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Students head to nation’s capital for March for Life rally

January 16, 2019

On Tuesday night, a group of Columbus students boarded a bus and departed on what has been described as a pilgrimage to Washington D.C., to take part in the annual March for Life.

The group is part of the Columbus Scotus High School Teens for Life organization. Members are accompanied by three Columbus High School students, Scotus faculty and parents, as well as members of the St. Bonaventure Rectory staff.

“The march itself is political,” said Scotus Chaplain Father Matthew Capadano of the March for Life, an annual rally protesting the practice and legality of abortion, held in Washington D.C. on or around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. “It is the trek to the event that is considered the pilgrimage.”

Capadano explained the difficulties endured by the students are a form of sacrifice. The time on the road in a cramped bus, the hectic schedule surrounding the march and the fact that most of the students will have to work harder upon returning home due to missed class time and homework assignments complicate things, he said.

Still, the students accept the demands of the pilgrimage, and through their perseverance, have reaped rewards. Senior Elliott Thomazin is making his third trip. He said that people hear statistics tossed around by pundits but actually being a part of something as big as the March for Life is a life-changing experience.

“Near the end of the march, you crest a hill,” he said. “I looked back and could see thousands of people walking behind me.”

Thomazin said that moment had a profound impact on him. It brought home the reality of what he was doing and the fact that there were so many people who believed as he did.

Another senior, Julia Pichler, is making her fourth trip. She is a Scotus Campus Ministry representative and a member of Teens for Life. She has participated in many March for Life events in Lincoln and other places. She said that those events are “cool and powerful,” but agreed with Thomazin that the D.C. rally is unmatched. She cites the Silent No More program as having the greatest impression on her.

“Hearing from women who have had abortions and the sadness that has brought to their lives was very powerful ...,” Pichler said.

Both seniors plan to continue their activism through college and beyond, they said.

Organizing the students for the trip is Scotus English teacher Angie Rusher, who is making her second trek as part of it. She said seeing the impact the experience has on the students is worth every second she puts into the effort.

“It is moving that we can provide a spiritual growth opportunity for our youth,” she said. “I wish we had something like this available when I was in school.”

Rusher is also the faculty sponsor of the Scotus Teens for Life. She took over from Cheryl Rambour, who works in the St. Bonaventure Rectory as the director of Family Faith Formation. Rambour was one of the main people behind reviving the program at Scotus.

Both Rusher and Rambour defer to Belinda Keiter as the prime mover of the March for Life effort here in Columbus. The director of Pastoral Ministry and Stewardship Development at St. Bonaventure Church in Columbus, this will mark the 10th March for Life for Keiter. She said she has seen participation grow from six students the first year to more than 45 students. This year, there are 37 students making the journey.

“My first experience at the march was so powerful, I knew we had to get more students to be involved,” she said. “We are blessed that so many have answered the call to stand up for the most vulnerable.”

Rambour agreed, stating that abortion is the most divisive issue of this time and thus needs the most decisive action by those who care to “fight for the babies.”

“The March for Life helps students see and hear first-hand the results of their efforts and the force that stands with them in this struggle,” she said. “It gives them a spiritual anchor and the knowledge they are not alone or outnumbered.”

In addition to participating in the march, students will be visiting various historical sites. On the itinerary are stops at the Gettysburg Cemetery, a tour of the Gettysburg Cyclorama, Natural History Museum, the Smithsonian and a viewing of the Declaration of Independence in the National Archives.

Spiritually, the students will be enriched with a visit to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, celebrating Mass at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine and Mass at Our Lady of Mary Shrine at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

The latter is a homecoming of sorts for Capadano, who attended seminary in Maryland. That was when he began to attend the March for Life 11 years ago. He has been to six marches as a chaperone and five as a priest. He has fond, and some not-so-fond, memories of the marches.

The positive highlights include the Mass with 25,000 in attendance and the singing. The less-than highlights are topped by the 2016 snowstorm which trapped the group in a bus on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for 24 hours. He said they had to use pizza boxes to dig themselves out after traffic began to move again. He hopes to avoid that this year.

Although the majority of the mainstream media will not cover the March for Life, Rusher said the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) – the global Catholic News Network – will offer live coverage beginning on Jan. 17. She said the Omaha Archdiocese (to which Columbus Scotus is affiliated) will have its marchers wearing bright yellow caps. Anyone should be able to spot the group on television.

“While the March for Life is a great event and means so much for so many – realistically, the chances of abolishing Roe v. Wade are low,” Capadano said. “Ultimately, the goal is to witness for the conversion of the hearts of those who may consider abortion.”

Jon Burleson is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at jburleson@lee.net.