By Carol Zimmermann | Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although the March for Our Lives in Washington March 24 and its “sibling” marches in cities across the country were brought on by teenagers, participants were all ages — from toddlers in strollers pushed by their parents to elderly marchers using walkers.
Many of the adults in the Washington crowd carrying posters with anti-gun messages or taking pictures of all posters held high on the cool spring day hadn’t lost sight of who brought them together and was leading them forward in the effort: the teens from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and students around the country energized in this movement.
“I feel guilty. We should have made it happen. It should’ve happened 20 years ago,” said Christine Brune, a march participant and parishioner at Holy Trinity Parish in Washington, referring to the teens’ stance against gun violence.
“We have to listen to their fresh new voices and their courage. I have a lot of respect for their courage,” said Brune, holding a green poster with the words in blue marker: “And the Children Will Lead Us! (Isaiah 6:11).”
Brune was at the Washington march with her 19-year-old niece, Emily Knight, a freshman at the University of Kansas, who had been in a school lockdown when she was in middle school in Omaha, Nebraska, because of a school shooting at a nearby high school. “It was terrifying to think you will be next,” she said of that day.
“I hope government officials will see this outcry” of so many people at the march. “If they don’t, it’s like they don’t care,” she told Catholic News Service, pointing out that it was not just young people either.
Even the signs held up by marchers proved this was an all-ages event. One sign said: “Grandparents Against Automatic Weapons” and another, held up by 91-year-old Suzanne Fox from Washington, said: “Grandparents are proud of you. You will make a difference.”
Jeanie Teare, the 81-year-old who made the sign at the march when someone gave her a poster board and paint, before the street filled up with people, said she was at there because “why wouldn’t you be here?”
She said she has been at a number of protests over the years and admitted “a lot were fruitless,” but she hoped the student-led march would be a “wake-up call.”
“The important thing is, young people need to vote,” Teare said, before quickly adding that people of all ages need to vote and wondered how many in the crowd voted in the last election.
Mercy Sister Lisa Maria Griffith, executive director of Mercy Education Systems of the Americas, marched with students from Mercy colleges and high schools and said it is “important to support our youth learning to use their voices to be proactive.”
“When we look at our history, in times of great change, there has always been some group that has risen to the occasion. In this case, hopefully it is the students’ voice,” she said.
And these student activists not only got support, but also some advice.
In a Mass at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington prior to the march, Franciscan Father Jacek Orzechowski from St. Camillus Church in Langley Park, Maryland, told the student marchers: “God believes in you” and will empower them. He also said they had a role that went beyond activism.
“You are called to bring healing to your communities,” he said.