By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
March for Life participants from the Diocese of Davenport offered up their minor sufferings — no showers for four days, extra walking, sleeping on a bus or church floor, and eating simple meals — to demonstrate support for life.
The group of 28 felt privileged to attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 27, as did Kelly Bush of Davenport and five others who took a bus sponsored by Iowans for Life.
Donna DeJoode, director of religious education at St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa, said this was the fifth pilgrimage she helped organize. Her group had participants from Colfax, Pella, Eddyville, Tipton, Williamsburg, Iowa City and Coralville. Financial support for the trip came from the Knights of Columbus in Oskaloosa, Pella and Iowa City. “This was the best weather in the last five years and the crowd seemed much larger this year than ever,” she said. Catholic News Service estimated the rally drew around 500,000 people.
Participants attended the March for Life Expo where they met vendors with a passion for life and listened to personal stories about abortion. They also visited the Holocaust Museum, attended the Vigil Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and met with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, (R-Iowa), and other elected officials. A few participants toured the Capitol while others went to a rally at which Vice President Mike Pence spoke.
“What I saw there was love,” said Bush, director of student wellness at Assumption High School in Davenport. When she looked to the crowd of thousands marching toward the Capitol for the 2017 March for Life, she saw people holding hands and praying. She heard the loudest, sweetest version of “Ave Maria” she had ever heard sung. She saw Assumption students laughing and making friends with kids from other schools in Iowa. She saw signs depicting an expectant mother and the baby in her womb and inscribed with the words: “Love them both.”
The Assumption group visited the Jefferson Monument the night before the march. “I looked behind the statue of Thomas Jefferson at a famous quote, ‘All men are created equal.’ And I noted that the phrase used was ‘created equal’ and not ‘born equal.’ And I realized, our forefathers got it,” Bush said.
“Any kid with a high school biology book could tell you when human life begins. Within nanoseconds of conception, human life — growing and changing, with its own unique DNA separate from the mother and the father, sex already decided — is formed. It is sacred because all human life is sacred, despite the level of development, location, ability or any other quality. It is sacred simply because it exists. Yet today, we have a silent holocaust of unborn children in our country and many others,” Bush continued.
“It was so inspiring to see the age range at the March for Life. There were young and old. I was so happy to see the number of young people there,” said Tracy Jacobsen, mother of Assumption senior Mary Jacobsen. “It gave me hope for the future that they are aware of the issue of abortion and they want it to end, Tracy Jacobsen said.
She noted that participants were chanting: “We love babies yes we do; we love babies how about you?” and “We are the pro-life generation.” “It was very moving to see all of the people standing up to help babies that have no voice. I was blessed to be able to share this with my daughter.”
Mary Jacobsen said what most impacted her was “seeing thousands of people, especially teenagers, gathered together for one thing — to put an end to abortion. It was really cool to just see everyone gathered for that.”
Assumption sophomore Jon Herrington said it was awe-inspiring to see the crowds. The chant, “We are the pro-life generation” had an impact on him. “We are the pro-life generation; we are the ones who will make change. We are the ones with the obligation to do what is right, regardless of the consequences.”
Linda Siebens of Oskaloosa said she among individuals separated from the group to accompany a fellow pilgrim and her daughter-in-law to the Emergency Room. The fellow pilgrim was concerned about how Siebens would rejoin the group without a cell phone. “I assured her I would be among 800,000 friends and not to worry….I very quickly found other brothers and sisters in Christ who took me in among them. It was chilly and so I stopped at the Smithsonian to warm up…. My hands were the only part of me that was cold. I was blessed to walk with the Capuchin brothers who were there. I prayed for Jesus to warm me and to help me find the other marchers.”
She met some Marian brothers who provided her with Divine Mercy cards. “I asked them to pray that I would find the rest of my group.” As she rounded the corner of the Supreme Court building, she saw Father Jeff Belger of the Davenport Diocese holding their group’s flag. “I called out to Fr. Jeff. He waved, and I made my way to them. I was embraced by all of those there and I gave thanks to the Lord.”
Bush said that she would love to see devotion to Our Lady of Expectation (feast day Dec. 18) in reverence of Mary and all expectant mothers.