Parish in Bellevue, participated in the walk, bundling up for freezing temperatures and wearing pro-life face masks for the COVID-19 pandemic and to witness to life.

They’d been to the Nebraska Walk for Life several times.

“We’re pro-life,” Linda said. “We want babies to be born. They are made in the image of God.”


Many people have been devoted to the pro-life cause for years, said Zagorski, the keynote speaker.

Understandably, they’re tired, she said. They might feel paralyzed by the violence and hatred they see on television. They might wonder if they’re making a difference or if there’s an end in sight.

But they must continue moving forward, Zagorski said.

“Women are looking for you” outside abortion clinics or even at the grocery store, she said. Someone is pressuring them to get abortions they don’t want and are not celebrating. Some of them already have had abortions and are in need of healing.

“They are not empowered and feel they don’t have a choice,” Zagorski said of the women in crisis.

Her birth mother, who suffered from mental illness and had two previous abortions, was one of those women, she said. Zagorski was delivered alive at 26½ weeks of gestational age. Miraculously, she said, her mother fought for her survival.

People need to be committed to telling women that they have another choice, Zagorski said. “We just can’t stop. We have to persist to the end.”

* * *

Northeast Nebraska March for Life to take place

Another opportunity to defend human dignity in the Archdiocese of Omaha will be offered this month:

When: 1 p.m. on Jan. 29

Where: Starting at St. Mary Church in Norfolk, 2300 W. Madison Ave., and from there proceeding on West Norfolk Avenue to U.S. Highway 81 and back.

About: Norfolk Right to Life and Norfolk Catholic High School’s Knights for Life are helping to organize the march, a first for the area. Organizers hope to make it an annual event.

For more information, contact Lindsay Headley,, or call 402-316-8195.

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