Three offices unite to promote love and justice

By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

With their green and white scarves, the Diocese of Syracuse marchers will be easy to identify at the 2017 March for Life. There could be about 100 more of them, too.

The diocesan contingent could swell to about 700, because the diocese hopes to add two more buses: one with about 12 students from each of the four Catholic high schools, and the other filled with young adults.

Students from the Catholic high schools will board a bus with chaperones about 11:30 p.m. Jan. 26 and pray and share fellowship while traveling to the march the next day in Washington, D.C. “It’s amazing, it’s not somber,” said Lisa Hall, director of the diocesan Office of Family/Respect Life Ministry.

“It’s a pilgrimage; you don’t get a lot of sleep,” she added.

“Middle-school, high-school youths do not get tired,” said Bob Walters, director of the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.

The trip to Washington will be the fourth and final phase of a new diocesan initiative called “Building a Culture of Life.” It is a collaboration of three offices: Family/Respect Life, Youth and Young Adult, and Catholic Schools.

The first phase is “Learn about Life: Students for Life,” scheduled for Oct. 11-14 this year. Its emphasis is to help diocesan students develop empathy toward mothers facing unplanned pregnancies and their unborn children.

Their instructor will be Keri Landeche, the Northeast Region representative for the national group Students for Life, whose mission is to “abolish abortion in our lifetime.”

Landeche will speak in all of the religion classes for grades 9-12 in each of the Catholic high schools.

“She’ll be sharing with them about the injustice of abortion,” Hall said, “how we can support both mother and child, and how we can be a voice for the voiceless in our schools and community.”

The second phase is called “Celebrate Life: Mass for Life/Bishop Robert J. Cunningham.”

At 9:30 a.m. Oct. 27 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, students from around the diocese will join the bishop “to hear God’s word and be fed and nourished with the Eucharist,” Hall said.

Father Ken Kirkman, parochial vicar to St. Mary’s Parish in Cortland together with the merged parish worship site at St. Anthony of Padua, will offer the homily. After Mass, Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, will address the students “and invite them to join the pro-life generation and boldly stand for the gift of life,” Hall said.

The third phase is called “Love & Life: Jason Evert.”

A national chastity speaker, Evert will address full student assemblies at each of the four high schools Dec. 13 through 15.

The diocese will also host him at two parish evening events: 7-9 p.m. Dec. 13 at Sacred Heart Church in Cicero and Dec. 14 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Vestal.

“We’re working in collaboration with the Youth and Young Adult Ministry office on those evening events at the parishes,” Hall said.

“Jason is widely known as an excellent and engaging speaker,” she added.

Parents and teachers are also invited to his talks, she said, so that they can learn about authentic love.

“What does real authentic love look like?” Hall said. “And how can we identify it? How can we learn to live in friendship with one another and treat one another with real dignity and respect, and have that for ourselves too?

“And he’s fun; he just offers a great presentation, and at the evening events there will also be a half hour of Eucharistic adoration at the end of the program.”

The program includes music. “It promises to be a really powerful evening,” she said.

Walters knows Evert from their days together at Franciscan University of Steubenville. “He’s one of the biggest names that you can get as a speaker; but especially for chastity, there is no equal,” he said.

The final phase is the March for Life, which is attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

In addition to students, Hall and Walters also recommend the trip for parish groups and youth groups. Several diocesan parishes have made the annual trips to the March for many years.

On the way down there will be stops at the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Md., and a rally for life at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

After breakfast on Jan. 27, the diocesan groups will attend a Mass officiated by Bishop Cunningham in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

The March for Life Rally is scheduled for noon on the grounds of the Washington Monument. The march itself goes down Constitution Avenue all the way to the Supreme Court.

“Raining, snowing, freezing, sunshine, it doesn’t matter what it is,” Hall said. “We march.”

“It’s eye-opening, it’s sobering,” Walters said. “You have religious orders in habits, monks and priests, nuns; you have sisters, you have families, you have babies, you have the elderly; but predominantly, it’s youth.”

Making a one-day trip will be the students from the Catholic high schools, young adults, other individual adults, and families.

Parish groups and youth groups that take buses will be on a three-day pilgrimage. The second day will include Christian tours of monuments in Washington.

To register or for information about the cost of the one-day trip, pilgrims may call Hall’s office, (315) 470-1418, or the Catholic Schools Office, (315) 470-1450.

Hall’s daughter, Hannah Hall, has attended the March for Life several times. A sophomore at Fayetteville-Manlius High School, Hannah has started a Students for Life club at her school.  

“One of the biggest benefits that we’ve seen in students and people who attend the March for Life,” Lisa Hall said, “is, it really deepens their faith. It gives them a real experience of solidarity, uniting for the cause of justice for the unborn, and uniting them to see the need to accompany mothers who are experiencing unplanned pregnancy, not condemn them, or not provide support for them.”

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