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8-SPUC-WASHINGTON

It’s the power of love: pro-life rally delivers a message to the world

Fresh from a visit to Washington DC, SPUC’s youth development officer LOUISE GRANT reveals how the March for Life in the US capital serves to inspire us all to contemplate a future free of the ‘chains of abortion’ - By LOUISE GRANT

More than one million passionate pro-lifers from across the USA and indeed the world descended on Washington DC on Friday, January 19, for the 45th annual March for Life, of which I am privileged to say I took part.

The meaningful theme of the march was Love Saves Lives.

For the second year running, SPUC Scotland led a group of 17 young pro-life enthusiasts 3,500 miles across the Atlantic to the political capital of the globe to experience the vibrancy of the world’s largest pro-life gathering.

As well as having a great deal of fun, this was primarily an educational trip aimed to equip and inspire the next generation of pro-lifers to become more actively involved in the movement.

Having spent a week with these young people, I am delighted to say that the trip achieved its aim and all delegates returned feeling rejuvenated, on fire and eager to build a pro-life culture in our country. I can certainly identify likely leaders within the future of the pro-life movement—whether it be at university level, future employment or otherwise.

It was an early start for the team on the Tuesday before the march as we began our journey. After missing a connecting flight at Heathrow due to a delay in Glasgow, we arrived in the States around six hours later than scheduled, tired but filled with adrenaline. Our generous host, Mgr Paul Dudziak warmly welcomed us into our home for the week—the basement of St Stephen Martyr Church on Pennsylvania Avenue (the same street as the White House).

A beautiful church with a strong atmosphere of community, St Stephen Martyr is famous for being a favourite of President John F Kennedy. The deacon led us to a pew with an embedded plaque, marking where JFK and his family sat, and in the porch hung a black and white photo of him leaving church.

Our first day on Eastern Standard Time was a chilly one. We roamed the snow-kissed ground in -5C to visit various sightseeing landmarks. A highlight was taking the young people to see the Lincoln Memorial where many famous speeches were made, including Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, which embodies the dignity of the human person, liberty and freedom—a message very fitting for our trip.

We stood on the spot where this speech was delivered and contemplated a world where the unborn are valued and society is free from the chains of abortion. Being there was an inspiration and a boost to us, helping us comprehend the changes which can be made through determination, truth and love.

After enjoying our free day, we attended the March for Life Conference and Expo. Stephanie Gray, the keynote speaker, personified the ‘Love Saves Lives’ theme perfectly.

When Stephanie speaks, she does so with a deeply compassionate and loving approach. We were privileged to welcome her to Scotland last October to speak at our conference, where she made a lasting impression on many and became a good friend of SPUC Scotland.

We were honoured to spend the evening before the conference with Stephanie in DC and she even gave the two tables of Scots a shout-out during her keynote speech, to which we received a round of applause.

After Stephanie’s influential talk, it was brilliant to explore the Expo hall which was filled with close to 100 stalls representing pro-life groups from all over. The diversity of the pro-life movement was inspiring to see—there was certainly a group to fit all! Networking and seeing other people’s ideas was a great asset.

We began the day of the march by attending the Mass for Life, which is a youth event run by the Archdiocese of Washington and attended by thousands. In the lead-up to Mass there is music, entertainment and Confession available.

While waiting in line, a joyful Sister was directing people to available priests. Seeing the Scotland flag on our hoodies she began chatting and it turns out she knows some of our Scottish seminarians as she studied with them in Rome. A small world indeed.

Heading down to the start of the march was a highlight of the trip. Seeing the group so fired up and excited was a real boost for me and I grasped in that moment just how proud I was of them all, for their courage, their enthusiasm and their love. If you managed to miss our two telescopic flag poles propping up our Saltires and SPUC flags, which were blowing gently in the breeze with a clear, blue sky backdrop, you certainly wouldn’t miss our singing! You know what it’s like when you take a group of Scots anywhere. The rally before the march was very exciting with some musical entertainment and several inspiring speeches.

We witnessed an historical event as President Donald Trump addressed the crowd, making him the first-ever sitting president to address the March for Life in person. Regardless of your view on Donald Trump, I have to commend his cabinet’s dedication to the unborn and truly, this particular speech was great.

The march itself took around two hours to complete a two-mile route but the atmosphere was incredibly electric. The camaraderie was inspiring as we built a natural affinity with our fellow marchers.

Of course, the Scots were starting chants and adding our own fun element. We met a host of new friends whilst walking and even bumped into some we had met the year before—of course, they couldn’t miss us with our massive flags.

To describe the atmosphere: it’s like watching your beloved sports team in a major final and they win; there’s no way you can leave this environment of close to a million people without being inspired and motivated.

The day after the march we attended the Students for Life of America (SFLA) conference, which I was really excited about our group attending as I knew how much they would learn from it.

The conference itself was admirably organised with several thousand young people in attendance and a host of engaging workshops for all personalities and intellects. Seeing so many young people in attendance was inspiring in itself but the group found the workshops they attended informative and motivating. Like the March for Life Conference there was an opportunity to visit stalls of many organisations and to meet (and take selfies with) our pro-life heroes such as Abby Johnson, Josh Brahm and Ryan Bomberger.

At the end of the day, we attended an exclusive international dinner alongside attendees from Australia, Austria, Croatia, Mexico and more. Kristan Hawkins, President of SFLA, spoke to us about linking up internationally and future plans of SFLA. Once more, we ended the day bursting with inspiration and adrenaline.

All of us learned something new to bring back home with us.

After another free day of exploring, we returned home feeling exhausted but unbelievably fired up.

Since returning I have been in contact with the young people and they have been planning and taking action on their next pro-life activist ventures and I am thrilled to see them all keen to take action and stay involved.

We are grateful to all those who sponsored either an individual young person or us as a collective group—I believe it’s safe to say that your investment has been successful in further developing the next pro-life leaders of our country.

We are the pro-life generation!

 

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