The U.S. March for Life

by Andorra Howard

We have taken part in two major events this year: the huge annual March for Life and the Students for Life Summit. Many of you know that this was the first March for Life since the overturning of Roe vs Wade (the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States).

No one knew how things would unfold. Would lots of people come to celebrate this decision? Would fewer come because they thought that fight had been won? Would there be a fierce and possibly violent counter-protesters demonstration?

Well, the answer couldn`t be clearer. Thousands came! Joyous, raucous youth, old-timers bursting with pride, all kinds of groups, kids, students, celebrities. And very few counter-protesters.

We at MH Washington started our participation the day before at a Mass for Pro-Life leaders and invitees. What a beautiful show of support from the Church in the persons of several bishops and many clergy, religious and lay people!

At the reception afterwards, we ran into old friends and people our local director Shatzi knew and knew of from her pre-Madonna House days when she worked full time in the Pro-Life Movement.

Shatzi introduced me to Bishop James Conley from Lincoln, Nebraska, a beautiful down-to-earth man, personable, open, a true shepherd. And—a beekeeper like me!

On the day of the march, Beth Holmes stayed home to give hospitality to whoever would drop in before the march and to set up refreshments for those who would drop in after it.

Shatzi and I started the day at the youth rally and Mass sponsored by the Sisters of Life and Knights of Columbus. It was extremely well done and organized.

The presentations were excellent, but what stole the show was a “sister act.” Sister Mary Casey is a Sister of Life nun. Her twin sister Casey has Downs Syndrome. Together they gave a testimony and the joy-filled charismatic electricity emanating from Casey lit up and energized the whole arena.

As for the Mass, many bishops concelebrated, and approximately 4,000 youths, including seminarians from all over the country and beyond, attended.

Then we were off to the big moment—the march itself.

When we arrived at the mall, we thought we had missed the presentations, but we got the main one. Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus in The Chosen, a television series about the life of Christ, gave a clear, impassioned speech laying out the work ahead and exposing the works of darkness at play in the media.

His first suggestion for the way forward was: “Pray the Rosary!” This shout was accompanied by a roar of exuberance, recognition, and power!

On our nation’s mall with the Capitol building large in the background, he was unabashedly waving a rosary before a crowd of thousands! Who would ever have imagined such a thing!

Shatzi was amazed by the changes in the Pro-Life Movement since her time there twenty years ago. It is much more Catholic now, but this cause of colossal importance has united Christians of all denominations and none.

Billy Graham`s son said the closing prayer immediately after the proudly Catholic, rosary -waving, Jonathon Roumie finished his speech. It felt like the dawning of a new era!

When the march was over, we went home to host our after-the-march open house, something that we offer every year. And at that event still another special encounter occurred.

As we were doing the last-minute readying of the house, I looked up to see a young woman walking towards me. She introduced herself as Sofia. I didn’t know her or any of the other young adults coming in behind her. But she entered with wonder, joy, curiosity, delight. You could see it in her eyes.

Sofia had been a member of one of the new communities, and she had read lots about Catherine and Madonna House. She had always wanted to visit a Madonna House, and here she was in one at last! And seemingly miraculously so!

She and her friends had just finished the march and were heading somewhere when she remembered that we have a house in Washington.

She pulled out her cellphone and stared in disbelief as the map told her to turn right. She was at our street corner! This is so-o-o Madonna House, so how Our Lady works in her houses. We do our bit and she takes care of the rest.

On Saturday, the day after the march, Shatzi, Michelle Kuhr (a former working guest at Combermere who was visiting us at the time) and I, with some assistance from Shatzi`s nephew Wyeth and his best buddy Jaxson worked at our table at the annual Students for Life Summit. This is a summit sponsored by the Students for Life (a huge pro-life organization), and this is the first year we had a booth.

About 2,400 students from across the nation took part in this summit. The high achievers were in full force. The presenters were mostly their own 30-year olds, who are articulate, informed, professional, dedicated and “unstoppable” like the title of the Summit. The event was well funded and high tech.

So many people stopped by our booth that I thought I would be hoarse by 11 a. m. (We started at 8:30.)

It was such a delight to see Michelle smoothly taking on visitors to our booth while we each took turns for breaks or workshops. We talked with little people, big shots, even a gal who had done a documentary on the first women at West Point and won a national award for it. As a sophomore!

Visitors to our booth included seminarians interested in every aspect of our life from cows to priestly formation, students who had met Madonna House at the SEEK 23 Focus Conference in Missouri, former working guests, and two students from British Colombia who know our house there and who are planning to go to Combermere this summer.

Shatzi was able to connect with old friends and those in directorial or policy forming positions in the Pro-Life Movement. Connections were made, addresses exchanged, prayers asked for and a beautiful scene occurred at the end of the day that spoke volumes: Michelle huddling with another young woman she had just met.

They were sharing their struggles and dreams. Michelle’s suggestion for next year: put two chairs next to our table so that we could more easily visit with people and give them a bit of the Madonna House experience.

How to describe Madonna House in Washington? In explaining Madonna House to an Encounter group using our house for their retreat, Shatzi said, “In reading our sign, ‘Madonna House,’ you already can know a lot about us.”

Yes, it is Our Lady’s house, her home where she invites everyone in. It is not that house of ostentatious earthly power, the White House, or the House of Representatives. It is the humble house of Nazareth, where more goes on than meets the eye.