By Connie Berry
Before the four busloads of young people and their chaperones left the diocese to travel to the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., they spent an hour in prayer at a special Mass for Life at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday, Jan. 21. Bishop Robert Cunningham was joined at the altar by several other diocesan priests. The bishop traveled to Washington to join the pilgrims the following day. Bishop Cunningham planned to celebrate Mass for them again at the National Basilica in Washington.
Father Joe O’Connor, director of the Office of Vocations, provided a stirring homily to set the tone for the pilgrimage for life that the youngsters were preparing to take. He sent them on their way reminding them that the “battle” to bring respect for all life to the forefront will be won with love, not anger.
“We use words like ‘battle’ and ‘fight,’” Father O’Connor told them, “I get it, but it’s not won with anger but with love. …stay rooted in prayer with the Father; stay loving to all those you meet.”
Father O’Connor told the young people that they and all those in the respect life movement are asking people to make a big change, to take responsibility for their actions, to make a sacrifice by bringing that person into the world. “We can’t ask them to do anything that we are not willing to do ourselves,” Father O’Connor said.
He suggested the young people realize their own sense of sacrifice, inconvenience and responsibility while they make the pilgrimage. Father O’Connor told them they would be inconvenienced during their journey. They will need to take responsibility for their actions by making up any school work they missed in a timely fashion. He suggested they do not take their time about it but instead, make the work up right away. Father O’Connor challenged them to take $5 of the money their parents likely gave them for the trip and give it back to Lisa Hall, director of the Respect Life Office, so she might provide someone who needs it with diapers or other baby items.
Chris Fisk, a 13-year-old member of the youth group at St. Stephen’s Church in Phoenix, was preparing to make his first trip to Washington for the March for Life. After the Mass, he said he was excited to go, although he wasn’t quite sure what it was that made him decide to go. Chris said he might just figure that out once he got there.
Lizzie Hall, a seventh grader at Eagle Hill School in Manlius, is making the trip with her mom, Lisa Hall. It’s her first time too, and she was very happy to go.
There were young people who could not make the trip to Washington, D.C. this time around, but who still wanted to show their support for life. Maria Colangelo, a ninth grader at Christian Brothers Academy and a confirmation candidate at St. Cecilia’s in Solvey, marched in downtown Syracuse for the local March for Life. She and Aimee Owens, a fifth grader at Elmcrest Elementary School in Liverpool, and a parishioner at Holy Family in Fairmount, held a banner at the local event. They were joined by more than a hundred others in the bright sunshine on a cold Syracuse afternoon.
The march culminated at the Chancery steps near Columbus Circle downtown. Father Joseph Clemente led the marchers in prayer and Shannon Guy, a local coordinator of 40 Days for Life, spoke to the outdoor crowd. Jane Pigott, who celebrated her birthday that day, has organized the local event for decades. Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle and Assemblyman Donald Miller were there to lend their support to the cause for life as well.
Members of the diocese who left Syracuse were to be joined in Binghamton by more buses headed to the nation’s capitol. Bob Walters, diocesan director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said there would be 12 buses total from the diocese making the pilgrimage to Washington.
The bus journey might mean a little suffering for the pilgrims, but he said, “We’ll be there to joyfully witness to life.”