(Editor’s note: Seminarian Guillermo Trevino of the Davenport Diocese is a first-year theology student at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary, Mundelein, Ill., who participated with fellow seminarians in the March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 24. He shares that experience with The Catholic Messenger.)
I was among roughly 30 seminarians flying from O’Hare Airport in Chicago to Washington D.C., for the March for Life. This was my first time on a plane and I was teased by a few seminarians to get ready for the barf bags. Our take-off was delayed because of snow, but after the plane was de-iced we took off. A seminarian gave me his window seat so I could get some good pictures.
We were wearing clerical shirts because when we arrived in Washington we were supposed to attend a youth conference of the Archdiocese of Chicago with Cardinal Francis George at the Hyatt Hotel. After the conference, we took the Metro train to the Catholic University of America, which is run by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. We stayed at the U.S. headquarters of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Washington since Cardinal George is a member of that community. We slept in sleeping bags in the headquarters which is across the street from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The next day, Sunday, we watched the Bears-Packers game on TV at a local bar, but left at half-time for Mass at the basilica. As seminarians, we had to wear cassocks and surplice. I saw some seminarians from my former school Conception Seminary College, Conception, Mo., as well as some seminarian friends from other schools. The basilica was packed – including the 20 or more side altars and the basement. Many bishops and cardinals from across the country attended the Mass. The procession featuring the seminarians, priests, bishops and cardinals took 45 minutes. I was humbled to realize I’m just a little piece of the puzzle. But seeing a connection with all of the other pieces was extraordinary. I was on one of the side altars for the Mass which lasted several hours. No one complained and the homily was excellent.
After Mass, we went to bed and woke at 6 a.m. Monday to attend another Mass at the Verizon Center where the DC professional sports teams play. The Mass was attended by maybe 15,000 people and the confession lines were super long. Of course, with so many priests there, things went quickly. During this Mass, the name of every bishop in attendance was announced; the papal representative was announced. Seminarians, nuns and religious Brothers were called out as a group and everyone considering a vocation was recognized. But the loudest ovation went out for the priests. It showed me what a good priest can do for the people.
After Mass we received a police escort to the National Mall where the march was about to begin. I thought 15,000 people made for a big crowd, but the numbers were even higher during the march. Different groups — even my personal favorite, “atheists for life,” — marched from the National Mall to the Supreme Court Building. Reports estimated 300,000 people participated in the march last year. I’d say that’s about how many attended this year.
The march was amazing and one could see again the power of the people and the D.C. police protecting our right to assemble. To keep us in spirit we sang an African song that repeats a word meaning joy. We also sang joyful church hymns to keep from getting bored because we were moving very slowly — and it was cold! After the march, we went to eat at Union Station where I spotted my pastor, Father Paco Trujillo from St. Mary Parish in Moline, Ill., and said hello.
On the last morning of our stay, we attended Mass and then headed for the airport. I was randomly selected for a security screening by hand, but that was as bad as security got. We arrived at Mundelein Seminary about 12:30 p.m. Central Time and were to be in class at 1:10 p.m.
Reflecting on the March for Life, I think of a lifelong dream I’d had about going to Washington. In fact, my dad teased about that in love letters he wrote to my mother when he was in Moline, Ill., working to make enough money to move us from San Antonio, Texas, to Moline. He’d tell her to tell Memo (my nickname) that he was in Washington. I finally arrived in Washington myself and though the time was brief, I would have it no other way than to be a part of something much greater than myself: marching for the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.