Sometimes you don’t know how good you have it until . . . well . . . until you don’t have it any more. This was one of the conclusions I drew from this year’s March for Life, once I had recovered from it and was thinking clearly again.
There was a great turnout for the March For Life events from the Richmond Diocese. The Office for Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults coordinated buses, tickets (to the morning and evening Rallies for Life), dinner, and a prayer service for several hundred college, high school and middle school students. An energetic and enthusiastic crowd gathered at the PatriotCenter in Fairfax for the morning Rally and Mass. It was exciting to hear a great roar rise from our section of the stands when Bishop DiLorenzo was introduced!
Thanks to the wise planning on the part of the diocesan youth office – and some good luck – all three of our current Youth Apostles ministries in the Hampton Roads area (campus ministries from CNU and ODU and the high school youth group from Blessed Sacrament) shared a bus to and from the March for Life events. Six Youth Apostles on one bus from the Richmond Diocese: that has to be a first! More on the bus ride in a moment.
The March for Life is always filled with inspiring moments, and this year didn’t disappoint. I am always touched by the opening procession for the Mass at the morning Rally; the seminarians, the priests, the bishops – so many bishops! It’s amazing to see so many people at the March. Every year I make it a point to turn around and look over my shoulder when I get the top of Capitol Hill. After walking behind that huge crowd to reach that point I’m always convinced we must be at the rear of the group, but every year I’m amazed to see the crowd still stretches all the way down Pennsylvania Avenue and bends back out of sight towards the Mall.
This is all in the midst of predictable weather – predictable in that you know it will be bad! This year we had frigid temperatures and snow (I think last year was cold and rainy? – it all starts to run together). Our intern at ODU, Julie, is from Florida and had never been in falling snow before. We made sure she caught a snowflake on her tongue and we got plenty of pictures of Snowy Julie for facebook – if you’re going to be outside for several hours in winter weather in a slow moving crowd you might as well have some fun.
When I lived in Northern Virginia there were several years when I was not attached to a youth group and I was able to slip down to the March on my own. I remember at least one occasion when I woke up at the regular time, went to work for a few hours, then slipped out and drove to the Metro to catch a train to the Mall for the afternoon. Ah, those were the days.
Which brings me back to our bus. Things require a little more planning when you live several hours from D.C. In order to arrive in Fairfax in time for the morning Rally, our bus left Blessed Sacrament in Norfolk at 4:45 a.m. In order to get 17 sleepy college students there on time we met them at the CCM house on campus at 4:00 a.m. Don’t doubt there were some serious discussions the night before about the merits of staying up all night versus getting what amounted to a nap. Fortunately it was a wonderful double-decker bus. The ride up was rather quiet (as you might expect), but on the ride back we all watched October Baby on the video screens. We arrived back in Norfolk at 2 a.m. to find two inches of snow on the ground — more than they got in D.C.! And with that our 22-hour March for Life marathon came to an end.
The March was a great event for our students. They were inspired by the events of the day and returned with renewed resolve to stand up for life. But only after getting some well-deserved rest.
Chip Snyder, YA, is the director of the Youth Apostles community in Norfolk, Virginia.