Students from Red Bank Catholic take part in the March for Life Jan. 24 in Washington. Photo Courtesy of Deb Flego
Students from Red Bank Catholic take part in the March for Life Jan. 24 in Washington. Photo Courtesy of Deb Flego
Emma Vidal, a student in Red Bank Catholic High School and member of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, reflected on her participation in the 2020 March for Life and identified an integral part of the experience – hope.

Vidal was among hundreds of faithful of all ages who took part in the march Jan. 24, many of whom traveled by buses from parishes and schools across Mercer, Ocean, Monmouth and Burlington Counties. The 47th annual March for Life, the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration, drew tens of thousands who gathered to make their voices heard, as well as listen to a roster of speakers on the National Mall.

Photo Gallery: Diocese's faithful on March for Life

Photo Gallery: 47th Annual March for Life, Washington, D.C.

Vidal shared her thoughts on the experience, saying, “I think it is important for Catholics to join the march, especially the youth of the Church. Their representation shows the world that we will stand firm in our beliefs and that we are not afraid to carry on the commitment of our parents and grandparents to protect life. The feeling of being a part of a larger force for good is an incredible and fulfilling feeling that gives me hope for the future of our Church and hope that maybe the future of our world isn’t as bleak as it seems.”

Susan McLaughlin of St. Leo the Great Parish, Lincroft, acknowledged the participation of so many youth was a memorable experience. “The number of young people present was so encouraging because they are the future of the Church, and because they are the generation who will soon be making decisions about their own unborn children.”

What she found most powerful about the day, said McLaughlin, “was the sheer number of people who were there in peaceful, hopeful support. I wanted to add one more to that number. It was my first time marching, and the experience of being surrounded by so many people who were there to show that they support life was not only encouraging but also comforting and inspiring.”

Standing in solidarity for a cause has great significance, explained Abigail Ingram, a member of St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford, who is also a youth minister and student in Rowan College at Burlington County. "We are making history by standing up for what we believe in,” Ingram said.

Her reflection speaks volumes about the reality of this year’s annual march, which had as its theme, “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.”

The March for Life Education and Defense Fund explained that the year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote. It was women suffragists, early pioneers of the feminist movement, who led the movement to pass the 19th amendment. Suffragist leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul understood that abortion ends a life and harms women. This history-making march by the pro-life movement reflects a belief that life is an empowering choice for women, babies and society.

Ingram is hoping that education, as well as protest, will help to change people’s minds about abortion. “Abortion is murder and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Some people are just uneducated and don’t really know the process of what really happens. So maybe if people are educated, it will change their view on things.”

Like so many before her, Sophia Stack, a seventh-grade student in St. Mary Academy, Manahawkin, and a member of St. Mary Parish, understands that being part of something leads to understanding: “Although I am young, I still want to learn how I can make a difference in preventing abortion. This experience helps me understand something that I am most grateful for. I am adopted from Guatemala and my birth mother gave me up since she couldn’t provide enough for me. Even though she knew that, she wanted me to have a wonderful life even if it meant without her. I’m glad she chose adoption over abortion.”

The principal of adoption instead of abortion is an inspiring element of the march and pro-life belief. Nanci Menchu of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, who is also a youth group leader and student in Rider University, recalled,” “Once we started marching, the most powerful part of the day was probably seeing all the signs and people. The sign that stood out to me the most was, ‘I march because my birth mother chose adoption.’”

Menchu, who was participating in the march for the first time, added, “I’ve always wanted to do something like a march, and what better way than to participate in one where we march for life, something we all strongly stand for as Catholics. This is a good and important way for the youth to get involved and get a better idea and understanding of what this march really means.”

For Jesse Lugo, a member of Freehold’s St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral youth ministry and student in Colts Neck High School, the March for Life was an opportunity to be actively involved. “I firmly believe that abortion is not a good thing. It must end, and that starts with everyone’s involvement. I’m looking forward to seeing the millions of people who wish to aid our cause.” 

Lugo’s mom, Beth McGovern, reflected, “This was my second year making the trip with my son, Jesse. I have wanted to go for so many years, it was time to stop putting it off. In talking and teaching my son about how important it is that we not give in or give up on an end to abortion, it was time for me to put my money where my mouth is and show that stopping our life and making this trip is necessary. Praying for an end to abortion is no longer enough.”

She continued, “Going to a march with several hundred thousand people gives you chills. You cannot come home from this the same. Staying away, not getting involved is no longer an option for me. It’s too important.”

Looking ahead, Ingram offered, “I am hoping that one day we have enough people going [to the march] and enough people to convince all representatives that [abortion] is wrong. I’m hoping one day we actually succeed and one day abortion will be illegal in all states.”

By marching, said Joe Sbarra of the Hightstown parish, “We express our discontent to our lawmakers and to the world, and with one voice make it clear that abortion is wrong and against God’s will. Seeing how many youth believe that abortion is wrong gives me great hope for the future. Being a participant in the march with such a large crowd with every faith, Catholics, Jews, Muslims and more, was an experience that made me feel part of something bigger, part of the Universal Church.”

Looking back on the day, Laura Howe of St. Leo the Great Parish, acknowledged, “I’ve been pro-life all my life and have never gone to the march. … [which] was all I hoped it would be. There were so many lovely people marching and praying and singing, holding pro-life signs and banners. Some signs were very graphic and so hard to look at, but they were the most moving part of the day; knowing that so many babies are dying a terrible and painful death because they are inconvenient. But also knowing that there are so many people trying to save them, it gives me hope for a future with no abortion.”

Seton Smith, a student in Red Band Catholic High School, reflected on the future of the pro-life movement: “If the pro-life movement wants to advance, we can’t expect others to do the work while we remain bystanders. The march exceeded my expectations. I had no idea just how many people would actually be there. The sheer amount of people, all uniting for one common mission, was truly moving. For me, the most powerful part of the day was witnessing so many young couples marching with their babies and celebrating the joyous blessing of their children’s lives.”