You never know who you are going to encounter when you start making your way into a crowd, especially when it’s as big as the one in Washington, D.C., last Friday, Jan. 24, for the 47th annual March for Life.
I have to say I was fortunate to find a young man wise well beyond his years. Joseph Morales, an eighth-grader at St. Raymond School in the Bronx, was attending the march for the first time, along with 40 others, mostly students, from the parish.
His pastor, Father James Cruz, pointed me in his direction when I asked him for a good candidate for an interview. He made a very good choice.
It wasn’t very long ago that Joseph first learned about the March for Life. Late in the morning, before the march began, he was happy to be waiting on Constitution Avenue with his fellow eighth-graders, including some from school and others from the parish youth ministry.
In fact, a group of them approached me to ask if I would make them famous, so here’s the roster of names I took down: Andrew McFall, Neil Senhouse, Aidan Jiminez, Iris Sosa, Leangie Matos and Obinna Onukwuire. A very nice crew they all were.
For a young guy at his first March for Life, Joseph wasn’t at a loss for words. He weighed in with a couple of pretty profound thoughts.
At the outset, he told me, “You never know, it might be some good people who died in abortion, like future principals, or priests, bishops or archbishops, or important politicians in government.”
And his follow-up remark was even better. He said simply, “Or it could have been my own friend.”
Yes, I think Joseph brought home a valuable lesson from the March for Life.
Father Cruz said he feels the experience was beneficial for all the students from St. Raymond’s who had the opportunity to leave their classrooms for a day. “It’s important for young people to stand up and say life matters,” he said.
Of course, not everyone was attending for the first time. Waiting for the start of the march, I found myself chatting with Auxiliary Bishop Peter Byrne and Sister Charity, S.V., the assistant director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office. It turns out Bishop Byrne was present at the very first March for Life, way back in January 1974. He was 23 years old then and walked with the Manhattan Right to Life contingent.
The crowd was nowhere near as big as the one in 2020 when every bit of the avenue was filled with people. “Little by little, it took off,” the bishop said.
Another good place to meet New Yorkers was at St. Patrick’s Church on 10th Street NW, just a few blocks from Constitution Avenue, where Cardinal Dolan celebrated Mass for the archdiocesan pilgrims that morning. It was a full house there, too, with many people standing in the side aisles.
Sister Virginia Joy, S.V., the director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office, reported that 46 buses with pilgrims had traveled from the archdiocese.
One of the farthest starting points had to be Port Jervis, specifically Immaculate Conception Church, where Father Matthew Newcomb is pastor. Right to Life groups from Sullivan and Orange counties came together on the bus. I had the good fortune to grab one of the few open seats remaining in church right next to Kevin Kroeger, a parishioner of St. Peter’s in Monticello, who traveled with his wife, Mary, and another family of friends. They started out at 4 a.m. and wouldn’t get back home until 10 p.m., but Kroeger didn’t seem bothered in the least.
“It’s great to be with practicing Catholics all concerned for life. We have a good time,” Kroeger said outside St. Patrick’s. He’s been coming to the March for Life, off and on, for 20 years.
He was happy to share a thought about President Trump, who was the first president to show up to address the rally before the March for Life. “I think God has other plans for Donald Trump, plans for life and hope,” said Kroeger, who participates in a prayerful protest at Planned Parenthood in Monticello every other Friday.
“Maybe with God’s help things will get turned around,” he said.