February 6, 2020

During the weekend of Friday January 24-Sunday January 26, I had the profound opportunity to attend the March for Life in Washington, DC, USA. For those who do not know, the March for Life is an annual rally and march protesting both the practice and legality of abortion, held in Washington, D.C. on or around the anniversary of Roe vs Wade, a landmark decision issued in 1973 by the United States Supreme Court legalizing abortion nationwide. Conversely, it is considered to be the world's largest human rights march, often drawing more than 100,000 people in attendance each year.

On Friday January 24, I joined tens of thousands of people at the National Mall for the opening ceremonies of the March. This year, the March for Life welcomed President Donald Trump who gave his Presidential Address to those who came to march for the lives of the unborn. This was a historic March for Life, as it was the first March in 47 years where an American President was physically present and addressed the thousands of supporters who came to attend the March for Life. Following President Trump's Address and several other speeches, the March for Life began.

Led by thousands of people (the vast majority of whom were high school and university aged students), the March for Life began at the Washington Monument and processed toward the Capitol. This period of time was filled with prayer, song, but most abundantly - JOY! The joy of the tens of thousands of people who came to march for the right to life radiated beyond expression. It was truly impressive and moving to witness so many people of all backgrounds and religious denominations come together to strive for one common goal. I found myself engaging in dialogue with many participants of the march who travelled across the country to attend. Similarly, they had many questions for me pertaining to the pro-life movement in Canada, particularly regarding abortion and physician assisted suicide.

At the conclusion of the March for Life, I joined His Grace, Bishop Milan Lach, SJ, the Bishop of Parma of the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church and their group for an Akafist prayer outside of the Capitol building. Many people stopped and took a moment to observe our public prayer, sometimes requesting a book so that they could join in our prayer. There was something very powerful about this, and once again served as an example of people of all backgrounds and religious denominations coming together to achieve one common goal.

As I concluded my trip to Washington, I had some thoughts pertaining to the pro-life movement and what we as a Church can do to "walk the talk." I firmly believe in the power of prayer, and as a seminarian devote a considerable amount of time to this. However, I often pose the question to myself, and to others "can we do more?". When a woman is considering having an abortion, what are the factors surrounding her decision? Is it about finances? Is it about lack of support? Is it about circumstances? These are all very real factors that impact this very sensitive, challenging decision.

As a Church, I believe we can go beyond a pro-birth position, and seek to fully embrace a pro-life position. Offering financial aid to organizations who work directly with mothers (and fathers) struggling with this decision, or collecting things like diapers or baby food are simple, small steps we can take towards supporting people who are deliberating abortion. What kind of outreach can we offer people in our community whose reality this is? I believe that there is so much we can do that goes beyond our prayers, and offers tangible and immediate support.

This was an invaluable opportunity to have as a seminarian who is preparing for priestly ministry, and I would like to thank all those who contributed both prayerfully and financially toward making my attendance at the March for Life a reality, ultimately enhancing my seminary and priestly formation. May our Lord, through the intercession of His Most Holy Mother, bless each of us who seek to defend the lives of the unborn!

Alexander Pankiw

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