Members of the faithful from the Diocese of Richmond were among the big crowds at the National March for Life, marching in the blanket of snow in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19. Approximately 140 people from six parishes and schools across the diocese traveled to the nation’s capital as part of the Diocesan Youth Pilgrimage to the national march.
“The most powerful moment was when I saw many other teens also marching to save babies,” said 10th grader Madelin Ortiz, a parishioner at St. Augustine, North Chesterfield. Many of the local teens echoed that feeling of solidarity and strength in numbers.
Grace Cosby, a high school senior and parishioner of St. Edward the Confessor, Richmond, said it was powerful “to be surrounded by so many like-minded people, standing up for those who can’t. It’s super easy to feel discouraged in your beliefs, even when they are the truth.”
Ahead of the march, the local pilgrims gathered with the faithful from the Diocese of Arlington at the Life is VERY Good Rally and Mass at George Mason University’s Eagle Bank Arena in Fairfax.
The night before the march, Bishop Barry C. Knestout joined dozens of his brother bishops at the opening Mass and National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, of the Diocese of Arlington, preached to a crowd of 7,000 people at Mass, which was followed by a National Holy Hour for Life.
The following morning, Bishop Knestout joined the teens for breakfast, visiting each table to encourage them for the day ahead. The group then went to the Life is VERY Good rally and Mass, hosted by the Arlington diocese.
“The enthusiasm and joy I experienced at the rally and Mass gives me great hope for the future and success of our ongoing efforts to protect innocent human life,” Bishop Knestout said.
As the march began in the nation’s capital, the snow increased from flurries to a heavy snow shower. The pro-lifers pushed onward with their feet and their message.
“It was snowing in D.C. that day, so I was hoping to send the message that no matter the obstacles that stand in our way, we will continue to fight for the unborn and be the voices for those who can’t plead for their own lives,” said Catie Barrineau, a 12th grader who marched with a group from Catholic High School, Virginia Beach.
More than sixty people made up the group from Catholic High School and 52 of them were students.
“The most powerful moment for me was when I was starting to get tired, and my shoes were wet from the snow, but then I saw the Capitol in the distance and saw the hundreds of people in front of me – and then I turned around and saw hundreds more marching behind me,” added Barrineau. “It showed me that there is hope for our generation.”
“Walking in the freezing cold and snow proved how much we care about the unborn and how far we will go to protect them,” Cosby said.
A group of ten pilgrims from St. Edward the Confessor marched and attended the Life is VERY Good events. Chaperones from St. Augustine brought a group of 19 teenagers.
“It’s a powerful way for individuals to come together and peacefully express their beliefs,” said Melissa Santos, 11th grader and parishioner at St. Augustine. “It’s a way to show others that they are not alone in their beliefs and to inspire others to join the cause.”
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022 with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, the national march has taken on a new tone, shifting focus to the state level.
The Virginia Catholic Conference is collaborating with both Virginia dioceses, as well as other organizations such as Virginia Society for Human Life, for Virginia Pro-Life Day on Feb. 21. The day includes advocacy with lawmakers in the morning, followed by a march for life that afternoon in downtown Richmond.
Connor Edgington, the junior theology teacher at Catholic High School, said they plan on bringing a smaller group to Virginia Pro-Life Day than the national march, so students can engage one-on-one with state senators.
“The fight is not done. In a post-Roe world, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking the war is over, but Roe was just one battle. Now the attention turns to the states,” said Edgington.
Many of the students who attended the national march say they plan on attending Virginia Pro-Life Day as well. “It is more important than ever to march at the state level, as that’s where the decision is,” said Micah Lindquist, a senior at Catholic High School. “Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, it’s our time to convince our states to abolish abortion.”
According to the National Right to Life Committee, Inc., state legislatures enacted 60 pieces of pro-life legislation in 2022. The committee reported that by August 2023, 19 states had enacted protections for unborn children at, or before, 12 weeks gestation.
“This generation will not stand by and continue to let these injustices occur against unborn life,” said Patrick Falcon, a senior at Catholic High School.
Anna Harvey, Arlington Catholic Herald staff writer, along with staff of the Arlington Catholic Herald and Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Communications, contributed to this coverage.