MERIDEN — Buoyed by the promise of a new administration in Washington, 138 pilgrims boarded three buses at the Franciscan Life Center at dawn on Thursday to travel to the 44th annual March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The pilgrims included 70 students, parents and faculty from St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol. Other buses, including one sponsored by a home school group, were slated to leave from other towns located within in the Archdiocese of Hartford.
“The momentum is greater than ever,” said Sister Suzanne Gross of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, the organizer and program coordinator of archdiocesan pro-life ministries. “People always look forward to this. We’re making a witness to the life of unborn children.”
Added Mary Lou Peters, assistant program coordinator, “We expect that the crowd will be larger than usual because it’s a pro-life administration.”
Participants planned to attend a Vigil Mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. They also are scheduled to attend a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Leonard P. Blair and have breakfast with him before the March. Noted national speaker Elise Italiano, executive director of communications for The Catholic University of America in Washington, will talk at the breakfast.
Musical reflection and a program of speakers will precede the March, which proceeds from the Washington Monument down Constitution Avenue to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. It was widely reported on Thursday that Vice President Mike Pence would be among the speakers.
“It’s a good way to show people that we’re here for a reason and to take a stand for life,” said Chandler Wright, a senior at St. Paul Catholic High School. He said he was disappointed last year when buses had to be turned back because of a snow storm in Washington.
“What is amazing is that everyone is really positive this year,” said Lorraine Greski of Assumption Parish in Ansonia, who was wearing one of the red scarves that identify the archdiocesan pilgrims. “We’re hoping that President Trump sends a message on the jumbotron screen to show his solidarity with us.”
“We’ve been going to the March for years,” said Cary Dupont, president of St. Paul Catholic High School. “We have a very active pro-life program at St. Paul’s,” he said, including attendance at the annual Respect Life Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford. “Our students feel very passionately about pro-life.”
Also on the pilgrimage are six priests: Father David M. Dawson Jr., Father Dennis P. Connell, Father John R. Mariano, Father Robert Landback, Father Thomas J. Walsh, and Father Robert J. Rousseau, archdiocesan director of pro-life ministries.