By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer
Love was in the air – specifically Jesus’ love – at the 45th Annual March for Life Jan. 19 in Washington, D.C.
Bishop Alfred Schlert joined scores of Diocesan faithful echoing a vibrant pro-life message by attending the march, his first as Bishop of Allentown.
Buses traveled to the nation’s capital from all corners of the five-county Diocese, and many who didn’t make the journey joined their pro-life prayers with those who attended the march.
The yearly event protests the Jan. 22, 1973 Roe vs. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. The theme of this year’s march was “Love Saves Lives.”
Speakers at the march included House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).
“It is an honor to have Speaker of the House Paul Ryan address the 45th annual March for Life. Speaker Ryan has been an unwavering champion for the pro-life cause since taking office, and continues to utilize his post to promote the inherent dignity of the human person at all stages of life,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life.
“We are grateful for the significant strides U.S. Congress made in the last year to protect and defend the most innocent among us, and are confident that 2018 will see even more pro-life progress with Speaker Ryan leading the charge.”
President Donald Trump addressed the march via satellite.
Other speakers included Pam Tebow, mother of NFL/MLB star Tim Tebow; Matt Birk, former NFL player and wife Adrianna Birk; U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Washington); U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Illinois); U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey); Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation; and Sister Bethany Madonna of the Sisters of Life.
Parishes that ran buses to Washington include Assumption BVM, Bethlehem; Holy Family, Nazareth; Immaculate Conception BVM, Douglassville; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Bethlehem and St. Thomas More, Allentown, who traveled together; Sacred Heart, Bath; St. Ambrose, Schuylkill Haven; St. Benedict, Mohnton; St. Columbkill, Boyertown; and St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring.
Also, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Easton; St. Joseph the Worker, Orefield; and St. Joseph, Summit Hill.
Bishop Alfred Schlert
“It was a great honor to stand up for life in Washington with so many adults, students, and seminarians from our Diocese. To see the tremendous amount of young people who are rejecting the culture of death gives me great hope for the future of unborn children,” said Bishop Schlert.
“We pray this generation of Americans will be able to do what their parents and grandparents have been unwilling or unable to do: end abortion.”
Prior to the march, Bishop Schlert was main celebrant and homilist of a 10:30 a.m. Mass with Diocesan high school students Jan. 21 at the Basilica of the Assumption, Baltimore, Maryland.
Mary Fran Hartigan
“What an amazing day. The weather was beautiful and the sun shone brightly on the thousands who marched for life,” said Mary Fran Hartigan, secretary of the Diocesan Secretariat for Catholic Life and Evangelization and director of the Diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities and Social Concerns.
“The theme, ‘Love Saves Lives,’ was evident on people’s faces. No talk of hate only joy in the atmosphere. Year after year people come to Washington, D.C. from all over the country to speak out for those who have no voice and to show that every life is sacred. This year was no exception.
“It gives me great hope to see so many young people march against abortion in our country. This is the generation who can make a difference for the future. We’ll have much to celebrate when we no longer have to march at all.”
Father Mark Searles
Father Mark Searles, chaplain of Allentown Central Catholic High School (ACCHS), said the school ran four buses with approximately 200 students to the march.
The ACCHS group met with Bishop Schlert for the Mass in Baltimore along with groups from the other five Diocesan high schools: Berks Catholic High School, Reading; Bethlehem Catholic High School; Marian High School, Tamaqua; Nativity BVM High School, Pottsville; and Notre Dame High School, Easton.
“This is a Mass that I helped to organize with all of our diocesan high schools making a stop together in Baltimore,” said Father Searles.
“The March for Life this year was a beautiful sunny and warm day but more importantly it was very prayerful and hope-filled. Our students look forward to packing the buses and taking the opportunity to grow in their young roles as Christians and faithful citizens making their voice heard in our nation’s capital.
“It is always a joy to see parishes and schools from across the country marching and praying together, and it ended up being a small class reunion for myself and my priest friends as my seminary classmates from Lincoln, Nebraska; Raleigh, North Carolina; Philadelphia; and Allentown all ran into each other on Capitol Hill.
“Mass with Bishop Schlert and representatives from all of our Diocesan high schools was a beautiful way to begin our day.
“The Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore where we gathered played a very important role in our nation’s history, which the bishop addressed, and we pray that as one nation under God, the graces and blessings from our Mass together would pour out upon the Church in the United States today and bring a greater appreciation and respect for the dignity of all human life.
“We can never underestimate the power of prayer, especially when that prayer is coming from the sincere hearts of our young people.”
“A busload of young and old alike from throughout Schuylkill County traveled to the 45th March for Life in Washington, D.C. all donning their matching ‘March for Life’ scarves,” said Heather Smalley, parishioner of St. Ambrose, Schuylkill Haven.
“Among the pilgrims were some first-timers, some returning after taking a few years off, some continuing their annual pilgrimage, father and son teams, families, friends, and clergy,”
Callie and Dalton Seisler, Jake and Katie Smalley, and Chris Dembinsky, all returning marchers and youngest members of the group, took turns proudly carrying the banner leading the group representing the Schuylkill County area of the Allentown Diocese.
Jim Seibert commented, “I always wanted to go, but didn’t get the opportunity. When I heard about the trip, I just had to do it.” He was amazed by the amount of clergy present at the march, stating that they all had such a fresh and relevant demeanor with great positive energy.
Another first-timer, Jason Smalley, there with his family, said, “I could feel Jesus’ love in the air.”
He was inspired by “so many positive people and excited youth.”
His wife, Heather, is refreshed, saying that seeing that many enthusiastic young people gives her hope for the future of the pro-life cause and for the Catholic Church itself.
Hoping that the trip is no longer needed, participants Pat Santee and Deb Sterner said they are making plans to attend the march next year and beyond.
Dana Seisler, proudly there with her family, rejoices, “It’s awesome to see the amount of positive political representation.”
“You never know who you’ll meet. At the end of the march, in front of the Senate, the group met up with none other than The Pro-Life Priest, Father Frank Pavone, of EWTN’s ‘Defending Life,’” Smalley said.
Deacon John Setlock, going for too many years to count, was thankful for the great weather this year having braved the cold, snow and ice of previous years.
“On the bus ride home, the mood was an exhausted enthusiasm with the feeling of accomplishment. As the bus slowly made its way through the stop and go traffic, you could hear the whispers of the marchers as they talked about their exciting day and see the glow of the devices checking the news reports of another successful march,” Smalley said.
“Being pro-life doesn’t just mean I don’t support abortion – being pro-life means I believe every human being has human dignity and deserves to be treated with respect,” said 18-year-old Carlee Mayo.
Mayo and her twin sister Trista, parishioners of Holy Rosary, Reading, traveled with the St. Benedict group.
There were also local prayer opportunities for those who could not attend the march in Washington.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Roseto offered a Family Holy Hour with a Sanctity of Life Reflection Jan. 21 at 1 p.m.
Sacred Heart, Bethlehem offered an Evening Prayer Service with Eucharistic Adoration and speaker Jan. 21.
St. Jane Frances de Chantal offered Eucharistic Adoration Jan. 19 after the 8:15 a.m. Mass, ending with Benediction at 5 p.m.
Students and staff at St. Francis Academy Regional School, Bally marched and prayed the rosary at the school in support of the national march in Washington.