Among the hundreds of thousands who participated in the March for Life Jan. 19 in Washington, D.C., were 10 busloads of students and parishioners from Brooklyn and Queens.
Cathy Donohoe, president of the board of directors of The Bridge to Life, coordinated a bus leaving from Holy Family Church, Fresh Meadows.
She recalled how she had cut school in the sixth grade to attend the first March for Life in 1974 with her father. Since then, she’s been there for about 25 of the annual rallies.
She called this year’s experience “absolutely phenomenal from start to finish.” She explained that young people on her bus were asking questions, hoping to raise funds for The Bridge to Life.
“We’re up against a terrible culture of death in our city,” said Donohoe. “My goal was to fill the bus with young people, preferably if they have never been before so they can witness the enthusiasm of hundreds of thousands of their peers that believe that all life is precious and deserves to be protected. It’s their pro-life generation.”
She thinks the movement is moving in the right direction.
“The participants are younger and better equipped,” she added. “They know how to get the word out.”
“Women deserve better than abortion because abortion is a cop-out.”
She added that she felt women choose abortion because they feel they cannot afford safe housing and educational opportunities so that they know they can raise their children.
She said that in 2014, one in three babies conceived in Queens were aborted.
“Our mission at The Bridge to Life is to offer hope when there isn’t any hope and to save souls,” she explained.
Deacon John Cantirino of Immaculate Heart of Mary parish, Windsor Terrace, led the group that left from the Brooklyn diocesan headquarters in Park Slope.
“I think there were more people this year,” he observed.
“I think it was very positive and upbeat and it was much more talk about love for all people, even those people who might have had abortions or support abortions or other issues that oppose life. It seemed larger in scope and taking a different approach to the abortion issue. It really was more about compassion, the value of more praying for all of those involved in any way.
“Definitely I noticed a lot of young people, more young people. Maybe it was the weather, but more people seemed upbeat.
“Young people think for themselves, they’re not buying into what they simply have been told. They see the value in life. I think it’s a positive sign that the younger generation really sees it from their heart. I think that’s a really positive sign that the next generation truly believes this is more than a political statement and a political objective. They really believe it’s the truth and I think that shines through many of the young people,” he said.
Mary Ruane who attends St. Helen, Howard Beach, was attending her second march and found it to be exciting, wonderful, uplifting and exhausting. She gets emotional when she recalls the experience.
“I feel like we were walking the way of the cross with Jesus,” said Ruane. “I just feel that way and I thought how sad for the people who don’t understand how important it is. But (walking up) the hill, this was really like walking with Jesus to the cross.”
She hopes to see more young people from the diocese completely flood the march with their presence and see more media outlets tell about the spirit of the young people who made such an impact on her.
“It was a march of love and we were all there together, no matter what color, what religion, we were all there for the best reason.”
Alberto Jimenez, who is in the Confirmation class at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral, Prospect Heights, attended with nine other people from his parish, including other youth.
“It sends a positive message to such a sensitive topic,” said Jimenez.
Before Father Victor Bolaños, parochial vicar at Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary, Jamaica, attended the march with his parish, he previously attended as a seminarian.
“ As a priest, you are the one who is in charge, caring for them, checking that no one goes astray,” said Father Bolaños.
His leadership turned hours on the bus into group catechism: watching movies that were related to the topic, praying vespers, night prayers and the rosary.
Rita Hayden, of St. Francis De Sales, Belle Harbor, has helped coordinate local contingents to the march for nearly 30 years.
This year, she was grateful for the warm weather that welcomed her and three of her grandchildren, all boys, who attend St. Francis de Sales Catholic Academy.
“I just tell everyone if they haven’t been here, just come,” Hayden said. “There’s no anger, but everybody is so happy and upbeat and happy to be there.”
She feels that the crowd continues to grow and gets younger every year. What left a positive impact on her was three-fold: hearing President Trump and members of the Senate speak, the inclusion of fathers into the dialogue with the “I regret my loss of fatherhood” signs, and seeing more people of color in the crowd.