March for Life Pilgrimage
Sr. Ann Terese Dana, OSB on 04/11/2016
My pilgrimage to Washington DC for the “March for Life” started out fairly normal. Normal, even though it snowed the entire trip. We had heard there could be a major storm on the East coast, but we were on a mission to go and stand up for the right of unborn babies to live. The “we” of our group are 350 high school students and their chaperones on seven buses from the Archdiocese of Omaha. Also on each bus were a priest and a religious sister; including Sr. Celine, Sr. Gabriella, Sr. Inviolata and myself; from the Norfolk Priory.
It is a rigorous trip but these students are so alive in their faith and on fire for this cause, chanting when asked “How are you going to do it?” - answering “With sacrifice and prayer” – sacrifice offered up due to very limited space on the crowded bus with long traveling times. Amenities brought along were cell phones, iPads, movies and lots of snacks. We did get a day of sightseeing, with a highlight being The Holocaust Museum; and ending the day with “Life is Very Good Evening of Prayer” which included a crowd of 5000, Christian bands, speaker, adoration and confession. The students’ enthusiastic participation in all this is very edifying.
The weather reports of a giant storm kept coming in, but it sounded like we would be able to make it out of Washington DC and get north of the storm to head home. So we stayed for the “March”, along with thousands of others, to walk in peaceful protest of the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion in the USA. We had a mission to complete. And that we did, marching the 1 ½-mile stretch of Constitution Avenue toward the U.S. Capitol. Many joined in chants and prayed as they hurried along the route.
Unfortunately the snow had also started falling as the march began, a couple of hours early. We left immediately at the end of the march, having completed our main purpose of the trip; with a few regrets that we would miss a day of sightseeing on Saturday by cutting our trip short by one day – the sacrifice. The snow was falling heavily and traffic started backing up quickly. After traveling only about 20 miles in a couple of hours, we got stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike about 7:00 PM and never moved until that same time the next night. We were in the middle of 500 cars, buses, and semi-trucks stuck along a 22 mile stretch of interstate, eventually getting buried in 2 feet of snow. With enough food, gas, electricity, and a bathroom available; we never felt in danger; just a great inconvenience, and a bit of anxiety in not knowing when we might start moving again. At noon this surrealness led to a snow altar being built right next to the stranded buses, with about 500 people coming out of their vehicles and gathering along the hillside to participate in one of the most marvelous Masses we’ll ever enter into.
With some initiative by our chaperones to start digging out some of the semi-trucks which had the hardest time moving through the snow; we started moving slowly out by evening. It was another day and a half to get home. After reflection of the whole event, I have such hope in this very young high school and college generation who are trying to make a difference following the path of Jesus. The students did not complain and kept upbeat all along the way. God designed this trip to help us make our point – the value of life from the womb. Past years the media has avoided talking, or even commenting on the “March for Life” even though it involves tens of thousands of people. By being involved in the storm and stranded, the event got global attention. May God continue to lead us along His path.