At least 80 Jefferson City Catholic school students, plus some of their teachers and parents, were part of the 2019 March for Life that on Friday worked its way through the streets of Washington, D.C.
The Diocese of Jefferson City had 270 people signed up this year to travel to Washington for the March for Life, including groups from schools, churches and other Catholic organizations in Jefferson City, Westphalia, St. Thomas, Eldon, Bland, Columbia and Rolla.
Not counting chaperones to accompany students — Helias Catholic High School sent 15 students; St. Joseph Cathedral School, about a dozen eighth-graders; St. Peter Interparish School, 34 students; and Immaculate Conception School, 22 eighth-graders, according to social media posts and accompanying pictures.
The March for Life is an annual anti-abortion event. The first march was Jan. 22, 1974, according to the event's website — one year to the day after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion.
Stephanie Worthen, a junior high science and eighth-grade homeroom teacher at St. Joseph Cathedral School, said after the march Friday that it was important for her to have gone, not only to witness the march and spread its message, but also to share the strengths and diversity of the Catholic faith and others in the pro-life community with her students.
"It's an amazing experience to come here, and it's important for us to speak to the truth about the importance of life," Worthen said. She added this year's march was her second — her first was last year — and she expects to make the trip again in the future.
Fellow St. Joseph teacher Annie Crider, who teaches religion for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders and eighth-grade homeroom, said her most meaningful part of this year's march has been hearing her students' thoughts about their experiences. "They're taking it in and really allowing it to affect them," Crider said.
"Nobody has to join, but it's a great opportunity for them," she said.
She said this year's march is her fourth, and though she said the demonstration's focus is rightly on abortion, it's "to also protest against all injustices against human life."
Crider and Worthen said their group was not present when Vice President Mike Pence addressed marchers Friday.
Pence and President Donald Trump made unannounced speeches Friday to the demonstrators at the march in support of them, according to the Washington Post. Pence and his wife reportedly came onstage to address demonstrators, while Trump had prepared videotaped remarks — as he did last year.
Pence was also scheduled to speak at a dinner that's been part of the 46-year-old march for the past 37 years.
"I really liked the inspirational speeches we got from people at our church," Tyler Wolken-Mealy said. Wolken-Mealy, a freshman at Helias, was referring to people who spoke before a Mass celebrated Friday at the Washington parish where the group stayed — St. Anthony of Padua. He added this year's march was his first.
Steven Houser, a Helias senior also at his first March for Life, said the march is not only a way to show his faith, but also a way to know he's not alone in the fight.
Helias next week is having its own "Pro-Life Day." The event's Facebook page states: "On January 22, the Helias chapter of Liferunners is sponsoring Pro-Life Day. It is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. For $1, students, faculty and staff may wear any pro-life shirt, or blue shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes to show their support for the unborn."
The Midwest March for Life in Jefferson City is scheduled for Feb. 2. A full schedule is available at www.midwestmarchforlife.com/.