An Alternative Pilgrimage

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester has released Pilgrims for Life: a digital guide for prayer and advocacy, which “offers ideas and resources for us to continue our strong, Pro-Life advocacy even though we won’t be boarding busses [sic] to D.C. this coming January.”

Some of us have wondered whether COVID concerns might affect diocesan-sponsored transportation to the January March for Life in Washington DC. Now we know. I’m a little sad, but not surprised. I’ve been on some of those diocesan pilgrimages to past Marches, and “social distancing” is at best an amusing notion in that environment.

The March goes on

The national March for Life itself is still scheduled for January 29, 2021, regardless of how scarce bus transportation might be. The Roe v. Wade decision will be 48 years old on January 22, and it still needs to be challenged socially as well as judicially. There’s no word yet about New Hampshire’s own 2021 pro-life rally and march in Concord, which is usually scheduled and managed by New Hampshire Right to Life independent of the national event.

While the annual diocesan bus caravan has always carried hundreds of people to the national March, it’s not the only way to get to Washington. Some faith communities arrange their own bus or carpool. I’ve taken the train from Boston to Washington, overnight both ways. I’ve flown down and back in a day, when I’ve found deep-discount airfares. There’s always I-95. If you want to get to the March for Life, you have options.

Pray, Advocate, Unite

The Pilgrims for Life program is not a virtual march. (I like it already.) It is intended to be an ongoing program of prayer, advocacy, and unity leading up to the March, to “build up a culture of life in New Hampshire and beyond.” To summarize briefly the 13-page guide:

Prayer will include special services at churches throughout the diocese in mid to late January.

Advocacy includes taking action on relevant public policy issues, including life-issue bills in Concord.

Unity – “unit[ing] our intentions, prayers, and actions around the same cause” – includes a suggestion to take the money one would otherwise have spent on a trip to Washington and donating it instead to a pro-life cause. I love that idea. A DC trip for me, even a one-day down-and-back sprint, is easily $200. That includes a couple of bucks for an indispensable hot pretzel purchased from a vendor on the National Mall. (I travel in style.)

The guide has many more ideas for your consideration.

What’s your plan?

If your own church or community group decides to head down to the March, let me know. I’d like to hear about your experience. If you typically make the trip but decide to forgo it in 2021, I’d like to know if you decide to participate in a local effort instead.

I still haven’t decided on whether to travel to Washington for the March. It is an extraordinary opportunity to meet and learn from people from different backgrounds with different pro-life ministries. If I go, I’ll cover it for my readers as usual. If I skip the trip, I’m confident there will be plenty to write about here at home.

For more information: Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, Respect Life and Pilgrims for Life

On the March in D.C.

The 2020 March for Life in Washington will go down in the books as the first one ever addressed in person by the President of the United States. (You can see the video and read the transcript here, courtesy of the Susan B. Anthony List.) He brought more news coverage to the event – possibly just to cover his speech, but I’d like to think the March itself got more coverage as well.

I don’t need anyone to tell me how significant was the President’s presence. The March has gone on every year since 1974, and not even Ronald Reagan ever came in person. Yet I hope President Trump understands something: he has more to learn from the pro-life movement than the pro-life movement has to learn from him.

I did not go to the mainstage rally at the March. Many of the names on the schedule were already familiar to me. I was happy to yield my place on the Mall to someone who was hearing them – not to mention seeing the President – for the first time.

I went to a side rally. More like a meetup. We were all in sync as far as being pro-life, and beyond that we had all kinds of differences. (And that’s fine.) I met new people, heard their stories, learned new things. And then we marched.

Photo in post header: my view from the middle of the March. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

Notes For Your 2020 Calendar

This is a short list of a few pro-life-related events coming up in New Hampshire (plus one down in DC). I hope this inspires you to pencil in a few things on your calendar. The list is incomplete, but I hope you’ll find something useful. (One frequently-updated source of information is the @nhprolifevents page on Facebook.) I close out this final post of 2019 with a few words about the 2020 elections in New Hampshire.

January 4, Saturday: Epiphany vigil outside Planned Parenthood at 24 Pennacook Street in Manchester, 2:00-3:30 p.m., organized by the Manchester 40 Days for Life team. Bring gifts of diapers, wipes, and baby items for the Pennacook Pregnancy Center. A gathering at the pregnancy center will follow a vigil of prayer and hymns.

January 11, Saturday: New Hampshire March for Life, Concord. The march itself begins at the State House at 11:45 a.m., but that’s only one part of the event. Check out New Hampshire Right to Life’s web page with all the details.

January 18, Saturday: If the abortion advocacy of the New Hampshire Women’s March makes no sense to you, you’re not alone. Pro-lifers had a presence at last year’s march, and a similar gathering is planned for 1/18/20 in Concord.

January 24, Friday: National March for Life in Washington, DC. If you’re going, I hope I’ll see you there. If you’re not, I hope you’ll watch for my report from the march, probably including a brief Facebook Live update.

February 26 (Ash Wednesday) to April 5 (Palm Sunday): the next 40 Days for Life campaign, in three New Hampshire locations: Manchester, Concord, Greenland. Watch this blog’s Facebook page for shared updates from the campaign teams.

Elections: They’re Everywhere

Do you live in Hooksett? Do you know that there’s a special election being held to fill a state rep seat from your town? Well, there is. A three way Republican primary will be held on January 21 (Democrats fielded only one candidate), and the general election will be on March 10. You could ask the candidates something simple like “will you vote for a bill to protect children who survive attempted abortion?”

The New Hampshire First-in-the-Nation presidential primary is coming up on February 11, 2020. It’s no secret that there are lots of Democrats running. You might be surprised to know that a slew of Republicans are running as well. Check with your town clerk for information on sample ballots, absentee voting, and your eligibility to vote.

Your town and school district elections will be in the spring, with dates varying among towns. Don’t neglect these races. Among other things, the people who win in town elections often decide to run for higher office later. They show their form first at the local level. Pay attention.

Every state elective office, from state rep to state senator to Governor and Executive Councilor, PLUS a U.S. Senate seat, will be up for grabs in November, with the primaries for those races to be held in September. Have you ever wished that the New Hampshire House had more pro-life members? Well then, have you considered running? It’s a big decision and not one to take lightly. Don’t let that scare you. The filing period for candidates is in June.

With that thought, I’ll see you in the new year. Make it a good one.

Whirlwind March for Life in D.C.

Unlike my trip to the March for Life last year, I had only one day off for this year’s March. I managed to get there and back in 21 hours. Don’t try that with kids, colds, or bad weather.

I’m not a fan of the formal pre-March pep rally; I’m already pepped or I wouldn’t be there. Instead, I talked with a group from Canada that comes every year to stand along the parade route to cheer. They decline invitations to walk in the March, as near as I can tell; one of them told me “we’re here to thank you.” I went to the New Wave Feminists meetup outside the shuttered Air and Space Museum (government shutdown in progress), where I heard from two amazing, courageous women whose stories were new to me. I ran into Dr. George Harne of Northeast Catholic College in Warner, N.H., who was with NCC students at the March.

It was fun to see students having a blast with Washington’s modest snow cover. I saw this snowman on the National Mall, propping up a sign from Feminists for Life.

I was determined to get a photo of the March crowd coming up Capitol Hill, which is hard to do from within the crowd – quick turn, hold up the phone, snap a photo and hope for the best – so I figured I’d get out ahead of the March and take a photo from the middle of the road. Nope, said a nice policeman. So the blurry image in this post’s gallery, taken as I teetered on the edge of a curb, was the best I could do. To see the size of the March, I recommend EWTN’s television coverage, along with this time-lapse video from Students for Life.

I ventured into the world of Facebook Live to give an assignment to viewers not at the March: call or tweet or visit or write our federal representatives, who are solidly pro-abortion – the ones from New Hampshire, at any rate. Let them know there’s a March going on; invite them to check it out; let them know that you don’t want your tax dollars being used for abortion or to subsidize abortion providers; and above all, let them know that Roe isn’t “settled.”

It’a an open-ended assignment.

Because This Isn’t Settled

The team at the national March for Life has invited people to post their own reasons for marching for life, using the hashtag #whywemarch. Check that out on Twitter and you’ll find some good material. Here’s my contribution, recorded in Concord just before the New Hampshire March for Life on January 12.

https://leavenfortheloaf.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/WhyWeMarch2019.mov

Why do I march? To let my elected officials close to home and in Washington know that debates over the right to life aren’t settled and aren’t over. We have work to do and we’ll keep at it.

The New Hampshire march took place under a beautiful blue sky on a 15° day. Afterward came the customary post-march gathering on South Main Street, where volunteers from Christ the King Parish had wonderful soups and sandwiches for everyone. Keynote speaker at the gathering was Neil Hubacker, whom I know through my work as a communications consultant with Cornerstone Action. I loved his theme of “Meeting the Unexplainable with the Unexpected,” illustrated by examples of New Hampshire people doing low-key things in pro-life ministry that are making a difference in people’s lives even if the headlines aren’t there. Encouraging stuff!

Photos & video by Ellen Kolb

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