A Weekend of Witness for Life
AMU Sophomore Pauline Gilmore reflects on the Ave Maria University Students for Life trip to Washington DC for the March for Life, which took place on Friday, January 27th.
This past weekend over 150 of Ave’s most adventurous and passionate students geared up for the 20-hour bus ride to Washington DC for the 44th annual March for Life, the largest annual civil rights demonstration in the world. This was a weekend full of excitement, sacrifice, lack of sleep, and fellowship among fellow students, all to defend the sanctity of human life against the injustice of abortion.
We departed from campus on Wednesday night, and after several hours and interrupted attempts at sleeping on the bus, we arrived at the National Basilica on Thursday night for the Vigil Mass for Life. The huge and elaborately beautiful upper church was already full to capacity when we arrived, so we were directed to the lower Basilica, where people everywhere were spilling out of the numerous side chapels to see the Mass from upstairs was broadcasted on TV screens. Most of our students sat on the floor for the Mass, surrounded on every side by fellow Catholics, mostly college or high school age, raising their hearts and voices together in song and prayer for an increase in respect for the sanctity of all human life. With the incredible number of priests and bishops, and the extraordinary music, this was the most beautiful Mass many of us had ever experienced.
After a late night pizza party at the gym of St. John the Beloved Church, which would become our home for the next two nights, we crashed in our sleeping bags on the floor to catch some much-needed rest before our 5:30am wake-up call.
Although my body was protesting in every way to waking up so early after so little sleep, the thought that got me up was, “We have an important job to do. We are here to save lives, and that is far more important than my comfort.”
We boarded the busses, bundled up for a long day of being in the cold, and headed to the Verizon Center—a huge sports area facility—for the Youth Rally and Mass before the March for Life. The most notable part of this Mass for me was being addressed by the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, the Pope’s personal representative, who read us an address directly from Pope Francis. He reminded us that our witness to the sanctity of life and those most vulnerable members of the human family does not go unnoticed by God, and does not go unnoticed by the Holy Father.
After Mass, we proceeded to the Washington Monument for the March for Life rally where Vice President Pence encouraged us: “Life is winning again in America!” The whole rally had something very tangible about it that has not often been felt in previous marches: hope.
Then, the group of over 150 Ave Maria University students, faculty, and alumni joined the crowd of over 650,000 protesters marching towards Capitol Hill. On every side, was a friendly face and sounds of voices everywhere chanting pro-life messages and praying, only adding to the atmosphere that was both solemn and joyful. Being in a crowd this size was a visible testament to the truth that we are the Pro-Life Generation that will see abortion illegal and unthinkable in our lifetime.
By the end of the day, we were hungry, exhausted, and very cold, but it was an awesome feeling. Each of us gained renewed hope and encouragement to stand for the dignity of human life. Our witness did make a difference as we added our prayers and sacrifices to the thousands of others made by pro-lifers both in Washington D.C. and around the world that day.
On Saturday, some of our students enjoyed a free day visiting museums and historic sites in our nation’s capital, while others attended the Students for Life of America national conference. The conference was filled with energizing speakers and was host to numerous booths of pro-life organizations. The highlight of this day was the proud moment when our Ave Maria University Students for Life group won the runner-up prize for College Group of the Year. It was encouraging to be recognized for the work that we are doing for the pro-life movement throughout the year here in our community.
Then, we boarded the buses once again for the long drive from D.C. back to Florida. Towards the end of the bus trip, several students got up and shared their testimony of what this experience meant to them. Some students shared how this Culture of Death has personally affected them- that they had lost potential family members to the tragedy of abortion. We were reminded that the March for Life is only the beginning of this fight that has to take place every day, in which we are called to bring about a Culture of Life.
Pauline Gilmore is a sophomore at Ave Maria University studying Theology and Business. She is passionate about the pro-life movement and is actively involved in Ave Maria Students for Life, the largest club on campus. This will be her 6th March for Life and first time traveling with Ave Maria University.