By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
Prospects of a major snowstorm on the East Coast did not change the plans of people from the Diocese of Davenport heading for the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Their trip was shortened for safety reasons, but the participants made it to the event and back to the diocese by bus without getting stuck as so many other buses did returning to Iowa.
Donna DeJoode, director of faith formation and youth ministry at St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa, planned the bus trip for 28 people in the diocese. She participated in her fifth March for Life to “witness to God’s love and mercy, to provide a voice to the voiceless and to spread awareness of the magnitude of this injustice to women, men, babies and families.”
She said she wasn’t aware of the storm that was brewing, but was prepared in her packing because of past experiences with extremely cold weather. So was Kathy Loomis, a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, who was on the bus trip to attend her second March for Life. “I went to take part in the witness that life is sacred from conception, and abortion is totally against God’s plan and will.” Loomis didn’t question whether to go, even with predictions of a snowstorm. “I was committed before the forecast came out, but it was still kind of vague when we left. We received a packing list and it allowed for many weather conditions; layering was the key. I followed the list.”
Upon their arrival Jan. 20, the group attended Mass at around 9:30 p.m. at a Maryland church. “It was great, just for our group. Father Jeff Belger celebrated and Father Thom Hennen concelebrated,” Loomis said. The group slept in the parish’s gathering space.
The group attended a vigil Mass on Jan. 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
“It was wonderful seeing the packed basilica, with some people on the floor and others in various chapels with a live feed on a screen,” Loomis recalled. She was impressed to see so many bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, several cardinals, and clergy from other Catholic rites.
“It was amazing,” DeJoode said. “We arrived earlier this year than we ever have and for the first time were able to sit as a group. Participating in Mass, sharing in the Eucharist with thousands of people, with the prayer intentions for the unborn, for mothers, for politicians, for change of hearts, for the recognition of life in the womb …it was beyond words.” Attendance was lower because of the impending snowstorm, she noted
The group attended a rally and the March for Life the following day, Jan. 22, trying to stay near the front for the march. “With the impending storm, we made the decision to leave when we reached the Peace Monument (our pick-up point for the bus) or 2 p.m., whichever came first,” DeJoode said. “We arrive at the Peace Monument about 1:15 p.m. and boarded the bus shortly after that.”
She said she is saddened by the lack of coverage by the national media. “It is one of the largest civil marches in the nation,” she noted. “I appreciate learning about others who march/participate and hearing their stories.” Loomis described the march as awesome – “seeing so many young people on fire for life, very many Catholics, and other faith (or non-faith groups).”
As the group’s bus pulled out of D.C., a light snow began to fall. Snowfall was heavier in Maryland and Pennsylvania. “We were out of D.C. by about 2 p.m.,” Loomis said. “It turned out to be a good plan.”
“The ride (home) was smoother than expected,” DeJoode said. Road conditions, however, were not optimal. “We prayed Liturgy of the Hours and the rosary. All prayer was lifted up for those impacted by abortion. On the way home, we also prayed for a safe journey for all who were traveling. Participants were extremely cooperative with last-minute decisions and accommodating short stops.”
Along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a minor accident slowed traffic. Hills also proved difficult to climb, especially for buses and semis. DeJoode said her group’s bus driver had earlier predicted the possibility of getting stranded along the highway in Pennsylvania for an extended period of time. However, traffic continued to move, at a snail’s pace, “and we were content to continue making progress.” The bus didn’t get stranded.
Once out of the Alleghany Mountains and into Ohio, the weather and road conditions were fine. The bus stopped for a driver change in Ohio and the group continued home without incident. Early on Jan. 23, the bus pulled up to the Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf where the group prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in front of Planned Parenthood, located across the street. Then the bus made its drop-off stops.
“We were blessed in many ways during this trip,” DeJoode said. “One was our safety in travel. Another was the reception with some of the elected officials in Washington, D.C. A third (blessing) was the tickets we received from another parish for the Pro-Life Youth Rally & Mass at the Verizon Center/Stadium. These tickets are very hard to come by and we were able to participate in this opportunity of worship and prayer with thousands of other youth! It was comparable to a mini NCYC large group session.”