By Sara Kraft
Special to The Key
ST. JOSEPH — From 3 month old baby Jason to eighty-two year old Shirley Jenkins, all were on a mission – a mission to celebrate life.
In all, over two hundred and fifty people from both sides of the state line made the two and half mile pilgrimage from St. Francis Xavier Parish in St. Joseph to Bishop LeBlond High School on October 13. Their presence was a voice for the estimated 1.2 million voiceless babies who are aborted by their mothers each year in the United States.
Organizer Dan Deatherage explained the idea for the pilgrimage first came about as he was watching EWTN. Very few people have the opportunity to attend the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., so he wondered why the St. Joseph community didn’t sponsor something locally. He and other organizers decided to hold the pilgrimage in conjugation with St. Joseph’s annual Life Chain, which is a sidewalk prayer vigil sponsored by the Missouri Right to Life Pony Express Chapter. Those that couldn’t physically walk participated in the Life Chain in front of Bishop LeBlond High School. Finally, the event culminated in a Rally for Life in Bishop LeBlond stadium. Dan invited over fifty Protestant churches in addition to the area St. Joseph Catholic parishes to the pilgrimage and rally.
Missouri Western State University student Erin Sprenger walked with the university’s Newman Center to “support life and end abortion.”
During the peaceful walk, passing cars honked and waved to pilgrims to show their support of life and the pilgrimage.
The event was a family affair for Diane Holtz who was joined by her husband, daughter in-law and grandson. When asked why she chose to attend, Diane explained, “Of course, I’m prolife. However, I really have not participated in many of these walks. I figured it was just about time I stand up for what I believe in.”
Eighty-two year old Shirley Jenkins explained she came for the life chain because “It’s a beautiful day, and I’m for life!” as she held a sign stating, “Abortion hurts women.”
“I am pleasantly surprised at the number of people who came out today,” stated Fr. Ron Will, C.PP.S., pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish. “This celebration publicly states something we believe in our hearts about how we respect life. This walk is an expression and an opportunity to support one another and deepen our own convictions.”
“Plus,” he laughed, “It’s good exercise.”
Many people and organizations contributed to this successful turnout in all age groups. The St. Joseph area Knights of Columbus Councils, St. Francis Xavier Parish, and LeBlond High School were major supporters of the pilgrimage and rally. Area St. Joseph students also helped support the day’s events. St. Francis Xavier School Student Council made banners, walked in the pilgrimage, and raised well over $300 for the St. Joseph Pregnancy Resource Clinic by selling t-shirts. St. Francis Xavier’s Boy Scout troop also provided support as crossing guards on busy intersections. In addition, St. Joseph Cathedral School students from Mrs. Amy Roetto’s second grade class made a banner to celebrate life which was displayed at the rally.
Fr. Ron added, “It’s good to teach [our young people] from a young age to stand up.”
The pilgrimage culminated in the Rally for Life held at Bishop LeBlond Stadium. A choir from Benedictine College and Julia Pickert both sang moving songs.
Two speakers, Angela Grogg and independent writer and producer Jack Cashill, urged participants to get involved in the prolife movement beyond the walk. Angela shared a moving testimony of how she became an “accidental activist” of the prolife movement after her fourteen year old daughter’s pregnancy which resulted from a rape. Initially, Angela wanted her daughter to have an abortion. However, her two year old grandson Noah has shown her the blessings of choosing life as caring for him has strengthened her marriage and filled her life with joy. Currently, Angela and daughter Pyper are working with the documentary 31 States which tells the story of women across America who have had to fight their rapist in court for custody of their rape conceived child.
Jack Cashill, producer of Thine Eyes, a documentary about the March for Life, encouraged the attendees to “look for opportunities to insert a positive (prolife) message. The goal is to not make enemies but to make converts.” He suggested Facebook was a great medium to periodically discuss the positive portions of the prolife movement.
“This day was totally the work of the Holy Spirit,” said Bill Francis, Director of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Respect Life and Human Rights Offices. “It exceeded everyone’s exceptions, and we are already looking forward to next year.”