Local teens learned their voice matters in a peaceful demonstration against abortion.
Two buses with 73 people traveled from St. Mary Catholic Church in Hudson to Washington, D.C. for the annual Pro Life March on Jan. 27.
Ron Nowak, Youth and Young Adult Minister, organized the "Saint Mary's Life Teen" high school youth group for the trip.
"We go every year, barring weather," Nowak said. "In recent years it's been about every other year."
They visited the Holocaust Museum before the march on Holocaust Day, and survivors were present, Nowak said.
"We got to talk to some of them. That's incredible," Nowak said. "There are similarities between that and what is going on in our nation now."
Signs weren't allowed in the high security area near the guest speakers so the group waited on the streets and waited for the rally to finish before joining in the march, he said.
"I thought this year would be a political climate and thought people would protest the march," Nowak said. "We prepared the teens for that and [told them] not to engage anyone, but no pro-choice protestors were there."
Nowak said the march has been primarily a Catholic activity but they saw more banners from other churches and denominations.
"That's cool to see," he said. "We sang some church songs and did some fun cheers."
They also visited various sites such as the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception, he said.
"I hope that the young people learn that their voice matters, that each voice matters, in speaking out for those who cannot speak for themselves, namely those most vulnerable in their mother's womb," said Father Patrick Anderson of St. Mary church about the trip.
The teens talked about the experience on the bus ride home and some participated in a survey, Nowak said.
From the survey answers, teens were surprised by the number of marchers and the positive, peaceful protest. They shared emotional moments, which included seeing signs that said, "I'm a product of rape and I love my life" and kids with special needs marching with them.
Teens were asked on the survey to follow the theme of the Power of One and how they could defend life. They answered through prayer, standing up for their beliefs, peaceful debate and discussion, be knowledgeable about the church's beliefs and be a witness to Christ's love.
"The teens realized that all life is sacred from womb to tomb," Nowak said. "They see how if people don't speak up for injustice, history in a lot of ways, will repeat itself. Their voice matters."
Nowak said the youth made a positive example of what they stand for.
"It's changing lives and changing hearts," Nowak said. "They aren't the future. They are the present."
As important as it is to change the law, it's important to change hearts, he said.
"The Pro Life message for which they are marching goes far beyond the issue of abortion," Anderson said. "The Pro Life message is one that speaks of the inherent dignity of every human person from conception until natural death. We desire that each of our teens understand that we have the responsibility to uphold and defend that dignity no matter how developed or undeveloped a person is."
Abortion has become a political issue, Nowak said.
"What's is key is that there is a strong movement to support the mother and child," Nowak said. "It's not seeing one without the other."
Marches are not just about changing the law, he said. They're about getting involved.
Ministries help unwed mothers and help place the children, he said.
"Teens who get involved in high school, I see them getting involved in these ministries and being a part of the solution," Nowak said.
A lot of ministries are dedicated to counseling and healing of women who have had abortions, Nowak said.
"We leave it up to mother whether they keep the child or give up for adoption," he said.
Fr. Anderson said he would tell a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy, she is not alone and there is help.
"There are so many alternatives to abortion. Each should be understood and considered so that a good decision can be made," Anderson said. "I have worked with many women who have had abortions and live with such pain and regret and who are in need of so much healing. I have also met many women who were unwanted due to irresponsible choices and even rape but brought to term. They have told me how grateful they are to their mothers for their heroic choice to carry them to term. These two groups of women have witnessed to me that abortion is not the answer."
Even after the law (Roe vs Wade) is overturned, there will be a need to change hearts, to realize this is a form of injustice, Nowak said.
"There would need to be a reminder to society we support life," he said. "Fifty years from now people will look back and wonder how abortion was legal."