March for Life, love

Jessi Hohlfeld, left, a freshman at UW-Eau Claire, and Maria Novak, right, studying nursing at WITC-New Richmond, stand together at the March for Life. (Catholic Herald photo by Janelle Roe)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

After a Jan. 16 send-off with Bishop James P. Powers at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior, a group of students and chaperones from the Diocese of Superior set off on a pilgrimage to the March for Life.

The Jan. 19 event, a peaceful annual protest to mark the Jan. 22, 1973, Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, was in its 45th year. Accurate attendance is difficult to gauge; most secular media tend to report only a few thousand were there – of these, U.S.A. Today reported one of the larger figures, 100,000 marchers – while religious and pro-life organizations offer much higher estimates., which used aerial views to estimate the crowd, reported 800,000 attendees.

Leading the diocesan group was Chancery receptionist and administrative assistant Janelle Roe, Superior, who was on her second trip to the March. Roe’s son, Noah, was returning to the rally this year, and her daughter, Julia, joined them for the first time.

“It was awesome,” Roe said. “It was really good. There were some bumps in the road, but all in all, it was a really good pilgrimage.”

Although the number of teens and chaperones traveling from the Diocese of Superior didn’t increase a great deal – illness kept one student at home, so 27 people attended this year, compared to 25 last year – the number of participants from Superior has grown from two to five to 14 pilgrims over the last few years, Roe said.

Parishioners from Superior, Rhinelander, Clear Lake, Hayward and Medford joined the pilgrimage this year, including six new freshmen.

They went to the St. John Paul II shrine for the first time, which is located next to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Roe said, and they also stopped at other Washington monuments and the Holocaust Museum.

“Love saves lives” was the theme for the 2018 March.

“The whole point of it this year was to change hearts with love … by walking beside a pregnant woman rather than just talking about it,” Roe explained, “by being her friend and loving her.

“We all talk the talk,” she said, “but what do we actually do to help these women?”

Roe also observed the “disheartening” lack of coverage on the March. When the group returned to their hotel, the headline on the newspaper was about the Women’s March, and there was “almost nothing about the March for Life.”

However, local media, including a television station, mentioned a diocesan group would be attending, and Real Presence Radio, the Catholic station out of Duluth, interviewed two students after they returned.

Roe said she’d like to see more people going to the March in the future – but it’s hard. The expense of travel, combined with the difficulty of traveling in January and the necessity of taking off several days during the school year, requires some sacrifice.
“It’s a pilgrimage, not a vacation,” she added.

Still, for those who do go, the March can be transformative.

Fi Robbins, a senior at Superior High School, is sharing her pilgrimage story for her senior project.

“I’m basically telling them about my experience, what we did to get there in the first place, and basically how it affected me,” she said.

Robbins found the sheer number of people at the rally encouraging.

“I didn’t know that the movement was as big as it was … being in the March and seeing all these people around me was so eye opening,” she added. “We aren’t the only ones in this.”

For Robbins, it “felt good to know all those people wanted to end abortion.” She enjoyed visiting the historical sites as well – memorials, monuments, the Holocaust Museum and more.

Robbins also learned more about the pro-life movement by sitting in on Students for Life educational sessions – one on visual media, another on how women are lied to, a third on the pro-life Christian view that discussed why some people are pro-choice.

“Overall, it was a really awesome experience, and I would do it again, definitely,” she concluded.

March for Life presentation
Superior-area youths who attended the pilgrimage to the March for Life in Washington D.C., the Students for Life conference and their chaperones will be sharing their experiences with the community from noon to 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18, at Kress Hall in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior. Enjoy baked goods and listen to youths witness their journey and share their enthusiasm to support and protect life.

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