AUBURN –Tens of thousands of people gathered Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C., to participate in the 34th Annual March for Life in protest of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion. At the same time, approximately 40 people gathered outside Auburn’s Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate and prepared to start their own pro-life march to St. Mary Church, about a mile away.
Although their numbers were smaller than that of the national march, the Auburn marchers were just as dedicated to their cause.
"Abortion is wrong and it needs to be stopped because these kids are our future and we’re killing them and it’s wrong," junior Dan Sullivan told the Catholic Courier as he marched.
"Abortion is wrong. They’re innocent babies. What did they do to hurt anyone?" added his sister, Meghan Sullivan, a Tyburn freshman. She said she hoped the marchers and their signs would make passersby stop and think about abortion and realize it’s wrong.
Dan, Megan and their fellow students were joined on the march by a number of family members young and old and several interested members of the community. One woman pushed a jogging stroller with three children in it as she marched through the snow and slush, and several students marched hand-in-hand with their younger siblings.
Eleven-year-old Curtis Blackman said he decided to join the march because he’s learned about abortion and the pro-life movement from his mom and his older brother, who attends Tyburn Academy. He hopes the march will help bring an end to abortion because "everyone should have the right to live," he said.
Twelve-year-old Anthony Faioli and his 7-year-old sister, Francesca, are already seasoned marchers. Their family is very active in the pro-life movement, he said.
"I’m here because I’m against abortion and my mom was, and we usually go to all the marches," Anthony said.
This was the second year Tyburn students have marched to demonstrate their opposition to abortion. Senior Rachael Tissot started the march during the 2005-06 school year after learning that the national March for Life fell on the same day as one of her January Regents exams.
"My mom and I were talking and the idea just came up. I thought it would be kind of neat if we had a local one, so people who couldn’t go to the one in D.C. could go there," Rachael said during a Jan. 18 interview.
She organized the 2006 and 2007 marches with help from several Tyburn teachers, including Mary Schultz, advisor of the school’s Teens for Life organization. Rachael obtained the necessary permission from the City of Auburn to hold the march and arranged for the Auburn Police Department to provide a police escort for the marchers, who traveled down several side streets and a portion of Routes 5 and 20.
"We ask for a police escort, just for safety," Rachael said.
Rachael also helped plan a short prayer service following the march to St. Mary. Planning the march and prayer service really wasn’t that difficult, she said, and all the effort will be worth it if the events help people get excited about the pro-life movement and the need to end abortion.
"We try to promote life by having these marches. I really love life and I love other people," Rachael said. "I want everyone to experience that and to respect it because we know that everyone is a gift from God, and we really need to look at things that way and speak up for people who don’t have that voice to be heard. Everyone deserves a chance at life, and we don’t have the right to take that away from them."
In both 2006 and 2007, about half of Tyburn’s students attended the national march in Washington, and the other half attended the local march. Although she’d spent weeks planning the Auburn march, this year Rachael elected to attend the national march because she’d been looking forward to participating in it for several years. It was hard for her to delegate some of the last-minute tasks, but she was confident she’d left the march in capable hands.
Tyburn junior Jaime Mullin was one of the students who marched to St. Mary Jan. 22. She carried a sign with the word "Who will speak for the little ones?" in large, brightly colored letters. Jaime said she was marching because abortion kills innocent babies every day, and she thinks that’s wrong.
"As soon as I found out about (the march) I knew I wanted to do it," Jaime said as she and the other marchers left Tyburn and headed for the church.
Classmate T.J. Dygert said he was participating in the march because he feels Catholics are called to voice their opposition to abortion. T.J. said he’s always known abortion is wrong, but he didn’t pay much attention to why it’s wrong or what abortion really is until he came to Tyburn as a freshman.
"Before that I didn’t really know what happened," he said. "I hope this (march) raises awareness of abortion because I don’t think everybody in America really understands what it is, and I think they need to."
The bell tower of St. Mary Church looming ahead was a welcome sight for the marchers, most of whom had bundled up against the below-freezing temperatures. Inside the church, they prayed the joyful mysteries of the rosary and prayed for an end to abortion.
"The boy Jesus was filled with wisdom. Let us pray that all people may see the wisdom of his teaching about the dignity of life, and see that this teaching is not an option but the truth," T.J. said as he lead the marchers in praying the fifth joyful mystery of the rosary.
At the conclusion of the prayer service, the marchers picked up their signs and headed back to the street for their march back to Tyburn.
"It’s a powerful message," Principal Jeanne Hogan said of the march. "We feel that it’s important to stand up and let people know where we stand with this."
"This is our voice, and this is what we’re saying. We want to respect life and stop abortion," Rachael said, noting that she hopes such demonstrations will help bring about change. "We just hope that we don’t have to do this much longer."