As throngs of people descended upon the nation’s capital on Jan. 24 for the 47th annual Rally and March for Life, Sandra Paveglio stood in solidarity with several dozen men, women and students along Lebanon’s busy noon-time thoroughfare.
Coordinating a Right to Life Rally at the intersection of Route 422 and 8th Street, where the noon bell tolls above Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Paveglio welcomed several dozen people – including students from Lebanon Catholic School – carrying signs and Rosaries as they publicly witnessed to the sanctity of human life.
“It’s a great event!” Paveglio shouted over the sound of passersby honking their horns in support of the display. “We make an impact with different kinds of signs, pictures of babies, messages that life is sacred and important, and awareness of what abortion is and how it harms women.”
“Sometimes pro-life witness seems a little scary and daunting to people, but it shouldn’t be, because we’re speaking the truth that life is sacred,” she said.
A joint effort of St. Mary’s and St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Annville, where Paveglio is chair of the Pro-Life Ministry, the noontime rally on the day of the March for Life is now in its 11th year.
It’s also one of several pro-life events hosted by parishes in the Diocese in solidary with the March for Life that took place in Washington that day.
“I think with the local aspect, if more and more cities will do it, the message will resound. That’s why it is good to see so many towns and cities across the states doing similar things,” said Paveglio. “And with a crowd like this, it’s how people get involved. If they can do something with a group of likeminded people, they’re more apt to come out and do something else. So we start encouraging them to come out to another pro-life event.”
The event in Lebanon concluded with a prayer service and luncheon at St. Mary’s Parish.
Prayer and Reflection at St. John Neumann
Twenty-five miles south, more than 60 people were attending a March for Life event at St. John Neumann Parish in Lancaster.
Now in its fourth year, the day’s events are coordinated by Tom Ramsbottom, who also promotes local participation in the 40 Days for Life campaigns in Lancaster every spring and fall.
“It’s just a great opportunity for those who come here to see that there are a lot of pro-life people,” Ramsbottom said. “We give them the opportunity to pray, to be educated, and to ask questions and respond. We don’t often get many opportunities to have a group of 60-plus people talking about abortion and pro-life.”
“One of the reasons I helped start this event is because, as we get older, it’s a long day to travel to D.C. This is really an informative day to be together with others who are promoting a culture of life, and to pray for it,” he said.
St. John Neumann’s March for Life event featured a daylong schedule that began with the celebration of Mass, a live stream of the March in Washington, and open discussion on pro-life efforts and issues. Featured speakers in the afternoon included Jill Hartman from A Woman’s Concern, a pregnancy and parenting resource center; and Deacon Mike Oles from Off the Streets, a ministry that helps homeless people secure stable housing.
Father Daniel Powell, pastor, led participants in a procession through the church sanctuary and to the parish’s outdoor Memorial for the Unborn. There, Father Powell led a prayer service before blessing the memorial, donated by Knights of Columbus Council 12532.
Dave Edgar, Pro-Life Chairman of Council 12532, said “It’s great that parishes at the local level are having events that allow people who can’t make it to the March for Life to still be able to participate today in the pro-life movement. We feel very strongly about keeping the pro-life message out there in the public.”
“Standing out on the sidewalk and holding a sign and speaking for life can be tough to do,” Edgar said. “We want to get people to step out of their comfort zone, and realize they’re not alone in their beliefs. Keep pro-life in your own hearts and minds, and live and witness it as you go about your lives.”
Solidarity at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
In Cumberland County, members of various area parishes gathered at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Mechanicsburg for Solidarity Day. It began with the celebration of Mass and included a live stream of the Rally and a screening of the movie, Unplanned. Attendees also participated in Eucharistic Adoration and the Rosary to pray for an end to abortion.
Solidarity Day began eight years ago, at the suggestion of Pete Fludovich, a longtime member of the parish’s Respect Life Ministry who found himself unable to attend the March for Life because of knee surgery.
“I couldn’t make the trip down to Washington, but I still wanted to be involved in something,” Fludovich said.
“It’s been very rewarding,” he said of the annual event. “We get people now from different parishes in the Diocese. Over the years, we’ve had a lot people who said they were too elderly or maybe not well enough to go down to Washington. They decided to stay here and attend the Solidarity Day. It helps them still be a part of it somehow. It’s a defining factor for keeping people involved.”
Just as the tens of thousands at the March for Life illustrate the solidary of pro-life people across the country, so too do the various parish events held in local communities, Fludovich said.
“It’s especially important that we support one another, especially in the world we live in, because so many factions are against us. We’re fighting evil. Hopefully, with the help of God, we’ll see an end,” he said.
Deacon David Hall, Pastoral Associate of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, said Solidarity Day, and others like it, unite the prayers of local people with those at the March.
“The March for Life is a huge witness of faith, and it’s so easily and usually overlooked by the press. Increasingly, it seems that they’re ignoring it, which should motivate us all the more to be strong, to be vocal, and to say this is something that matters,” he said.
(Contributing to this story was Rachel Bryson of The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness