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Despite D.C. blizzard, young people Witness to Life in Boston

By Mark Labbe
Posted: 1/29/2016

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Students march from the cathedral to the Statehouse in Boston as part of the Witness to Life Rally Jan. 22. Pilot photo/Mark Labbe

SOUTH END -- Even though the blizzard bearing down on the nation's capital forced many to change their plans to attend the 43rd annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., many still turned out in Boston on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. On Jan. 22, youth and school groups rallied at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and marched to the Massachusetts statehouse to show support for the pro-life movement.

Sponsored by the Office for Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support's Faith Formation of Youth ministry, the Witness to Life March was planned to show solidarity with those still marching in Washington.

A "birthday party," meant to celebrate life, and ice breaker activities kicked off the day's activities at noon, before Father Matt Williams and Father Paul Soper both offered educational talks to the hundreds of youth and young adults gathered for the event.

Father Williams, in his talk, spoke on the dangers of sin and selfishness using the story of Adam and Eve, as well as God's eternal love for us.

Father Soper showed a video of the different stages of fetal development, and spoke about DNA providing the building blocks for what makes people unique.

He said that although twins have the same DNA, they are still different because God has a plan for each person, even before they are born.

"We were made who we were way before we were ever born, way before we were ever conceived, God held us in that plan," said Father Soper.

Following his talk, Father Soper introduced James F. Driscoll, executive director of Massachusetts Catholic Conference, who thanked students for attending and spoke briefly on the Church's "obligation" to speak to politicians on important issues.

Also addressing the group was Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, representative for the 18th Essex District. Lyons encouraged the students to be even more active in the pro-life movement, and thanked them for they have already accomplished.

Father Williams then invited students to sign a letter for Gov. Charlie Baker.

"We, the undersigned, are a diverse group of middle and high school students from many different communities in Massachusetts. While we are different in many ways, there is one sure thing that unites us. We are a pro-life generation," the letter began.

The march to the statehouse began around 2:00 p.m., and it took about two hours to complete the 2.6 mile round-trip from the cathedral to the statehouse.

As they marched, students recited chants chanted slogans such as "Hey hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go" and held up homemade signs bearing slogans such as, "I stand for life," and "I am the pro-life generation."

Upon arriving at the statehouse, several students, accompanied by Lyons and Driscoll, went inside to deliver the signed letter to an aide to Gov. Baker, while the rest of the students stood outside and prayed under the direction of Father Williams.

Upon returning to the cathedral, students were asked to form into groups and discuss their experience.

One group from Boston College High School talked about what surprised them during the march.

Senior Danny Bagley said he was surprised at all the support he and the others marching received from onlookers, "especially since we're in Massachusetts."

Other students agreed, and when the conversation turned to the disappointment they felt after learning the Washington trip was cancelled, the students told The Pilot that over the last year they had been meeting as part of a pro-life group they started at school.

The group met once a week, and discussed the issues of abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty.

Despite the disappointment, BC High junior Declan Leary noted that the march in Boston will still be memorable.

One of the few students who was able to enter the statehouse to hand the letter to the governor's aide, he said that doing that was "really a testament to what we're doing here, and that's probably the most tangible thing I've seen from our mission."

A freshman from Boston College, Shea Pivnicka, told The Pilot that she had planned to attend the March for Life in Washington this year before the trip was cancelled.

She said her pro-life beliefs stem from her family experience.

"My little brother was born with Down syndrome and a lot of people who find out they're going to have a kid with Down syndrome abort them, and so that just really hit home with me," said Pivnicka.

After the group discussions, students were invited to line up and proceed through the Door of Mercy.

A dinner of pizza, salad, and cookies was then provided before the students were shown a video message from Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, who was in Washington to attend the March for Life.

The cardinal's message focused on mercy, saying that, "mercy must be the watchword of the pro-life movement."

"Mercy for the mothers, mercy for the babies," he said.

He continued by saying the Church "speaks the full truth" about abortion, not only telling people that it is wrong, but also letting them know that God will forgive those who have abortions.

Following the cardinal's video message, two speakers spoke on the issue of abortion, while a live band featuring vocals from Faith Formation for Youth and Young Adults coordinator Michael Drahos played music intermittently.

Sarah Mary Toce, the New England Life and Leadership project director with the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, told the young people that she believes abortion is "the human rights issue of the 21st century," and encouraged youth to keep up the fight against it.

"We are all going down in history as the generation that at least fought like heck to end abortion in America. We will go down one way or another, and you just have a choice now of what side of history you want to be on," she said.

Musician and speaker Liz Cotrupi said that everyone has a unique gift, including those people who have not yet been born.

She said that through God, these gifts can be found and enhanced, and told a personal story about not having the confidence to sing in public until she truly connected with God.

Cotrupi encouraged the young adults in attendance to cultivate their relationship with God as well as their gifts, and to share their love for God with the world.

The evening concluded with a period of eucharistic adoration, worship and confession before the day-long event ended at around 9:00 p.m.