(SNR) - A record-setting 137 high school students from the Diocese of Lincoln are preparing to go to the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., where hundreds of thousands of pro-life individuals are expected to participate.
Sponsored by the diocesan Family Life Office, the seniors, juniors and sophomores will board three busses Jan. 22, the 40th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, and embark on a five-day trip to the nation’s capital.
"They’re from all over," Youth Coordinator Jeff Schinstock reported. He said the students are from Pius X High School in Lincoln, Bishop Neumann High School in Wahoo, Aquinas High School in David City and Saint Cecilia High School in Hastings.
"These young people are really pro-life," Mr. Schinstock added. "All of them will have a moment to stand against injustice."
The Family Life Office works hard to keep the trip affordable so that as many students as possible can attend. Some students did fundraisers to help offset this year’s total cost of $385 for transportation, hotel and some meals. Also, the Nebraska Knights of Columbus generously offered scholarships to students in need.
During their visit to D.C., the group will have a busy agenda leading up to the March for Life on Saturday, Jan. 26.
They will head over to Emmittsburg, Md., to visit with diocesan seminarians who are studying at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary. Sight-seeing excursions will take them to the U.S. Capitol and memorials for those who fought by pen and sword for human rights in this country. The agenda includes visits to the Washington and Jefferson monuments, and the Lincoln Memorial.
"The big highlight is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception," Mr. Schinstock said, referring to the largest Catholic church in North America, a worthy pilgrimage site for this pro-life endeavor.
On Saturday at noon, the group will join an expected half million people on the National Mall to stand up for the rights of all human beings, from conception to natural death.
Mr. Schinstock said that the experience of seeing more people gathered to demonstrate against abortion than the total population of Lincoln (last year the crowd at the March for Life was estimated to be 400,000; the population of Lincoln is just over 250,000) has a profound effect on young people who attend the March for Life.
"Their world view changes," he said. "Most of those people are very young and loud in their efforts to stop a great evil."
He has little concern about counter-demonstrators.
"They are really outnumbered," he said. "I saw lots of counter-protesters on my first March in 2001, but they are tough to find now."
Students are instructed to leave the counter-protesters alone, and to respond by praying if confronted.
"This protest of ours is not fueled by anger, but by love," Mr. Schinstock said. "It is important to overwhelm [the counter-protesters] with love. That’s how we change hearts."
The students will be well-chaperoned by numerous adults who will help ensure a spiritually fulfilling trip. Fathers Patrick Barvick, Thomas Dunavan, William Holoubek, Christopher Miller, David Oldham and Joseph Steele are going along, as well as Sister Maria Meza, M.S., and Sister Anne Marie, M.S.
Mr. Schinstock and his assistant, Sarah Braunsroth, will be on hand, as well as youth directors from Lincoln’s St. Joseph and North American Martyrs parishes: Tyler Cronin and Tim Wegner, respectively. Thirteen other lay volunteers round out the crew.
All in all, Mr. Schinstock expects each student to have an inspiring experience.
"Young people want to know what’s true, to have the truth already in their hearts awakened," Mr. Schinstock said. "When we do that, nothing can match the zeal of the young."
For more information about the annual Youth Ministry journey to the March for Life, contact the Family Life Office at (402) 488-2040. For more information about the March for Life, visit www.marchforlife.org.