It’s been 40 years since the notoriously polarizing Supreme Court decision to allow abortion was passed into law. At the time in early 1973, predecessors Chaminade, Julienne and St. Joseph’s were still separate high schools, and the first members of the CJ graduating class of 2013 would not be conceived for more than 20 years.
Yet, as evidenced by this year's trip to the National March for Life in Washington, D.C., student support for the sanctity of life continues to be an important issue among the current crop CJ freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, and American youth at large.
Nearly 30 students made the decision to join an estimated crowd of 400,000 fellow pro-life advocates in our nation’s capital Jan. 24-27. Before departing, chaperone and religion teacher Karen Emmerich cautioned participants of the group’s arduous, four-day schedule. The physically and emotionally exhausting weekend is no “walk in the park” (or, rather, walk on the National Mall) for students, but it is an edifying and affirming experience, supplemented with prayer at every stop.
On Thursday morning March for Life participants gathered in the school Chapel for Mass with Fr. Matt Robben at 7:15 a.m. After attending their Period 2 and 3 classes, the group reconvened with Mrs. Emmerich and science teacher Maura Lemon, also a chaperone, back in the Chapel just before noon to take roll and board the bus.
Like last year’s trip, the journey began with a quick stop at Carroll High School. From there, Eagles banded with Patriots and made the nearly eight hour journey together to the Bethesda Marriott in Maryland, 20 miles north of their final destination -- the District of Columbia.
Friday, the day of the March, began at 5:40 a.m. for the group from Dayton. Students attended the Youth Rally and Mass for Life, held at the Comcast Center on the campus of the University of Maryland, before traveling to the National Mall. There, participants marched arm-in-arm to the steps of the Supreme Court building with large throngs of supporters.
“The experience can be overwhelming because you see all these people to your left and right holding signs, praying and chanting together,” sophomore Faith White described. She attended the trip with CJ for the second consecutive school year, but has made the journey with family members in years past.
“The amazing thing was seeing all of the men who were pro-life supporters because usually this is thought of as a women’s rights issue,” Faith said.
Among them were CJ students E.J. Cervantes '16, Malik Guy '15, Evan Sinnathamby '16, and Sean Colbert '16.
“I’ve always thought of myself as pro-life, but I wanted to see and hear other people's opinion,” Sean said. He was inspired to attend the trip for the first time after his mother, CJ religion teacher Lisa Colbert, told him about her experience as a chaperone in 2012.
“It was eye-opening to see that so many people have the same beliefs that we do,” he said.
Students spent the day after the March networking with peers, listening to guest speakers and working in breakout sessions at the Students for Life of America (SFLA) National Conference, conveniently hosted at their hotel on Saturday. Finally the following morning, CJ and Carroll attended Mass together at St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church before heading home.
“I would encourage anyone out there to attend this trip,” Sean said. “It’s a great experience to be in solidarity with these people who support the right to life.”
Faith agreed with her classmate and said she returned to school Monday even more strengthened in her resolve, but quipped that – for necessity’s sake alone – she hoped this was the last March for Life she ever has to attend.