As Pam Suresca boarded a bus in Washington, D.C., on the evening of Jan. 24, a 12-hour return ride to Chicago ahead of her, the 19-year-old Loyola University student couldn’t help but be inspired by her last four days. Since leaving Queen of All Saints Basilica, 6280 N. Sauganash Ave., on the evening of Jan. 21, Suresca and about 400 other Chicago-area high school and college students experienced a life-moving journey into the nation’s capital in support of the pro-life cause, a journey culminating in the 38th-annual March for Life at the National Mall. Suresca’s voyage, one she shared with tens of thousands of other people from across the nation, proved to be far more than participation in a march and far more a calling into embracing the dignity of life in the Catholic tradition. “This was a pilgrimage into prayer, learning and fellowship,” said Suresca, who heads Loyola University’s Students for Life chapter. “So much of the message was about letting go of our own ambitions and allowing ourselves to be used by Jesus Christ for the better good.” Layered experience While the high school and college students shared in the March for Life at the National Mall, each group also followed a pre-determined itinerary filled with prayer vigils, Masses, lectures, concerts and opportunities to lobby legislators. College participants attended a prayer vigil at Planned Parenthood’s D.C. office, a Mass for Life at Georgetown University celebrated by Cardinal George and a Luau for Life at Georgetown. The group also had an exclusive sit-down with Cardinal George. High school students, meanwhile, attended a National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as well as a Mass at the Washington D.C. Armory presided over by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Sunday’s Mass at the basilica particularly highlighted the experience for Maura Kennedy, a senior at Mother McAuley High School in Chicago. Kennedy, who attended the march with more than 40 others from Mother McAuley, was emotionally shaken by the uniform voices of her schoolmates during the Mass. “Sometimes girls can be silent about big issues, but when I heard those voices together in church, I realized that I’m not alone. We can give voice to the voiceless,” said Kennedy, who co-founded Mother McAuley’s Respect Life Club last year with classmate and fellow March for Life attendee Lauren Newberry. On Jan. 24, the Chicago-area students joined with thousands of other pro-life advocates in marching at the National Mall. Coinciding with the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States, the Washington, D.C. setting served a fitting place for the groups’ message. “It makes complete sense to go where our federal government is so we can make a statement about the importance of this issue,” said Margie Breen, director of the archdiocese’s Respect Life Office. Going forth Blanketing the 38th annual March for Life event stood the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” The hope is that Pope Benedict’s words endure in those who attended and continue to propel the pro-life momentum among the nation’s youth. Breen hoped students would return from the trip inspired to take a more active role in pro-life issues and eager to share the message with others. “I hope the trip gives them a new attitude filled with faith and life and the desire to be a part of the solution both peacefully and respectfully,” Breen said. While 41 Mother McAuley students were able to experience the event firsthand, both Newberry and Kennedy recognized that hundreds of others at the all-girls South Side school would not. Eager to share their experience with Mother McAuley’s student body, the pair has collected video to share with others. “The hope is that we can get support behind the pro-life movement and encourage others to embrace it as passionately and energetically as we have,” Newberry said. Suresca, meanwhile, says the journey has inspired her to further understand the pro-life mission and defend its tenets. “I want to be a part of a generation that speaks on this issue and works to honor life,” she said.