On January 19th, 50 students from St. Mary’s Dominican High School joined thousands at the 2018 March for Life in Washington, DC. Here are some of their reflections on the experience.
Celia Candies, Class of 2019
My trip to Washington, D.C. was much more than marching to expose and end the horrible truths of abortion. It was a spiritual experience. The ways that I was able to connect with God were abundant. I learned so many important points on the respect of human life and how close we are to ending this abortion epidemic.
One person I learned the most from was one of my bus group leaders, seminarian Viet Pham. Viet taught me two important things that guided me through my trip. First, do not be afraid. When you are not afraid, you have complete trust in God and completely believe that God is meeting our greatest needs and desires. To have trust in God is knowing that he is looking out for all the souls troubled by abortion. The second lesson Viet taught me is that we must focus on God before all things. Focusing on God was one of my biggest learning experiences on this trip. At the ministry night after the march, there was adoration. At adoration, I was able to see many teenagers giving themselves completely to God. They were in tears by the amount of love that they had for God. This was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced because I was able to see them focusing on God with no shame that anyone around them would judge their thoughts or beliefs. The amount of strength they had was amazing. Not holding back your emotions for God and not caring what others think is one of the most amazing things I saw on this trip.
Focusing on God is something that I will forever work on in my life. Focusing on the ways to stand up for the unborn and unheard children that are lost to abortion is something I will also continue working on for the rest of my life. This trip will always hold a special place in my heart because of the people who I learned from and the amazing amount of faith I gained for God.
Brooklyn Comeaux, Class of 2018
In my daily prayer, “Speak Lord for your servant is listening,” (1 Samuel 3:10), I heard God calling me to attend the March for Life. I had no idea going into the trip what it would be like, what I would encounter, or if I would regret my decision to go. I expected a trip where I would see Washington, D.C. and for one day March for Life. However, the trip exceeded my expectations in an incredible way. Through several Masses and adoration, my relationship with the Lord grew in a way I did not know was even possible. I learned new ways to pray, how to see the Lord in the most remote things, and that God lets us know exactly what we should do when He calls us.
The Lord called me to be on that pilgrimage, and the Lord calls me each day to do His work on earth by fighting for life. Each person deserves the chance at life, and I also learned the pro-life movement supersedes just combatting abortion. It means we should live each day treating others with the dignity and respect they deserve. It means we should respect all life no matter young, old, or physical/mental ability. It means that we should thank the Lord each day for the life He gifts to us by simply waking us up each morning. This trip changed my life in a way that I could never forget even if I tried. I am forever grateful that I heard the Lord’s call for me to attend the march.
Molly Derbes, Class of 2018
March for Life 2018 did not start as I had hoped; however, I am happy to testify that it did make a tremendous change for the better. Early Wednesday morning, while our bus was stranded in the Walmart parking lot in Meridian, Mississippi, there were several other buses stranded in the ice on the side of I-59. I started doubting that this trip would meet my expectations based on my memorable trip last year. Quickly, these thoughts changed the moment I started to pray the rosary with my classmates on the bus. As we prayed the rosary, I started to recall all of the events that had happened since I had gotten on the bus just a few hours before. Even though some of the events were scary, I thought about how they could have been so much worse. From that moment on, I knew this trip was going to change me in a way that I could not imagine.
This trip was transforming for me once I learned how it impacted other classmates. I was nervous that no one would want to talk about how the trip affected her and that some would be too frightened, but I learned that everyone was eager to share. We learned so much from our Youth Minister Sister Benedicta Turner, S.S.P. and Seminarian Viet Pham. Their influence made a profound impact on all of us.
One major focal point was gaining an understanding of how to pray. From this trip, I learned that prayer is not always an easy process and does not always need to be formal. As Viet told us, he learned recently that his easiest way to connect with God through prayer is through his imagination. This taught me that singing songs in adoration could be my way of prayer with God. This provided a feeling of comfort for me. Listening to others sharing how they pray, I learned was one of the most common ways that I pray to God. This new understanding of prayer was the change for me, even though I did not realize it while we were praying the rosary, stranded on a bus in the parking lot in Mississippi.
Reflecting on this, if some of the buses had not gotten stuck, then our bus would not have said the rosary at that moment that led me to understand this common way of prayer that I use all of the time. I am thankful not only for the opportunity of this trip, but also the new ways my prayer life is changed forever.
Meredith McKeough, Class of 2019
I have wanted to participate in the March for Life for as long as I can remember. While I am passionate about many things, the fight to end abortion tops my list. I had extremely high expectations for this trip, and I was terrified of being disappointed. Now, I can honestly say that I was not disappointed. In fact, this trip shattered every expectation I had.
The theme of our pilgrimage was, “Where is your God?” I could not get that simple, but powerful question out of my head the entire trip. In every situation, I found myself thinking, “Where is God, really?” When our bus was delayed in Meridian, Mississippi for hours, I found God in my wonderful classmates. Our delay was filled with fun and positivity during a very frustrating time. I knew then that God was at work in our hearts. The impatience in me was gone and I enjoyed our plus 30-hour bus ride more than I ever could have imagined. When we visited the Holocaust Museum, the question of God’s presence was weighing on my heart more than ever. I was having trouble locating God’s love and mercy in the midst of all the horrors presented in the museum. As I was walking through a room filled with the names of the victims, I found my answer. God was present in the people who lost their lives in the name of religion and freedom. God was in every one of those innocent victims, just as He is present in the innocent victims of abortion.
Viet Pham, our seminarian on the trip, told us three things as we departed for Washington, D.C. The one that stuck with me most was “You are meant to be here.” Prior to this trip, I knew in my heart that God was calling me to be an outspoken activist for the Pro-Life movement. When Viet told us that God put us on the bus together for a specific reason, I understood. I knew that God was using us in a unique way as voices for the voiceless. What I did not realize, was that God also intended me to be on this pilgrimage for a conversion experience. The months leading up to the march tested my relationship with God to its breaking point. I was in a place where I thought that my sins were unforgivable. God intended for me to be present on this pilgrimage so He could reveal Himself to me in His full splendor during adoration when I felt the overwhelming power of God’s forgiveness wash over me. It seemed as if God was telling me He loved me, I was already forgiven, and He would never leave me. Those words changed my heart, and I am forever grateful that God put me right where I was supposed to be on this life-changing trip. I am a better person for it.
Katie Mouton, Class of 2018
When packing for the March for Life trip, I had no idea what to prepare for. I knew I would pack the largest, fuzziest coats I owned, along with an abundant amount of hand warmers and gloves. I didn’t realize I should have prepared myself for the spiritual experience that I was about to partake in during this trip.
At first, the activities planned seemed exciting, but nothing out of the ordinary. On the first day, we toured the Holocaust Museum, walked around the National Mall and viewed the Lincoln Memorial. The following day we woke up early for breakfast and attended Mass. During Mass, I contemplated everything I could possibly imagine. Within the next hour, I was about to take part in something I strongly believed in, the March for Life.
I was beyond excited for the march, and it was prepared it to be a very important experience. The directors of the Archdiocese of New Orleans packed everyone a boxed lunch and water to energize and hydrate every one of us. On the way to the marching site, everyone on the bus began to sing songs that we all knew very well. A bus full of Dominican students, we immediately began to sing the infamous “Light the Fire,” a song that the Dominican community sings as the closing song to almost every mass. We sang every word at the top of our lungs, as the moment we had been waiting for was finally about to come. Another song we could all relate to was Dominican’s Alma Mater and the “Toast of Praise.” We shouted the Toast of Praise words louder than ever before. As I shouted, I felt a different rush than I usually do. This time, I was preparing myself for something that I was about to fight for, something that was bigger than I was.
This march was to stand up for all the innocent unborn babies who have been aborted. Our protest was not just to shout and hear our own voice, but to speak for the voices unheard. Knowing that people whom I had never met before surrounded me, yet who were marching for the same reason I was, was an indescribable feeling. As the march ended, everyone was exhausted, and we got back into the bus for the ride back to the hotel. I was unaware there all New Orleans students were to have an hour of adoration where we could finally reflect on the significant day we just had.
I am going to be honest. As a talkative teenage girl, I was not too thrilled to have to sit in silence for the next hour. This time was somehow different. Not to be cliché, I felt as though a transformation was taking place in my heart. I immediately started sobbing as I felt such an immense appreciation for my life. My day was filled with standing up for unborn babies, but I had never once thought to step back and be grateful for the opportunity to even speak out against abortion. Many people, including myself, take life for granted and tend to be wrapped up in negativity. However, several other people, particularly the unborn babies, never get the chance to go to school, play a sport, or even stand up for what they believe in. A simple trip to Washington, D.C. quickly became a five-day physical and spiritual journey, and a change in perspective about the power I have in my opinions. I have discovered that, although the world is much bigger than I am, my voice has the power to stand for those who never could.