Sylva parishioners inspired by pilgrimage to March for Life
WASHINGTON, D.C. — St. Mary, Mother of God parishioners traveled to the March for Life this year. We have gone in years past but what makes this trip so remarkable is that for the first time, we were taking our own bus from the Cherokee Boys Club. We were able to go because of generous donations and several fundraising efforts including Breakfast After Mass, a big hit among our parishioners.
There was 31 passengers including Father Casey Coleman, our pastor. The youngest passenger was Sabastian Colex, almost 2 years old, to several older adults who were going for the first time. We left very early for Washington, D.C., and on the way, Father Coleman led us in a pro-life rosary with a meditation by Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.
We attended the vigil Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Jan. 18 and stayed at Bishop O’Connell High School that evening. The next morning, we attended the North Carolina Mass for Life with others from our diocese before heading to the March for Life.
Some of the youth had never been to such an event, and the entire pilgrimage experience was inspiring for them.
“I was surprised by how many people were against abortion,” said Josiah Newsome, a ninth-grader. “It was a long, hard journey and I loved every second of it. I’ll definitely be going again next year.”
Malcolm Newsome, a seventh-grader, said, “I had a good time on the trip and would go again even though some parts were hard. I can offer up my suffering for the unborn.”
Parishioner Lynn Slusser called the pilgrimage “an uplifting experience.”
“It was easy to feel the Holy Spirit with us. It was also a special time to get to know our fellow parishioners,” she said.
First-time pilgrim Rebecca Burch, who joined us from St. Joseph’s Parish in Bryson City, reflected, “My first March for Life pilgrimage was very humbling and passionate. I broke down several times crying, my heart moved and my spirit stirred within me throughout it all. During the march, we went by a big billboard, and Father Coleman was leading us in the rosary. There (were sounds of) a crying baby coming from the speakers. As I looked up through my tears, I saw this precious aborted baby (on the billboard). I continued praying the rosary, only a little louder with righteous anger through heaps of sobbing for these tiny souls. ‘Have mercy on us and on the whole world,’ I heard beside us. For a moment I felt frozen as my eyes looked around hearing other parishes praying, chanting and singing with religious and priests everywhere. It was a lot for me to take in. Praise be to God! Love in action.”
Said Father Coleman, “This year as we were marching and praying the rosary, I couldn’t help but think about how wonderfully and relatively smooth everything had gone, especially since this was my first year really organizing the pilgrimage myself as a pastor. All of the help that I needed was given, in ways that I could not have imagined, and without that help the pilgrimage would not have been possible.”
“As I was realizing and thanking God for this,” he continued, “I had the distinct realization of Our Lady’s presence and how much she wanted it and wanted us to go, to witness for and with her, who is the Mother of all the living in Jesus her Son. So she was watching over us and protecting us and praying for us as we marched for her little ones. It was truly a beautiful and grace-filled experience that helps me to move forward in hope that Jesus has already conquered the world and in the end Mary’s Immaculate Heart will triumph.”
Ten young people participated in the national March for Life this year, and they walked away realizing that they can stand up for their faith and that it means something very valuable. We were supported by the parish as they prayed for all the people making the trip and through their generous donations. We would not have been able to do this trip without our family parish ensuring that we could. It has brought this parish and youth group closer together. We hope that next year more young people go with us.
“There are a bunch of people in the fight to end abortion. It brought some of us closer together and we stood up for something we believed in. I loved it,” said Holland Raming, a ninth-grader who has participated in the March for Life in years past.
“It was definitely an experience I will never forget,” said Peter Dodge an 11th-grader.
His sister Mary, a high school senior, added “I thought it was a great experience that I was able to do the March for Life with my brothers and sisters and to show how precious life is. I hope I am able to do the same next year.”
— Della Sue Bryson, correspondent