Participants in the 2010 March for Life walk in the nation’s capital on Jan. 22, 2010. (Photo by Jack Sheedy)
ENFIELD – Thirty-eight years is a long time. It’s the number of years since the historic Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion. However, that hasn’t kept people from participating in the March for Life in Washington year after year since 1974, especially now that the number of abortions since then has skyrocketed to over 52 million.
Just talk to Jim O’Boyle. A member of St. Mary Parish in Windsor Locks, he has traveled to the nation’s capital for just about as long as abortion has been legal. He plans to do it again this month when, for the third year, St. Mary and St. Robert Bellarmine in Windsor Locks will partner with All Saints Parish in Somersville to make the trek.
The bus leaves at night on Jan. 23 from All Saints, then stops for passengers at St. Mary before heading to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the capital, arriving at about 6 a.m.
The bus from the Enfield area will carry just part of the contingent from Connecticut. The Pro-Life Ministry of the Archdiocese of Hartford and Connecticut Right to Life both will sponsor buses departing from several locations in the state, and other buses will be chartered as well.
Mass will be celebrated, and the Knights of Columbus will provide a continental breakfast. Then there will be prayer at a local abortion clinic, time for meeting legislators, a rally at the National Mall, and finally the march along Constitution Avenue. The bus departs around 4 p.m. and arrives home around midnight.
"In Connecticut, there aren’t many outspoken pro-lifers. At the march, people see others who are like-minded," said Mr. O’Boyle. "Seeing more than 100,000 people walking up Constitution Avenue says more than any words."
Mary Lou Peters, assistant program coordinator for the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Pro-Life Activities, spoke along the same lines.
"The March for Life in Washington, D.C., provides an extraordinary opportunity for those in our Archdiocese to witness, in person, the tremendous numbers of youth and adults who travel great distances to be a presence in our nation’s capital for the purpose of publicly defending the most vulnerable persons among us. When one sees the thousands upon thousands of young people proudly marching in defense of life, one cannot help but have hope for our future."
Mr. O’Boyle called Connecticut legislators’ voting records on life issues "shameful" and said that most citizens don’t seem to be aware of their positions. Pointing out that all pro-life bills brought up for a vote have been voted against by all five state representatives and both senators, he said, "Connecticut is the worst of all 50 states."
Hal Larson, a member of St. Robert Bellarmine, complained that only the legislative aides meet with marchers. "The legislators never meet with us; they’re not receptive," he said.
Despite that, Mr. Larson said he is inspired by the whole experience. "The bus ride is long, but you get there at 5:30 and see the blue light at the Basilica; it’s inspirational. A new day is born," he said.
Seeing many young people encourages Mr. Larson, he said, as does the growing number of participants every year.
"People say, ‘You’re fighting for a lost cause,’" he said, but the growth of the crowd each year speaks volumes.
St. Mary’s parishioner Dick Payette first attended the march in 1980. Although back surgery has kept him from participating more recently, he said of the march, "I always looked forward to it.
"Seeing so many young families was wonderful, and the high school kids, mothers with babies, praying the rosary and singing spiritual songs. Seeing nuns and priests is always good, very powerful," he said.
Three of Mr. Payette’s four children also have participated in the past, he said.
"Going to Washington is always an adventure," he said.
All three men remembered the blizzard of 1985, when most public buildings shut down in the capital and the bus riders ended up sleeping in the Smithsonian Institution.
Ron Collyer, a member of All Saints Parish, has been a bus coordinator for a number of years. When St. Mary’s turnout was low, Mr. Larson had contacted him to partner up two years ago, and they’ve done so ever since.
He said that efforts to reach Connecticut’s lawmakers have been disappointing at best. Yet, Mr. Collyer said, "The Mass at the National Shrine is a major uplifting experience."
The bus from the Enfield Deanery will leave from All Saints Church at 25 School St., Somersville, at 10:30 p.m. Jan. 23, then pick up more riders at 11:15 from St. Mary Church, 42 Spring St., Windsor Locks. Both parishes’ pro-life committees are sponsoring the event, which costs $45 ($30 for clergy and teens).
Marchers under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Information is available from Mr. Larson at (860) 292-1914.