By Sara Kraft
Three hundred people from Northwest Missouri gathered to celebrate the 4th Annual Life Day in St. Joseph on Sunday, October 2. The celebration began at Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church, and wove down some of the busiest streets of St. Joseph, culminating in a final march down the Belt Highway and Frederick Boulevard and ending at LeBlond High School Stadium. The purpose of the celebration was to raise awareness and support of the prolife movement. A police escort helped with crossing the busy streets. There were multiple starting points to accommodate walkers of all ages and abilities.
Six short weeks after a hip replacement, Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioner Marilyn Johnson completed the entire 3.7 mile walk. “It’s a great cause and important to be seen by those passing by. My pain is nothing compared to the expectant mothers (who abort their children). Their pain can last a lifetime.”
Following the walk, a rally was held at Bishop LeBlond High School stadium. Balloons were released in memory of the 269 babies lost to abortion in Northwest Missouri and Northeastern Kansas last year.
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless,” quoted Reverend Jason Moore, Pastor of First Baptist Church in St. Joseph, in a quote sometimes attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Since 1974, there has been a holocaust of 60 million babies. These babies do not have a voice, and their “blood is on the hands of our nation,” explained Reverend Moore. “We have been silent too long.”
Science leads us to believe life begins at conception, but Reverend Moore states he can debate with others who believe it begins at an another time during the pregnancy. Others claim life begins at birth, or during the third trimester. “If I am wrong, there is no harm. What if you are wrong? If you must error, error on the side of life,” Reverend Moore challenged.
“Equality is when every boy and every girl of every race is loved, valued, and protected so they can live,” continued Reverend Moore.
The Life Day event was originally started by local Knights of Columbus members four years ago. Later, it was specifically structured to appeal to both Catholics and non-Catholics. St. Paul Lutheran School students sang “Bless the World through Me” and both Fr. Terrell Finnell of Good Shepherd Parish in Smithville and Reverend Kent Klundt from Rosendale Christian Church led prayer at the event.
Participants chose to walk for many reasons. “We walk because it is important to show people in the community it is still relevant,” explained St. Francis Xavier parishioner Maureen Holtz, mother of 3. “I brought my children to show family support too.”
“I’ve always been in support of life. Two of my sisters were miscarried, and I can’t understand why anyone would deliberately deny a child the right to life,” explained Paul Godberson, a student member of Missouri Western State University’s Catholic Newman Center. The witness of three hundred people showing up “inspired me a lot.”
High School student Alice Fitzgerald, currently a sophomore at Kearney High School, also encouraged walkers to continue their witness to life at the annual March for Life pilgrimage to Washington, D.C.. After her 2014 March for Life trip, Alice found out a genetic counselor had pressured her parents to abort her. Alice shared her experience of finding out someone personally tried to end her life before it even started. “I felt emptiness and unworthiness knowing that someone didn’t want me.” In 2015, Alice went back to the March for Life, and was stranded on her bus for 24 hours due to severe weather. She spoke to rally participants about the experience and the “strong calling to do something more for the prolife movement” which it has given her. While nervous to talk to hundreds of people, Alice stated, “If we don’t speak about it, nothing is going to happen. I think that is a bit more important than my nerves.”
Reverend Moore challenged the crowd to sacrificially defend life. “I call on you to stand and make a difference,” urged Reverend Moore. Donate to the Pregnancy Resource Center, and support them with prayers. “I call on you to pray, not weak, wishy washy prayers, but pray on your knees. Speak out without apology. Make your voice heard….and do all of this in love, not hate.”