By Marty Denzer & Megan Marley
KANSAS CITY — This year marked the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that women have the legal right to abortion. Every year since the fateful decision, thousands of men and women of all ages have gathered on the National Mall in Washington D.C., and in major cities, to make a stand for the weakest and most vulnerable of our society.
In downtown Kansas City, nearly 120 persons of all races and backgrounds—young adults, moms with kids in strollers, businessmen and women on lunch break, grandparents—held vigil Jan. 27 outside the Federal Courthouse on Ninth Street. Members of the group prayed aloud or silently, sang, and held signs to remind passersby of the inalienable right to life and dignity of the human person. As they prayed, some drivers waved and honked horns in support; others made less polite gestures.
Missouri Right to Life organized the vigil, and invited a number of Kansas City area faith leaders and local pro-life ministries to speak and lead prayer. Scheduled speakers at the event included: Rev. Sean McCaffrey of St. John Francis Regis Catholic Church, Mary Gliserman of Wyandotte Pregnancy Center, Annie Fowler of KC Coalition/40 Days for Life, Teresa O’Donnell of Rachel’s Vineyard, Pastor Vernon West of Creighton First Baptist, Jayme Paul of Liberty Women’s Clinic, Kathy Edwards of Rachel House, Marsha Middleton of Alliance for Life, writer/producer Jack Cashill, Teresa Hoeppner of Project Rachel, Glenda Merton of Birthright, and Father James Carlyle of St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church. U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo, also made an unscheduled statement in support of pro-life efforts, via a representative.
In D.C., four buses of men, women, teens and young adults from the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph were part of the estimated 500,000+ marchers at the nation’s capital. An unknown number of people, including Bishop Johnston, also flew in for the March.
Two parish youth groups — St. Gabriel Archangel and St. Andrew the Apostle — met at St. Gabriel’s Church the evening of Jan. 29 to share their ideas and experiences of the March, listen to speakers and pray in words and song.
Diane Pickert, St. Gabriel’s youth director, spoke briefly about the March and introduced the evening’s emcee Julia Unger, who taught at St. Pius X High School for 9 years and was an annual March for Life attendee during those years. Unger stayed home this year because she has a 7-month old son, Jude.
Unger introduced the first speaker, Rodrigo Gonzales. He explained how prison ministry at the Jackson County Detention Center is a pro-life ministry. He said the ministry is based on the gospel directive found in Matthew 25: “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Reagan Ratterman, married mother of 13 and sidewalk counselor at Planned Parenthood, shared her experience of the hurt, disgust and guilt she felt for years after two abortions as a teenager. She encouraged the teens to really think about what they’re doing, so as to not have similar experiences.
Teens Marin Brown and Erin Quinn spoke about their experience of the March for Life, noting the “miles of people” attending.
“We must continue to pursue all things worthwhile and beautiful, Life,” Brown said. “I want to be open and share my love for life in all that I do.”
Diane Pickert shared some thoughts from two young men, Xavier Schmidt and Scott Brewster, whose group was talking about the little moments in a person’s day that can be turned into pro-life ministry. For instance, a friend may tell a racist joke or make a degrading comment about women. Rather than laugh and essentially promote what that person just said, they could engage the person in a conversation about what it means to truly respect a human life.
Several youth group members also shared their ideas of living pro-life.
“I want to pursue prolife work by praying on the sidewalks with friends, and hopefully becoming a sidewalk counselor,” said Tio Krizogono, who also wants to help with prison ministry. “I will immediately start praying a Hail Mary every night for all the babies in the womb, prisoners, and the homeless and in hopes that people begin to see the dignity of human life.”
“We need to be loud about being pro-life. A lot of people think pro-life means babies. Yes, it means babies, but it also means the elderly, the sick, those in prison,” said St. Pius X High School senior Caroline Ramsey, who wants to become involved in hospice visits as a pro-life effort. “The Beatitudes highlight everything about being pro-life: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted for their faith.’”