Life Is Beautiful All The Way Around -- For Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., the 2017 March for Life Rally in Washington, D.C. was poignant for several reasons. Not only did he join with the thousands of other people to pray for and show his support for the gift of all human life, he was also delighted to catch up with folks from around the Diocese who made the journey to the nation's capital as well as a group of Sisters of Life. The Bishop said the Sisters in the picture who are to his right and left were students during the time he was president in The Catholic University of America. Photo courtesy of Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.

Life Is Beautiful All The Way Around -- For Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., the 2017 March for Life Rally in Washington, D.C. was poignant for several reasons. Not only did he join with the thousands of other people to pray for and show his support for the gift of all human life, he was also delighted to catch up with folks from around the Diocese who made the journey to the nation's capital as well as a group of Sisters of Life. The Bishop said the Sisters in the picture who are to his right and left were students during the time he was president in The Catholic University of America. Photo courtesy of Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.

By Jennifer Mauro | Associate Editor

A round of applause burst from the dozens of faithful aboard the bus leaving from Incarnation-St. James Parish, Ewing, as it pulled out of the parking lot the morning of Jan. 27 and departed for the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

“I would always choose life,” said parishioner Vincenza Raywood, who was attending the March for the first time. “I hope people realize life is precious.”

Raywood was attending the March with her mother, her 13-year-old daughter and two nieces. She said one of the reasons she decided to go on the trip was because her daughter had a strong desire to go.

“Being 13 and knowing you’re pro-life, I couldn’t deny her that experience,” Raywood said just moments before parish Deacon Frank Golazeski began leading the faithful in the recitation of the Rosary.

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After about a half-hour of prayer, the more than 50 pro-lifers from various parishes talked among themselves.

As the bus approached Washington, Jarlath Quinn, parochial vicar in St. James Parish, Pennington, led the bus in prayer. “May we be examples of faith, hope and love. … Lead us along right and peaceful paths.”

Melody Maskell of St. James Parish spoke about the affect of having the Oval Office’s presence visible at the March with Vice President Mike Pence’s scheduled address. This year’s march marking the 44th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion had the highest-ranking government official ever to address the crowd in person.

“I think it’s more hopeful,” said Maskell, adding that two years ago, the bus she took to the March was half-empty. “It’s more welcoming and reassuring,” she said of having a political presence that she hopes will lead to a new national dialogue.

Looking around the bus – which included a crowd of young adults and youth, some of whom were from St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish, Hamilton – Maskell said she was also inspired by the dozen or so young people who were attending.

“The only way we can change culture is by helping them understand the need to protect life at all stages and that they spread that word in the most loving and concerned way,” she said.

Maskell said the pro-life march is all about making good decisions and sharing that message with others.

“If you let love surround you, God can make good out of any challenging situation,” she said. “Why end the promise of what the littlest of the littlest could be in this world.”

That sentiment echoed across the National Mall as the Diocese’s faithful joined the tens of thousands gathered to listen to Pence as well as other speakers including New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee, and Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

“Life is winning in America, and today is a celebration of that progress,” Pence told the cheering crowds.

“More than 240 years ago, our founders declared these truths to be self-evident – that we are, all of us, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said. “Forty-four years ago, our Supreme Court turned away from the first of these timeless ideals, but today, generations hence – because of all of you and the many thousands who stand with us in rallies across this country – life is winning again in America.”

Addressing the crowd, Rep. Smith, R-Hamilton, said no human rights abuse need be forever.

 “You and I are part of the greatest human rights struggle on earth. Because we recognize and enthusiastically accept our duty to protect the weakest and most vulnerable and to tangibly assist women in crisis,” he said. “So, our challenge today is to pray, fast and tenaciously work to protect women and children from the violence of abortion.”

That sentiment echoed across the city as some of the Diocese’s pilgrims met at a rally site with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., before joining pro-lifers from across the country in walking in unity up Constitution Avenue.

“We love babies!” marchers chanted as they walked.

“We are,” another group yelled. “Pro-life!” came the response.

“I think this is the largest crowd and most enthusiastic I’ve ever heard,” Deacon Golazeski, who has participated in the march for five years, said as he walked with members of his family, fellow parishioners from Incarnation-St. James Parish, St. James Parish members and three Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception based in Cherry Hill.

“As you were coming over the crest [the hill near the National Monument], you could hear the roar of the rally,” he said. “It was energizing.”

Golazeski’s daughter, Kate Dolly, a parishioner of St. David the King, Princeton Junction, said it was refreshing to be walking with others in faith.

“It’s reassuring to see so many people who have similar beliefs,” she said while a nearby group prayed the Rosary as they walked.

As the march came to an end, Dolly was among those who visited Rep Smith, who represents her district.

Smiling as he shook Dolly’s hand, the congressman said, “This [the March] is a prayerful witness for life and I don’t think those prayers go unheard.”

“It’s an historic day. We are at a pivotal point in America,” he said, referencing the new administration. “I think this gets everyone energized to protect the unborn and their mothers.”

Catholic News Service contributed to this report.

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