By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
BLUE SPRINGS — They already made a sacrifice to get up before dawn and get to Mass at 5 a.m.
It will only go downhill from there, Father Adam Johnson warned pilgrims about to leave by bus for Washington, D.C., and the annual March for Life to end abortion.
“You’re going to be tired and dirty. It gets cold for this long march and rally,” he said.
“But it is sacrifice you can offer up to God. It is offered to end abortion in this country out of respect for all human life,” Father Johnson said in his homily at the Mass for the pilgrims at St. John LaLande Parish.
Father Johnson knows that sacrifice well. He is a veteran of the 22-hour, roundtrip, late January trip and one-mile march to the national mall in the nation’s capital on the Jan. 22 anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton U.S. Supreme Court decisions that made abortion legal in the United States.
Millions have been legally ripped from their mothers’ wombs in those 41 years, so the sacrifice the pilgrims were making is worth it.
Nearly 200 people were making the journey this year on five Heartland Trailways buses, sponsored by the diocesan Respect Life Office.
And if the pilgrims from the Kansas City area rose early, consider the pilgrims from St. Joseph. They attended a 4 a.m. Mass.
Five members of the extended Hummer family from St. Rose of Lima Parish in Savannah rose at 2:30 a.m. to get to Mass at St. James Parish in St. Joseph, board the bus, then meet the diocesan convoy in Blue Springs.
Mark Hummer brought sons Liam, 15, and William, 14. His brother Rodney brought his daughter Emily, 15.
“It’s worth it,” Liam said. “You got to make sacrifices to show our belief in pro-life, that all human life should have a chance.”
Going with her father, uncle and cousins added to the experience, Emily said.
“It makes it more meaningful and impactful,” she said. “I feel like I’m stronger when we all go together.”
Juan Carlos Osorio, a seminarian from Guatemala studying at Conception Seminary College, didn’t bother going to bed the night before. He left Conception at midnight to join a special group of young people at Sacred Heart-Guadalupe Parish on Kansas City’s West side before driving to Blue Springs for the Mass.
“God calls us to defend life,” said Osario, who is quickly learning English. “God created life and he named us as his guardians for life.”
Miguel Salazar, diocesan director of Hispanic Ministry, worked with Respect Life director Bill Francis to make special arrangements for seven people from Sacred Heart-Guadalupe Parish to stay an extra day to attend the “Latinos Por La Vida” – Latinos for Life – rally on Jan. 24.
“Edith Montes, our coordinator for Hispanic youth and young adults, has been fund-raising with them,” she said. “Our kids wanted to stay one more day for the rally so they could bring that back to their community,” Salazar said.
The pilgrims from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph reflected the diversity of the diocese.
Noah Fakeri, 16, from St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Gladstone, said he is going because “it’s important to stand up for life in our country.”
He also expects to not only speak up by his presence, but to learn.
“I’m expecting to get more in touch with the effects of abortion, and how that affects our country,” he said.
So were Isac Olivares and Abraham Colin, from St. Matthew Apostle Parish in southeast Kansas City. They both gave credit to Jessica Art, youth director, and parish leader Raymond Cisneros for encouraging them to make the trip.
“It’s an opportunity for everyone to get together for a good cause,” Olivares said. “You get to meet new people, make new friends, and you get closer to God at the same time.”
Colin, making his first pilgrimage, also skipped sleep the night before, the excitement of the trip too much.
“I have heard it is a great experience,” he said.
Molly Meyers, from Visitation Parish in Kansas City, said it would be a “bonding experience” with her father, Martin.
“It’s a family tradition,” she said. “He took my sister (Katie) when she was a junior in high school.”
“It will be a good experience to be there first-hand,” Molly said. “At Visitation, we had a pro-life Mass every year (in support of the March for Life), but it will be good to go and be part of it.”
Although the pilgrims ranged in age from early teens to Msgr. Ralph Kaiser, who is older than that, the opportunity to speak out and be supported by huge numbers against a grave injustice, and to speak for the voiceless draws young people, said Jessica Art, youth minister at St. Matthew.
“There are exciting parts to it, but it’s also 22 hours on buses, so it’s not like a joy ride,” she said.
“But it’s really about the ability to stand for something that the church stands for, and to stand with thousands of people in one place that makes it worth it,” she said.