Young people join fight for life

By Alicja Pozywio | Staff writer
Sunday, January 16, 2011

The pro-life movement is gaining strength among young people in the archdiocese, judging by the record-setting number of teenagers and young adults joining a pilgrimage to the annual March for Life this year in Washington, D.C.

About 400 youth and young adults will fill eight buses departing from Queen of All Saints Basilica in Chicago after participating in a send-off Mass Jan. 21.

The increase in participation from the Chicago archdiocese is in line with the national trend. Every year, despite the discouraging winter weather conditions, media unfriendly to the pro-life cause and other circumstances, more young people take part in the annual march.

This year’s 38th-annual march will take place Jan. 24, marking the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion in the United States.

“We are reminding ourselves and everyone that this is a pilgrimage and pilgrimages are tough,” said Emily Warpinski, the young-adult outreach coordinator for the archdiocese’s Respect Life Office. “You give up a weekend, in fact more than just a weekend. ... A pilgrimage is a commitment, but it is worth every sacrifice. Later you forget about the inconvenient elements, but you remember forever how exciting it was, how passionate everyone was.”

The theme of this year’s fourday pilgrimage comes from the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

Making use of bus trip

Pilgrims will make use of every minute of the 16-hour bus trip. “Each bus will have a priest on board and will be supplied with meaningful movies, prayers cards, rosaries, Divine Mercy Chaplet booklets and other praying and reading materials. There will also be some time for sleeping and resting,” said Raymund Pingoy, who is in charge of the teen group for the Respect Life Office.

The event is more than just a march. Even though taking the message of the culture of life to the Supreme Court is the highlight of the Washington pilgrimage, it typically consists of a fourday celebration of life. The trip includes Masses, prayers vigils in Washington churches and outside abortion clinics, concerts, meetings, lectures, speeches of witnesses to life, lobbying legislators and much more.

After arriving in Washington, the Chicago participants will split into two groups: the teen group and the group of young adults. Both will participate in the march and in the Mass before at the Verizon Center. In addition, the teens will take part in the Mass in the Basilica of National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. They will have a private meeting with Cardinal George and take time to visit some museums and pray outside clinics.

The young adults will take part in the Mass for Life at Georgetown University celebrated by Cardinal George, attend a private meeting with the cardinal for all Chicago-area university students, go to the Luau for Life at Georgetown and attend the annual conference for pro-life youth organized by Students for Life of America, the largest association of pro-life groups or clubs on college campuses.

Opportunity for unity

“It is so nice knowing that Cardinal George, the great leader, the father of the local church is there and is fighting with us for life,” said Megan Zerwic, a graduate pharmacy student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who has participated four times in the March for Life, twice as part of the Archdiocese of Chicago group.

The March for Life creates the opportunity for pro-life advocates to unite.

“You are walking up the hill with people from all over the country. As far as you can see in front of you the whole street is filled with people and then you look back down the street as far as you can see down the road and there is a stream of people behind you,” Zerwic said. “It is really inspiring and motivating and reminds me to pray for the movement and to pray for an end to legalized abortions.”