By Dominic Winter
(SNR) - The Lincoln Diocese had an outstanding presence at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Jan. 22.
About 270 high-school students, priests and chaperones attended, just a few short of the highest diocesan attendance ever, along with dozens of students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Five buses of high-school students and one bus of college students left Tuesday, Jan. 20 and return this weekend.
After the rally at noon, the mile-long March began officially at 1 p.m. On a normal day, this walk takes 15 minutes. On Jan. 22, the stroll was drawn out into the last leg of a true pilgrimage.
Jeff Schinstock, diocesan director of youth ministries expressed his motivation for organizing this trip for the seventh time.
“The first time I attended the March for Life was in 2001,” he said. “To see the energy and unity of the prolife movement moved my heart. That experience motivated me to encourage others to answer the call of defending life.
“I want young people to see the reality of their culture and to be a force for good in the world,” he said. “My motivation is to see the end of the scourge of abortion.”
St. Anthony Parish in Steinauer sent its first group ever of seven, including pastor Father Scott Courtney, who remarked that seven is, biblically, the perfect number. The students from St. Anthony Parish said what an honor it is to be of the first group to DC.
“Since we’re going for the unborn infants, this should be like a pilgrimage,” said Hayden Meyer, senior. “You go out of your way to show what you believe. It’s an honor to be one of the first ones and a role model for years to come.”
“I think it’s awesome since no one else has gone and I get to tell everyone it was a great experience and that they should go,” said junior Rhylie Niedzielski.
Father Lee Jirovsky, principal of St. Cecilia High School in Hastings, spoke about the 48 students—of the school’s total 135 students—attending the March. This year had more students from St. Cecilia participating than the past three years combined.
Father Jirovsky said the influx was due to the enthusiasm and good stories brought by previous marchers.
“We want students to have an experience of encountering Christ and then witnessing to others, especially their peers,” he said. “It’s a trip like this that wins hearts.”
Augustine Clark, a senior at St. Cecilia and president of the local Teens for Life chapter, agreed, adding that many more students could come this year because of fundraising. Teens for Life organized opportunities for would-be marchers to raise money for the trip, including a Knights of Columbus pancake feed at St. Michael Parish in Hastings in December. Even though he “had a blast,” he said he looks forward to the day when the March will no longer be necessary: when abortion and other crimes against life cease.
“Most importantly, the March for Life is a time to stand up for the little ones,” Augustine said.
Many of the Lincoln attendees noted the solidarity a diocesan trip can foster among those who attend. Students from around the diocese can meet, pray, bond, become friends, and grow in their relationships with Christ. Groups of students from all six diocesan high schools, homeschooled and public school students, as well as college students made up the pilgrimage. The attendees planned to gather for Mass with participants from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, celebrated by Archbishop Charles Chaput in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, with Bishop James Conley and priests concelebrating.
Students from St. Cecilia High School, Pius X High School in Lincoln and UNL said the returning students always shared wonderful March experiences and encouraged more students to come the next year.
“A pilgrimage should take you closer to Jesus and sometimes it takes someone you don’t know to do that,” Father Jirovsky said.
“I feel that every young person who is dedicated to their faith should stand up for it in the way Catholic morality teaches,” said Kate Messineo, Pius X junior.
“We want to get our generation on fire about the unborn: there’s so much potential,” said Cecilia Nguyen, pro-life chair and senior at UNL.
Nick Korta, Pius X junior, said, “If we can get more people to support life, abortion will be over soon.”
Editor’s Note: The Nebraska Walk for Life will be held Jan. 31.