Youngsters from St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, take part in the 2016 March for Life in Washington. Buses from parishes from around the Diocese are currently taking submissions for those who want to attend this year’s march, which will be Jan. 27.  Jeff Bruno photo

Youngsters from St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, take part in the 2016 March for Life in Washington. Buses from parishes from around the Diocese are currently taking submissions for those who want to attend this year’s march, which will be Jan. 27.  Jeff Bruno photo

By Jennifer Mauro | Associate Editor

As the Diocese of Trenton prepares for the upcoming March for Life in Washington, D.C., organizers say those who attend should be prepared for a spiritual renewal.

“It’s an energizer for your faith,” said Deacon Frank Golazeski, whose parish, Incarnation-St. James, Ewing, is one of dozens from around the Diocese chartering a bus to the pro-life march Jan. 27 in the nation’s capital that Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., will attend. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm and camaraderie and positivity gathered for life.”

Claire Howson, bus captain for Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Moorestown, agrees.

“I have found that my pro-life activities have brought me closer to Jesus, been responsible for introducing me to many good friends, and in fact, given me direction in my own life,” said Howson, who has participated in the March for Life since the late 1970s. “God blesses us when we do his work and witness to his truth.”

Deacon Golazeski and Howson are just two of the many bus captains, clergy, representatives, parishioners and students from around the Diocese who plan to take part in the annual rally.

The March for Life, which in some years has drawn as many as 100,000 participants, marks the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion, Roe v. Wade. Traditionally scheduled on the date of the decision – Jan. 22 – this year’s event will be held one week after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration and five days after the 44th anniversary of the decision.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said this year’s theme, “The Power of One,” references both the impact a single vote can make as well as a quote from author J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote in “The Fellowship of the Ring” that “even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

Making a change is exactly what Jerry Wutkowski, assistant coordinator of young adult ministry in the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life, is hoping for.

“The Power of One,” he said, “is that voice – that opportunity –  to start a conversation to say, ‘This is what I believe,’ and open the door to dive deeper.”

“When we have thousands gathered, transformation takes place. But it’s also about being aware of that transformation and being willing to respond,” he said, citing as an example how the March for Life began as a one-time rally with thousands against pending legislation into the tens of thousands-strong cry against existing law it is today.

“Look at how the pro-life movement started,” he said. “It started from a couple of people talking. Now they shut down D.C. for a day. That’s amazing to see how it’s grown.”

The rally, he continued, “speaks to how important we hold the gift of life. If life isn’t the No. 1 priority, the rest doesn’t matter.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that every human life, from the moment of conception to natural death, is sacred because the human person has been willed for its own sake in the image and likeness of the living and holy God. All believers are therefore called upon to protect human life and uphold human dignity, a truth Bishop O’Connell addressed before the January 2016 March for Life.

“When Jesus was speaking to the crowd about being the Good Shepherd in John’s Gospel he assured them, ‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.’ Notice that he did not speak conditionally,” he said. “His mission and promise of life was and remains to all and for all. All human beings, born and unborn, are intentionally created by God and in God’s image.”

As part of that mission, buses sponsored by local parishes and/or local Knights of Columbus councils will be transporting those from the Diocese to the March for Life event. Buses will leave from designated parishes from each of the Diocese’s four counties. A list of buses, locations, times and bus captains can be found online.

Though the march begins at noon with a rally on the National Mall, continues along Constitution Avenue and ends in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building, Wutkowski said the bus rides from Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties will also provide opportunities for discussion, reflection and prayer for the protection of life.

Once the buses arrive in Washington, the Diocese’s faithful will meet in a centralized location to march together under a diocesan banner.

 “We hope to show that the Church in Trenton is pro-life,” Wutkowski said.

Rachel Hendricks, vice president of Mary’s Child Pro-Life Ministry in St. Denis Parish, Manasquan, said it is important to march as a Diocese, “in unity with the guidance of our Bishop.”

“All of us are called to community, whether in our families, communities, parishes and … in the wide boundaries of our Diocese,” said Hendricks, who marched for the first time in 2015 with her oldest daughter, Sarah, who is a student at St. Rose High School, Belmar.  

“Our Diocese is very large, but participating in events life the March for Life bids each of us up in courage and fortitude and shows others that our Catholic presence is strong and alive.”

Howson said in addition to the diocesan presence, it’s also uplifting to see the hundreds of thousands who travel from all over the country to attend.

"To be there [the march] in a sea of like-minded people rejuvenates me Howson said."

Catholic News Service contributed to this story.