Angela McCoy volunteers as chaperone on March for Life pilgrimage

Jan 25, 2018
March for Life

On Jan. 19, roughly 100,000 people from around the United States gathered for the 45th March for Life event in Washington, D.C. Among these individuals was Angela McCoy, administrative assistant in Academic Affairs at Newman.

According to its website, the March for Life is “a demonstration that stands against the greatest human rights violation of our time – abortion on-demand. The theme of this year’s March for Life is ‘Love Saves Lives,’ embodying the true spirit and mission of the pro-life movement by enlisting the power of love to empower others to choose life.”

Brigette Sponsel and Angela McCoy sporting their Newman bags.

A group of 750 students and their families filled the Church of the Magdalen for a “send off” Mass Tuesday, Jan. 16, which concluded with a blessing over all those traveling for the march. Priests, students and chaperones then loaded onto buses and left for their six-day pilgrimage.

After McCoy heard that her church needed chaperones for the trip, she and her husband signed up. This was her daughter’s fourth year participating in the March For Life, her son’s second year and McCoy’s first time ever traveling to the nation’s capital.

“It was nice to see what my daughter has been so passionate about,” McCoy said. “This really is one of her causes, so it was nice to get to experience that through her eyes.”

The first few days of the pilgrimage involved sightseeing and spending time in prayerful preparation for the march. An Adoration session was held the night before, and was set up as a reminder for participants to pray about what they were about to do, McCoy said. The group also prayed a rosary in front of Planned Parenthood.

On Friday, participants gathered for a rally at the National Mall before the march, but this year was different. President Trump livestreamed his own speech addressing the March for Life — making him the first U.S. president ever to do so.

March for Life
Crowds gather at the March for Life.

“It was neat historically to be a part of (the president’s address of the march), but also just to see the kids moved by the Holy Spirit,” McCoy said. “They are the hope for the next generation and are speaking for voices that can’t speak for themselves.

“A single voice can have a little bit of a ripple effect, but when you get that many people together, just think of the ripple effect that you can have,” she said. “They are hoping that they won’t be here 45 years from now, marching again, and that things will change. I think that collectively, all these voices of young people are coming together and someone is hearing them. Obviously, the president is hearing them.”

McCoy said the 1.3-mile march took around three hours to complete because of how many people participated. The march concluded directly outside the Supreme Court Building.

Newman sophomore Brigette Sponsel also attended the March for Life this year. This marks the third consecutive year that she has participated.

Sponsel said, “It was a very positive and uplifting experience — full of hope and joy. They really emphasized how each person can make a difference, whether it be negative or positive.

Bishop Carl A. Kemme and Bonnie Tombs, organizer of the march for the Wichita Diocese.

“I was very blessed that I could go and stand up for this social injustice. Being pro-life doesn’t mean you show up one day a year. We should all be treating each other with love and kindness and praying for mothers, their babies and their families. The biggest impact we can have on others is how we treat them, and this is one of the things that the march has taught me.”

In addition to the march, the trip came with many opportunities for sightseeing. McCoy’s group took a night tour of some major memorials including Lincoln, Korean War, Vietnam War, Jefferson and the Marine Corps. They also visited Union Station, the White House and Arlington National Cemetery, where they witnessed the changing of the guard ceremony being held.

One afternoon was set aside for chaperones to take students on tours of Smithsonian Institution and other museums.

“We broke off in small little groups, so we made sure that if a kid had a burning desire to go see the art museum, we would make sure they got to do that,” McCoy said. “Our group decided to visit the Holocaust Museum. I am a history major so that was a pretty neat experience.”

One of the most memorable moments of the pilgrimage, McCoy said, took place after visiting the shrine of St. Pope John Paul II. McCoy was chaperoning six girls from the group when three of the girls recognized a few religious Sisters.

“They stopped to talk, but the rest of the group was moving on,” McCoy said. “I was politely trying to say, ‘Girls, we have to move on,’ and one of the Sisters came over to me and said, ‘I understand that it’s about being at a certain time and place and you are here with a group, but this is what the march is all about. (It is about) this connection that these girls are making with the Sisters.’

“I thought, ‘You know, you are so right.’ And so I sat back and let them talk. Because you can go and protest, visit museums and things like that, but it is the connection these kids make with each other that is equally as important as being there.”