Laura Fenzl
Special to the Catholic Herald

In the winter of 1994, I attended my first Minnesota March for Life in Saint Paul with my new youth ministry group on a bus from St. Michael, Minnesota. That day, I made our Lord a promise that I would get to the march every year until they allowed high school students the right to attend the National March in Washington, D.C.

In January 2003, I attended my first National March for Life in D.C., flanked by seven buses of high school students from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. I upped my promise that I would attend every National March for Life until Roe v. Wade (the 1973 Supreme Court legislated decision to allow abortion on demand in all 50 states) was overturned, plus one more year to celebrate and change focus to help parents and children thrive in a new, free America.

In January 2020, an illness blanketed the country and the Students for Life went regional. Last fall, I asked our parish faith formation director if our Diocese of Superior had posted information about our annual March for Life and Students for Life of America Pilgrimage. In late November, I learned that there would be no group pilgrimage (due to the pandemic).

This December, my niece, Aurora (from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis) and I planned our individual pilgrimage to D.C for the March and the National Pro Life Summit. For me, a promise is a promise.

On Jan. 20, we (on a flight with only about 30 passengers), bumped into the University of St. Thomas group at the airport and landed at Reagan to meet the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, excited to walk the next day, many for the first time. I chuckled when I realized this was one of the dioceses that left town early when Superior didn’t budge, the year of the “Pennsylvania Turnpike Mass.”

The next day, connecting with many of our Superior and Saint Paul friends on social media, we met many diocese groups and Catholic universities, including our cousin’s group from Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, who came to defend life and/or proclaim their loyalty for Fr. Michael Schmitz, one of the speakers at the rally.

As we climbed the hill, we paused for longer than usual at the Supreme Court to pray for the Dobbs Case, maybe the light at the end of this deadly tunnel. Whoever thought that maybe America DOES have wisdom, a heart and a way to challenge and stop fetal death 50 years from its inception?

On Jan. 22, we participated in the National Pro-Life Summit. The summit never disappointed, with hundreds of high school and college students being trained to support parents in trauma and to bring to the fore the culture of life, by skillful apologetics, knowledge of NaProTECHNOLOGY, encouraging pastors to be vocal and welcoming in providing loving, social services, jobs, and housing for parents who don’t attend our parishes, and securing free speech in schools and communities. We heard inspiring, in-person challenges from former vice president Mike Pence, Michael Knowles (The Daily Wire), Trent Horn (Catholic Answers Apologist), abortion survivors, and key players from the medical, legal, spiritual, and social media communities. We heard that the marches and summits will continue until abortion has ended in all states in the new post-Roe America.

During a break, from a distance, I overheard my niece answer a question from a group of college women: “Why did you come, even though you weren’t encouraged?” She said, “I began attending these with my aunt, who is Catholic. She attended, because my grandparents, (Lawrence and Kathryn Fenzl from St. Anthony of Padua in Park Falls) came 40-ish years ago. I am the third generation of my family attending the March for Life, and I intend to be the last generation.”

I guess standing up and defending life came from the promise I made after witnessing my parents in the early days of the movement in the Diocese of Superior, doing what needed to be done.

Laura Fenzl is a youth minister at Nativity of Our Lord, Rhinelander.