Forty-two St. Joseph’s Academy students were part of the Louisiana Youth Pilgrimage to the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Nine Academy students participated through the school while the remaining traveled as part of their church parish youth groups.
Pro-life Americans travel to Washington, D.C., each January to mark the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision making abortion legal in the United States. This year’s march, held January 18 on the National Mall, was the 46th annual event.
The group departed Baton Rouge on Monday, January 4, traveling to Nashville, Tennessee. On Tuesday, the travelers arrived at Camp Letts in Annapolis, Maryland, where they enjoyed dinner, mass and MP3.
On Wednesday, the group celebrated mass with travelers from all Louisiana dioceses at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. They toured the Holocaust Museum and the Saint John Paul II National Shrine and participated in the Rosary Walk, praying the rosary in front of Planned Parenthood and the White House.
On Thursday, the group celebrated mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle and participated in the Geaux Forth Rally hosted by Louisiana Right to Life. The students toured the Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean and Martin Luther King Jr. monuments and visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington. The day ended with the Life is Very Good Rally with music, a keynote address by Chris Stefanick, adoration, confession and praise and worship.
The week ended with morning mass on Friday followed by participation in the March for Life.
Campus Minister Alise Alexander and theology teacher Sheri Klemm accompanied the group. “A phrase commonly quoted on the March for Life is, ‘We’re pilgrims not tourists,’” Alexander said. “The experience really is more than a trip or a day of pro-life activism. It is an experience that teaches students to live in a way that proclaims the dignity of life by choosing joy in suffering and hope in darkness, by sharing the sidewalk and smiling at passersby and by praying and sacrificing comfort for others.”
Senior Lauren Arceneaux said it was especially poignant being in the presence of so many like-minded individuals. “What made this experience so meaningful was watching thousands and thousands of people gather together to reach a common goal: a culture of life,” she said. “I learned so many things from this pilgrimage. Most importantly, I learned how to put my faith and my beliefs that are so important to me into action.”
Sophomore Carmen Kellerman said the trip to Washington, D.C., was a life-changing experience. “Because of it, I feel more spiritual, liveliness and blessed by God,” she said. “We had adoration every day, which was amazing. We went to a Christian religious concert where there was adoration, as well. That was the most eye-opening experience because I have never seen so many teenagers be so in love with Christ. Everyone was singing, praying on their knees and joyful to be there. Many people in our lives focus on the bad and evil in the world, but at that adoration, you realized how God’s love overpowers all of the sins we commit every day.”
Sophomore Tiffany Tran agreed. “On this trip, I understood my faith on a deeper level,” she said. “The trip really taught me what it means to be pro-life. The March for Life has taught me so many life lessons and how to respect life on all levels, not just the lives of the children who were lost. The bus ride allowed everyone to get out of their comfort zone and have a great time but also be serious during times of prayer and no technology. We saw new sights and beautiful cathedrals. We really put ourselves into a different perspective during prayer and adoration every day. I can’t wait to go back.”
Sophomore Emily Hampshire said March for Life was such a great experience that she couldn’t pinpoint just a single highlight. “I loved every part of this trip,” she said. “You could see the love and appreciation everyone had for each other. It’s like everyone wanted to be there and was genuinely happy. Coming back home was very sad, and I realized how much of a bond our bus had made together. I loved listening to all of the stories of how God reached out to the people on my bus, most of them making me tear up because they were so relatable. I made a promise that I would try to be the light of anyone’s day that helps lead them to God when I got back from this trip.”
Klemm said this year’s March for Life was the best ever. “The events and activities that led up to the day of the March exposed students to ways of valuing and appreciating the dignity of all life, how to be positive leaders in the pro-life movement and how to foster a deeper sense of and appreciation for their own spirituality,” she said. “I witnessed an enormous amount of spiritual growth over the six-day event and love how attendees are staying in touch and sharing news via social media of how they are continuing to pray for one another and promote a culture of life.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Sheri Klemm