More than 1,000 Catholics from southeast Michigan to join half-million marchers descending on Washington, D.C., next week

DETROIT — Next Friday, Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C., will be filled with hundreds of thousands of marchers, walking on behalf of the millions who haven’t had the chance to walk yet — and the millions upon millions who never will. 

This will be the 45th annual March for Life, the largest pro-life demonstration in the United States, marking the somber anniversary of the Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion in the United States.

On Friday, Jan. 18, more than 1,000 parishioners from the Archdiocese of Detroit will join more than half a million marchers in a physical and spiritual pilgrimage in our nation’s capital. 

“As the Archdiocese of Washington prepares to host hundreds of thousands of pilgrims for the annual March for Life, many schools, parishes and pro-life organizations from the Archdiocese of Detroit are preparing to send these pilgrims of every age, committed in rain, snow, sleet or shine, to march for the dignity of every life,” said Kathleen Wilson, volunteer coordinator in the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office of Marriage, Family and Pro-Life Ministry.

Wilson said more than 700 young people from the archdiocese of planning to attend the morning rally and Mass at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18, where an estimated 20,000 other young people will be celebrating Mass and having praise and worship before going on the march.

Wilson is inviting all Archdiocese of Detroit marchers to rally beneath a large red “Unleash the Gospel” banner. The youth from the archdiocese will be gathering outside the Capital One Arena and head toward the National Mall and gathering before the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Interested pilgrims can be added to the group text alert for the banner’s location by texting “@det4life” to 81010.

Marchers make their way down Constitution Avenue during last year's March for Life in Washington. (CNS photo)

The March for Life has turned to an annual pilgrimage for many youth groups and schools; a chance to show young people that there is a culture of life, and that it is up to young people to be the next leaders of the pro-life movement.

Robert Salter, theology teacher and moderator of the pro-life club at Detroit Catholic Central High School, will be leading a group of 48 young men on a bus to Washington on Thursday evening.

“We emphasize through all of our theology classes that all human life has dignity,” Salter said. “One of the ways that is personified is teaching respect for others and for those who can’t protect themselves.”

“Secondly, it is really important for us as men, to teach young guys, that abortion isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s an issue of shared responsibility,” Salter added. “It is good for men to realize they are part of sharing the culture, too.”

Patrick Lee is a senior at Catholic Central and part of the school’s pro-life club. Lee said the annual march is morale booster for pro-lifers that carries through the entire year.

“Seeing not only how many Catholics show up, but the amount of young Catholics who showed up to attend the march, it shows this generation is on board with the Catholic teaching on this issue,” Lee said. 

Lee and other Catholic Central students will be joining students from other Catholic schools in the Detroit area for a pizza party after the march.

Catholic Central students are planning on a tour the Capitol and the Supreme Court and to visit Arlington National Cemetery, making a point to stop at President John F. Kennedy’s grave, who is buried alongside his wife, Jacqueline, and two of their children, one of whom died stillborn.

“Any time you can see people who believe in the same things you believe, it shows you are not alone, and that is a huge benefit,” Lee said. “When it doesn’t seem like you are supported in your beliefs, you can think back to the time when thousands of people were there, agreeing with you in body and spirit.” 

Cabrini High School students stand for life during a cold march last year in Washington, D.C.

In addition to school groups, pilgrims from various parishes and regions in the archdiocese are renting buses to make the trip to D.C.

Mimi Smith is a parishioner at St. Patrick Parish in White Lake and organizer of the “Footprints for Life” group that has been organizing a bus trip to Washington, D.C., since 2012.

“I think it is important that we need to stand up for life to be a witness,” Smith said. “It is a long trip, but a great reason to go is to be united with so many pro-life brothers and sisters. For me, it draws me to the body of Christ.”

Smith said the “Footprints for Life” bus will have around 45 to 56 people. The group’s bus will leave from St. Patrick’s and make a stop at St. Josaphat Church in Detroit before heading out on Thursday.

After staying two nights in D.C. with St. Damian of Molokai in Pontiac pastor Fr. Jim Kean, the group will head back to Michigan, making a stop at St. Anthony Chapel in Pittsburgh.

Smith said March for Life is an experience that one really needs to attend before one can fully understand the affect it has.

“I don’t tell people they need to go, but I give them my experience and say this is what could happen for them,” Smith said.

As marchers prepare to make their trip to D.C., in many cases a repeat journey, the importance of the mission will always be paramount, and always worth the march.

“The saddest time in this country will be when the furor over abortion and destruction of innocent human lives dies down,” said Gino Vitale, a member of SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Sterling Heights. “As long as the furor is still there, it is still wrong, and someone has to say it is wrong. We are inviting the Congress, the whole world, the media, that this is worthy story, this is a worthy cause.

“Watching hundreds of thousands of people coming up to Capitol Hill, and when they reach the top of the Hill, and you see the miles and miles of endless marchers, saying 'Look at us. We are here to give witness to a great wrong.' That is what it means to march for life, and it is something we have to keep doing.”