March for Life: Area residents prepare to converge on D.C.

St. John Bosco Catholic Church parishioners David Fairbank, left, and Mary Simonds hold up their signs at the 2015 March for Life. Photo courtesy of Lee Dieter

March for Life has brought crowds of people to D.C. to protest the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, and not even a blizzard warning for the city has canceled the annual event.

Groups from the Northern Shenandoah Valley are taking precautions, but still plan on continuing in this regular display of solidarity or offering support however they can.

After an 8:30 a.m. Mass for Life, parishioners at St. John Bosco Catholic Church in Woodstock may be boarding a bus for D.C. provided by the Knights of Columbus or deciding to brave the conditions in their own vehicles, depending on the conditions. Once at the march, they’ll take their choice of signs from the Catholic fraternal organization.

Deacon Steve Clifford said the church fills the 48-passenger bus every year and other parishioners wanting to attend carpool to the event. Many parishioners who don’t leave in the morning pray for the march and attendees from the church, and Clifford said the church will probably see at least some parishioners off to the event no matter the weather.

In response to the “war on women” stance of many in defense of abortion, the 2016 March has adopted a theme of “Pro-Life and Pro-Woman Go Hand in Hand.”

The 2015 March for Life started on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., and moved on toward the Supreme Court building. Photo courtesy of Lee Dieter

“We try to key in on the theme that they’ve chosen for the March for Life, but generally it’s just our desire to show everybody that we’re pro-life,” Clifford said.

He said much of the trip is spent in thoughtful meditation or solemnly praying the rosary – purposefully not making the occasion into a lighthearted event. But while at the march on the street, he said he enjoys seeing the energy that younger marchers bring to the movement.

“It’s very encouraging because it’s something that is important to not just the older people, but for the younger people coming up … because we look at the youth as being the future of our country, the future of our church,” he said.

Almost all of Christendom College’s 469-person student body plan on taking part in the march and making their show of youth support. Zachary Smith, the college’s public relations officer, said on Wednesday that the school was still planning attendance, but forecasts would determine whether the bus company decides to leave the city early or possibly forgo the trip. In that case, he said the campus will host holy hours and pray for those who could make it.

He said that snow similarly threatened the school’s participation two years ago, but around half the student body traveled by car to the march themselves.

“I’m positive that at least some of the student body will be up there,” he said.

The school has led the march with its banner on multiple occasions, the last time in 2012. A few students will head into the city a day early to help out as volunteers for the event.

Sophomore Mary Schneider takes part in weekly pro-life prayer demonstrations at Planned Parenthood clinics near D.C. as co-president of the school’s Shield of Roses club. She said she’s attended the March for Life since her junior year of high school after seeing how she could stand in solidarity with so many who share her beliefs.

“I just had never really heard about it that much, and when I went I was just astounded by the numbers,” she said. “It’s always been really inspiring when I go to see how many young people are there.”

Schneider said that even though the Shield of Roses sees a much smaller turnout than the march, the prayerful demonstrations are no less inspiring. This past summer, she said the Planned Parenthood clinic club where members used to pray shut down and they had to seek out a new one.

“We’re pretty happy about that … I don’t know if we could call it a victory, but our prayers have done something,” she said.

Whether they’re speaking to those at clinics as “sidewalk counselors” or lending their voices to the March for Life, Schneider said the college’s most important contribution is simply the support of its students.

“Christendom’s main involvement is to show another college campus at the march,” she said. “I would say that a lot of abortions come from college students, so it’s good to see college-age people there.”

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com