Pilgrims from Brooklyn join the annual rally
WASHINGTON — When President Donald Trump addressed the annual March for Life in Washington on Jan. 24, he became the first U.S. president to do so in person, as he spoke at the rally that drew tens of thousands of pro-lifers, including hundreds from the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Crowds at the 47th national March for Life cheered as the president touted his administration’s pro-life achievements — from promoting conservative judges to making sure no federal funds will be used for abortions.
“All of us here understand that every child is a precious and sacred gift from God. Together, we must protect, cherish and defend the dignity and sanctity of every human life,” Trump said. “When we see a child, we see the magnitude of God’s creation.”
The president also promised that he will veto “any legislation that weakens pro-life policies or encourages the destruction of human life.”
More than 350 pro-lifers from about 20 parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn joined the annual pilgrimage, making the four-hour trek to Washington and returning later that day.
Divina Tunacao, a parishioner at Queen of Angels in Sunnyside, came to the march with a bus full of parishioners from St. Teresa’s, Woodside; St. Matthias, Ridgewood; and her home parish.
When she was 25 years old, Tunacao found herself unexpectedly pregnant and unmarried. Her family initially discouraged her from having the baby because of fear of widespread shame in their small town in the Philippines. Tunacao ignored their pleas and chose to have the baby “out of love for the unborn,” she said. The child is her now-adult son, Glenn, who today has two children of his own.
“I share my story because it really shows there is grace, there is hope, there is courage, in God’s plan. I wouldn’t have a son, and later, my daughter. I wouldn’t have grandchildren,” Tunacao, now 62, said. “I am pro-life because my faith makes me a strong single mother.”
It’s Tunacao’s 10th March for Life, and she said she will continue to walk to defend the unborn every year.
The national march on Washington is the biggest, Christian-led pro-life demonstration among dozens of rallies across the country. It’s held annually on or near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the U.S. People of all ages, faiths and backgrounds converged on the National Mall, marching peacefully and listening to speeches from activists, political and church leaders in the movement — and for the first time, a U.S. president in person.
Jeanne F. Mancini, president of the March For Life organization, urged attendees to send messages to their lawmakers supporting pro-life legislation such as the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which protects infant survivors of failed induced abortions.
“We recognize that a woman’s capacity to have a child is not a liability, it’s a gift. And it’s a beautiful gift,” Mancini said to a cheering crowd of thousands. “Will you help to make abortion unthinkable?”
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., chairman of the US Bishop’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, led the opening prayer at the rally. While marching toward Capitol Hill, Archbishop Naumann spoke to The Tablet about the presence of Catholics from all over the nation, Trump’s remarks and the theme for the march, which was “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.”
“It reminds us that being pro-life is being pro-woman, pro-child — and the idea of putting mothers against their children, telling them the only way they can thrive is by killing their child, is a great lie,” Archbishop Naumann said. “Women suffer greatly because of it. So we need to provide mothers in a difficult pregnancy with the best resources. There are already thousands of pregnancy resource centers across the country … We want to increase that and decrease the number of abortions, if not by the law, then by love.”
Archbishop Naumann encouraged Catholics to be “pro-life and pro-active,” keeping their faith not only “within church doors, but out into the streets and legislatures as well.”
He also said the president may be “controversial with many people, but one thing that’s not controversial is that he’s truly done more for the unborn than any other president in our history. So for that we have to salute and applaud him, as he’s the first to address the March For Life. It’s yet another indication of his support and the strength of that support.”
Meanwhile, New Yorkers said they were marching with extra enthusiasm, especially one year after New York state’s controversial Reproductive Health Act was passed last January, expanding abortion rights.
“The womb has become some sort of weapon, like artillery,” said Father Michael Panicali, parochial vicar at St. Mark’s in Sheepshead Bay. “We need to see the value in womanhood, and not weaponize it. The truths are being falsified with contraceptive, abortive mentality. Are we doing enough to tell parishioners to engage in the political process? The way we can effect change is through our elected officials, who make the decisions and cast votes.”
“I think we’re going to see and hear a lot from the New York-area dioceses coming down to march, because of the act,” said Christian Rada, director of Marriage, Family Formation, and Respect Life Education for the Brooklyn Diocese. “Even some pro-choice advocates say it’s gone too far … It is actually anti-women.
“It’s not just a laity or clergy issue, it’s a universal church issue. It affects all walks of life,” Rada said, adding that he marches every year year for his only son. “Even the Gospel itself is a Gospel of life, and if we are people of the Gospel, then we need to be witnesses of it.”
One such young witness is Emely Abreu, 19, a member of the youth ministry at St. Michael Parish, Sunset Park, and president of campus ministry at her school, St. Joseph’s College, Clinton Hill.
Abreu skipped class to be at the march because “this is something God wants me to do.”
“I’m here as a witness to my friends, especially to my peers in New York, where it’s hard to talk about being pro-life,” Abreu said. “Because I’m not going to stay quiet about what I truly believe — even when society pushes you down and makes it uncomfortable. It’s okay to be uncomfortable and speak up for what you truly believe in.”