By Lisa Bourne
It has been noted that youth indeed continue to comprise the lion’s share of March for Life attendance, echoing the trend of the pro-life movement overall.
And the pro-life group at the Des Moines- area diocesan high school is living proof.
The Students for Life group at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines was once again part of the massive youth presence at the March for Life January 25 in Washington D.C.
Fifty-four Dowling Catholic students traveled with Iowans for LIFE to the nation’s capital for the 2013 March, an increase of about 25-percent over each of the last four years when Dowling Catholic student marchers numbered in the low to mid 40s, according to Duy Huynh, Theology teacher and moderator of the Students for Life club.
While official numbers for this year’s March for Life have been a moving target, some media reports, and witnesses from March veterans, have estimated that more than 700,000 March pilgrims descended upon Washington to march as a witness to the sanctity of human life.
March for Life Education and Defense Fund President Jeanne Monahan has estimated that roughly 80-percent of March participants are young people, and she said that this is cause for hope in the future of the pro-life movement and the influence it has on the culture.
Jeff Pierick, of Des Moines, has gone to the March the last four years in a row, chaperoning his children traveling to the March with the Dowling Catholic group.
“It’s definitely increased each year, and this year noticeably over last year,” Pierick said.
The Dowling Catholic students work throughout the year to continually be part of the surging trend of young people standing up for life.
Huynh has attended the March nine times, the first five years as a student himself, and the last four in a mentor role.
“The reason I do it is because of their passion,” he said of his students. “THEY want to do it. The kids know what’s important; too often we don’t give them credit for their convictions.”
“I read that more than one-half of Americans identify themselves as pro-life,” said Huynh. “The teens are now able to identify that this is a baby, there is a child growing there, and there’s an instinctive love for their brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Dowling Catholic student Brody McCarthy, 17, was on his first March this year.
“I thought it was going to be a really big NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference),” he said. “It’s so much bigger. The sheer number of people, it was incredible.”
“I loved it,” McCarthy said of the March for Life experience. “It was awesome seeing how many people felt so strongly about it. And it wasn’t just adults, it was teenagers.”
“It was just incredible to share Mass with people,” he continued. “And everything that surrounded it.”
McCarthy was moved by the Silent No More post-abortive group’s presentation.
“It was just really interesting, said McCarthy. “They gave their thought process, and how they immediately regretted it.”
Dowling Catholic sophomore Jake Dowd was on his first March trip as well.
“I liked it,” he said. “I like how there were so many people willing to stand up for what they believe in.”
It’s a really good experience, Dowd said, and recommends that other teens go if they have the opportunity.
What will he take away from the March pilgrimage?
“I’m pro-life, and I do pro-life stuff,” said Dowd. “I’ll take this experience and try to do more pro-life stuff day-to-day.”
Abigail Akers, a Dowling Catholic senior, was on her fourth March for Life this year.
“It’s just such a great movement,” said Akers. “Every year it gets bigger and bigger.”
“It’s so great to see all these young people coming together,” Akers continued. “There’s just so much power and fire in this movement.”
Her experience illustrated how the March for Life offers young people and all those who march a tangible way to witness, and reason for hope.
“I think we can do it,” said Akers. “It makes me feel like I’m doing something rather than just sitting home and praying.”
She would recommend to other teens that they go on the March.
“Because it will give you hope there will be change in the future,” Akers said.
Every March pilgrimage is powerful but this year has been quite different for Duy Huynh.
He and his wife Amy welcomed their first child, Madison, just over three months ago.
“Being with my wife for 23 hours in labor …” he said. “I’d been talking to this little girl for nine months … Everything changes.”
The fight before was on principle, Huynh said.
“Now for me it’s become a personal fight,” he said.
“These lives are completely entrusted to our care, we have to do something,” said Huynh. “Before it angered me, now it saddens me.”
“Truth wins out in the end of the day” Huynh said. “It’ll change hearts.”
Huynh is already considering ways to promote next year’s March for Life to Dowling Catholic students.
To have a hand in supporting the Dowling Catholic students in their efforts on behalf of the life issue, contact Huynh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Thanks to Catholic journalist, pro-life activist, and March for Life participant, Lisa Bourne, for this submission.]