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Hope, solidarity, joy, strength were the central themes that greeted pilgrims at the March for Life

For The Register
Washington — Pilgrims ranging from age five to adults traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the 46th annual March for Life. Among the pilgrims was also a mix of first time marchers and people who have gone on the march before. Hanover resident Carolyn Lickteig attended the march for the seventh time this year. “We love being with these young people because they’re energetic and we believe in the same things,” she said. This was the third time for her husband David, a retired school teacher, to attend. “It’s good for us because we see the students and the parents that allow them to go are committed, and they can see we’re committed to what we believe…it gives us hope,” he said.
Lindy Meyer of Concordia, organized the trip for the diocese. This was the ninth time she attended the March for Life. Memorable experiences include once while pregnant, and the following year with a 7-month-old baby. The 180 pilgrims departed the Chancery Jan. 16 and traveled via charter bus to Washington, D.C. Three diocesan priests, Father Brian Lager, Father Soosai Soosaimari, HGN, and Father Ryan McCandless accompanied the pilgrims and provided sacraments. The central activities were the March for Life and rally held Friday, Jan. 19. After beginning their day with Mass with Archbishop Joseph Nauman of Kansas City and other groups from across Kansas, the pilgrims gathered on the National Mall for the pre-march rally. Following a concert from Christian band Sidewalk Prophets were encouraging speeches from a wide range of presenters, both affirming their pro-life stance and reminding listeners how much work there is to do to end abortion Not only were the messages themselves empowering, the environment of the rally itself was edifying to participants. “Seeing the thousands of people pouring in from every side,” said Sarah Bergkamp, a junior at K-State. “When you’re standing there waiting for the rally to start you can feel the surge of energy from everyone cheering and chanting pro-life chants.” 
After the rally came the March for Life itself, where marchers peacefully walked down Constitution Avenue to the United States Capital building. The marchers spanned all ages and abilities. Young parents came with their newborn babies; adult children helped elderly parents through the crowds; caregivers carefully negotiated the wheelchairs and walkers of disabled marchers through the crowds. Groups sang hymns, shouted chants, or prayed aloud as they walked. “On the March itself it’s hard to describe the feeling you get,” Bergkamp said. “It’s a mix of so many emotions. You’re feeling sad because of the reason you’re marching but you’re also so excited and happy to see the turnout and that you’re not alone in this fight of abortion.” Although the trip was short — allowing 48 hours in Washington, D.C. — the group was also able to make time for some sightseeing. A small group was able to meet Congressman Roger Marshall where he thanked pilgrims for making the trip and gave them a personal tour of the Capital building. Others took tours of Washington landmarks such as the Vietnam and Korean War memorials, Arlington National Cemetery and the Holocaust Museum. All of the pilgrims were able to tour the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where the diocesan priests on the pilgrimage concelebrated Mass. 
The trip is long — 24 hours of driving one-way — which meant two overnight stays on the buses. “Attending the March for Life is not a vacation or fun field trip,” Meyer said. “It is a pilgrimage complete with many sacrifices.” The trip was also made longer by a bus breaking down in West Virginia, causing pilgrims from Hays and the surrounding areas to be stranded for five hours waiting for a replacement. Rain and snow in days leading up to the March meant marchers were walking through snow, slush and puddles. The return trip was lengthened due to a detour farther south to avoid an impending snow storm.
And then there were the sacrifices pilgrims made just to go on the trip. Many groups hosted fundraisers ranging from food sales to raking leaves to raise money, and paying the remainder out of pocket. Many adult participants, including teachers chaperoning students from their own schools, must use their vacation time to make the trip. Students in particular find it difficult to take the time away from their responsibilities. “Often times the students are questioned and even scrutinized for taking time away from school and other activities to attend such an event,” Meyer said. “We’ve had students receive zeros for each day missed. They are willing to take that blow to their grade for the cause and they should be commended for their witness.” Despite the hardships, the pilgrims reflected hope and joy. “Regardless of the inconvenience, discomfort, or circumstances the kids and sponsors are joyful and happy to give of themselves to speak up for the dignity of all life,” Meyer said. Above all, many marchers left feeling a renewed spirit to continue their pro-life efforts and prayer throughout the year, and to keep coming back for as long as they need to change abortion laws. “The March for Life is about saving lives by changing laws and changing hearts,” Meyer said. “Sixty one million Americans have been lost to abortion. It’s time to bring America back to life. We will continue to March until the last March is in celebration of Roe v. Wade being overturned.”

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