Unpacking the March for Life at Capuchin Youth and Family Retreat

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Abigail Sorenson said she no longer feels alone in her mission against abortion. The 14-year-old parishioner of Most Holy Trinity in West Point was one of 20 people from Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries to participate in the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 24.

The eighth-grader at West Point Middle School told CNY at the retreat in Garrison Jan. 25 she’s known for being “that one girl who is not afraid to say it’s wrong.”

“I saw (tens of thousands of) people my age, older and younger than I am who believed in what I did (at the march). I thought (at the march) I want to do something like this someday so more people who feel alone in this can come here and feel they’re in a community that understands them and can talk freely without people yelling at them.”

Abigail and the others began their three-day retreat by arriving in Garrison around 5 p.m. Thursday for dinner, to pack the next day’s breakfast and lunch, make signs and pray before going to sleep. The group left Garrison around 4 a.m. Friday and arrived in Washington, D.C., in time to attend the 10:30 a.m. Mass for New York pilgrims celebrated by Cardinal Dolan at St. Patrick’s Church.

The retreatants participated in the rally and march before returning to Garrison late on Friday. A full day followed Saturday with reflections on the march, prayer and talks. The retreat concluded with Mass celebrated by Father Erik Lenhart, O.F.M. Cap., and dinner.

“My hope for all of us is that we become more acquainted with the Church’s teachings on life,” Father Lenhart said.

Tom Brinkmann, director of CYFM for 18 years, said the group was able, from beyond the rally barricade, to hear speakers, including President Donald Trump, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Donna Hutto Edwards, wife of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

“It’s truly inspiring to see so many other people of faith standing up for the sanctity and sacredness of life,” said Brinkmann, a parishioner of St. Joseph in New Paltz. “In some way, one of my takeaways is we did very little. We rode a bus. We walked with people. No one saw me personally, but there were (tens of thousands of individuals) who did the same thing. Because of the personal witness of each, that makes an impression. There’s a statement.”

Brinkmann added, “I hope that being a part of something like this between what we’re doing with the teaching, prayer and expression, and the experience of all these people together that it moves from head knowledge and head conviction to heartfelt ‘this is a part of who I am and I need to act on it throughout my life.’”

Brian Sayah attended his second march and first with CYFM. The 15-year-old sophomore at Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie said he enjoyed attending the march with people who love Christ as he does, as well as peers to talk to and who will listen to him. 

“Once we got there, it’s just like, ‘I’m back here, let’s do this,’” said Brian, who attended the March for Life last year with fellow parishioners of St. Kateri Tekakwitha in LaGrangeville.

“It gives me hope that if we continue going as teenagers, other people will see that and say if teenagers believe this, it’s something that they might have to look into and maybe change their beliefs. So it really makes me feel hope.”

Molly Vaughn, a 17-year-old senior at Walter Panas High School and parishioner of Holy Spirit in Cortlandt Manor, is hoping to attend future marches.

“There were a lot of young teens and college students, and they started calling us generation pro life,” she said. “I definitely will take the time to come back and take part in the march again. I really want to get our youth group in my parish to do something like this and take all the young teens who believe the same thing to the march.”

Molly is planning to study nursing at Immaculata University in Malvern, Pa.

“I feel being in that position I can really apply what I feel, my religion and educate people,” she said. “I just feel I need to make a difference. I feel things need to be changed and I feel the best way to do that is to let people know all about it and maybe they might change their mind.”

Liz Lococo, 23, was at her sixth march and has witnessed a growing number of teens and college students since attending her first March for Life at age 12.

“Until we can show people the evil of abortion, it’s really going to be challenging to prevent people from seeking the procedure wherever they can get it,” said Ms. Lococo, a parishioner of St. Peter and St. Mary of the Assumption in Haverstraw.

“As someone who is very passionate about this issue, I think it’ll always be a part of my life to go to the march in D.C. or the march in New York, wherever I can share my beliefs and effect change. This weekend, being there with 10 teenagers who are so passionate and knowledgeable about this and willing to grow in their communication of the issue and really trying to make sure their infusing all this with compassion and love, has been truly inspiring.”

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