The trip to Washington is considered a retreat experience by Meehl.
“We have the priests there. A lot of kids want to go because they hear it’s a fun trip and they love babies,” she said. “It is such an opportunity for us to witness to them on the gift of life because we live in such a culture of death and contraceptive mentality and many of them are not aware that that is not what God intended. If they are going to change abortion you have to change that mindset. We had many opportunities to talk to them about this.”
The day of the Jan. 22 march started with a two-hour praise and worship youth rally and Mass at the Verizon Center. There were 21 bishops present, including Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, and 21 pro-life members of Congress. That night (before), the Fox Valley group was at St. Augustine Church for two-and-a-half hours of adoration.
Cassian Utrie, 18, a senior at Xavier, and a member of St. Pius X Parish in Appleton, was participating in the march his third time.
“The first time, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” he said. “But I really liked the experience. You always hear about the crowds but it’s hard to describe, the feeling you get. Every year you come back and you’re fired up about your faith.”
The marches have inspired a long-term goal in Utrie, who now wants to get into political work. “I want to be involved in the legislature overturning Roe v. Wade,” he said.
Eighteen-year-old Sarah Thiry of Holy Spirit Parish, Kimberly/Darboy, who is also a senior at Xavier, was a newcomer at the march.
“I’ve done a lot of mission work but I wanted to try doing something different and grow in my faith,” she said.
There were several significant moments for her. “The trip wasn’t ‘fun’ per se. It was pretty emotionally draining,” Thiry said. “But the Mass at the Verizon Center was amazing, just to see you’re not alone in doing this. I was proud to be a Catholic.”
During their stay in Washington, the students had the opportunity to view the original U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence at the National Archives plus tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. On their last day at the Capital, the students prayed in front of a local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.
Sarah Thiry said that praying at the abortion clinic made her realize what was going on behind the closed doors.
“Life is a gift and I know I take my own for granted,” she said. “The moment you really think about it, you don’t live the same way anymore. The little things that I used to do and get caught up in, I don’t do anymore. As you begin to receive the gift of life you want to be that same gift for others.”
This pilgrimage was special for Thiry and it’s something she hopes to take part in again.
“I think sometimes it takes one of these kinds of experiences to feel the presence of God,” she said. “It was really the perfect time of year to go; you really do get wrapped up in school and everything. You kind of need a reason to be with God — the one thing that really matters.”