By Lisa Bourne
The 2013 March for Life was held on January 25 in Washington D.C.
Hundreds of thousands of pro-life pilgrims traveled to the nation’s capital in the largest pro-life witness in the nation, an event that has been taking place since the first anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. throughout a mother’s pregnancy.
March for Life numbers for 2013 surged from the roughly 500,000 each of the last few years, to an estimated three-quarters of a million this year, attributed to the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the passing away last August of March founder Nellie Gray at age 88.
The pro-life movement is often called a youth movement, and to be sure, the young people involved get the fact that human life is sacred and there are no exceptions to that fact.
Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, has said that an estimated 80-percent of March participants are young people.
Much is made of the youth presence on the March and in the pro-life movement. The tidal wave of people who support life in today’s culture is indeed reason to hope.
Just as every life is precious, the life issue as it is today provides the perfect avenue to growth in faith for every soul, regardless of their stage of earthly life.
With throngs of teens in large groups on the four buses traveling with Iowans for LIFE to Washington D.C. for the March for Life, and with the hundreds of thousands at the March, comprised of large groups, dioceses and parishes from across the nation and beyond, why would one middle-aged man get on a bus from Iowa to go by himself?
Simply pick one of many samples of wisdom from Blessed Mother Teresa:
“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”
Mark McCurdy, 50, a civil engineer and member of All Saints Parish in Des Moines, was one of the many pro-life people who chose 2013 for their first March for Life pilgrimage.
“I felt called to do it in the past,” he said. “And this time I said, “I’m just going to do it.”
McCurdy, who is single, felt that with his 19-year-old daughter in college this year it was a good time to go. And aside from practical logistics there was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and McCurdy also attributed the Year of Faith as part of the motivation for him to finally go on the March.
“It just seemed like there were a number of things that aligned with this,” said McCurdy.
McCurdy had become involved in the pro-life group at his parish and has assisted in fundraisers for InnerVisions Healthcare and Ruth Harbor, as well as volunteered for other pro-life groups.
He believes it’s important for those who are truly pro-life to extend mercy, and he will engage in debates on the life issue via social media as part of his advocacy for life.
The March for Life however, presented something on another level for him, and the experience did take him out of his comfort zone in a lot of areas.
He had two main goals.
“One was to witness,” McCurdy said.
“I’m not in a group, I’m one person,” he said. “Nobody’s gonna know I was here.”
Even though he is just one person, McCurdy wasn’t concerned with that fact.
“This isn’t about me,” said McCurdy. “God is giving me this time in this life and this opportunity to put myself into that March.”
“It doesn’t matter if anybody knows I was there,” he continued. “It takes numbers to fill those ranks. Every drop in the ocean is just a drop. But it takes those drops to make that ocean.”
The other goal for McCurdy was the pilgrimage aspect of the March.
Marchers come back and consistently say that it changes lives.
Along with standing up for life, March participants suffer, in sacrificing to come on the trip, in the trials of traveling the distance to D.C., and in walking a long way for the March in the cold winter air.
They use their suffering to unite with Christ, and with the 55 million souls lost to abortion since Roe v. Wade. They go back home inspired because of the massive pro-life witness of which they were blessed to be a part.
“This falls in line with where my faith journey appears to be taking me,” McCurdy said.
Even though he did know some people on the trip, McCurdy made a point of taking time away to best accomplish the pilgrimage aspect.
“It gave me time for reflection, it gave me time to observe, and absorb things,” he said.
McCurdy got to attend a pre-March rally at St. Matthew Church where Project Rachel Founder Vicki Thorn spoke. He found her talk to be moving.
Something specific, scientific and powerful that he took away from the St. Matthew presentation is the fact than once a mother becomes pregnant, regardless of whether her child is delivered; her child’s DNA will remain physically in her body for the rest of her life.
It was the perfect prelude to the March.
McCurdy said it was a very spiritual experience to approach the March on his own and just go in.
When McCurdy arrived at the March site, the massive wave of pro-life presence presented the perfect doorway into something where he could let go and just let the Lord take him.
“I thought, “I’m just going to jump into the stream of humanity; I’m just going to march,” said McCurdy.
Then that’s exactly what he did, dive in.
“I was surrounded by all of this youth and people of all ages,” McCurdy said. “I’m really happy I did that!”
“I just went,” he said, “I decided to detach myself.”
People had told McCurdy he would be amazed by the youth.
“And they weren’t kidding, he said. “There were huge numbers. They bring all of that youthful energy.”
McCurdy said he doesn’t recall being where these young pro-lifers were in maturity when he was their age.
“That was a hopeful thing for me,” continued McCurdy. “To see all of those kids.”
As he walked he saw small groups from other countries and different Catholic traditions.
“You get firsthand experience of our Church being universal,” McCurdy said.
“I saw a small group of priests praying the Rosary,” said McCurdy. “I saw retirement-age people praying the Rosary. I heard groups of kids chanting back and forth, I saw a high school group doing a dance routine.”
The March officially ends at the Supreme Court. There, witness is made to the injustice of Roe v. Wade creating a Constitutional right where none existed, and the countless souls devastated by the law.
It is at the Supreme Court where speakers with the Silent No More awareness campaign, men and women, offer their experience of how abortion damaged their lives and the lives of loved ones.
Many Marchers stay and take in the power of their message before dispersing. But many others pause awhile and continue on in a stream that simply keeps marching.
March participants can take part as long or as little as they are able or care to, depending on their situation. The weather was very cold, and toward the latter part of the March it began to snow somewhat heavily.
McCurdy has health issues with his back, and he spent two-and-one-half hours in the March, despite the deteriorating weather conditions.
“Walking in the midst of all those people, and with the cold, those issues just didn’t affect me,” McCurdy said. “The emotional element numbs you to the cold and snow.”
Among the films viewed on the bus during the trip out to the March was the movie, “180.”
For anyone not familiar with the documentary, “180” demonstrates the undeniable parallel between what took place with Jewish people in Nazi Germany and what is happening today in the U.S. through abortion.
The movie chronicles people on the street being asked how they feel about abortion, about other various scenarios where life is threatened, and then their feelings on the Holocaust. When the logic is laid out, most realize and admit their support for abortion is flawed.
Another sobering aspect presented by, “180,” is that many people in the film were not even aware of the Holocaust, as are many people unaware of the specifics of Roe V. Wade, and what actually takes place in the process of an abortion.
As the snow began to fall toward the end of the March, McCurdy said he was gripped by the thought of the Nazi Holocaust and the ash of the burning bodies raining down in concentration camps.
“The way the snow was falling,” he said. “I immediately thought, “What kind of ash would there be from the bodies of 55-plus million?”
McCurdy also made a point of stopping by the White House during free time.
“I took just a moment of prayer for the conversion of President Obama,” he said.
McCurdy visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery as well. It was a powerful experience for him to be there during the somber and reverent changing of the guard.
As he stood with 2-300 people paying due respect to the sacrifice of military men and women, it brought a couple thoughts to his mind.
“I wondered, “Where will we put the tomb of the unborn baby?” said McCurdy.
“And I thought, “We understand the sacredness of life, but it’s limited. Would that many people do the same at an abortion mill?” he said. “That was a poignant moment for me.”
Visiting national monuments also made McCurdy think of the Statue of Liberty, and he said his thoughts juxtaposed the symbol of Lady Liberty with current efforts by the Federal Government to reduce and eliminate our religious liberty.
“It’s such a contrast that we have all these monuments that really conflict with what we’re actually doing,” said McCurdy.
During the bus ride back to Iowa, McCurdy was only beginning to process the March pilgrimage experience.
“That’s the question I’m asking myself,” said McCurdy. “This was not an end-point. This is a launching point.”
McCurdy believes he is called to act after undertaking the March for Life pilgrimage, yet he is content to allow God to let him know just what that action should be.
“I have to do something,” McCurdy said. “But I have to just step back and be docile, and let the Holy Spirit work.