“For Love of Christ and His Children”: Seminarians Attend 40th March for Life
25 January 2013 • Off–Campus • Virginia Nieuwsma
Every year in the chill of an early January morning, students, staff, and friends of St. Vladimir's Seminary meet at 4:30 a.m. to catch the bus to travel to Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life. It's a long day that doesn't end until the bus arrives back on campus at midnight; throughout the day, participants will endure freezing temperatures, crowds, hours on the bus, and a long walk in the nation's capital.
Seminary marchers are quick to say the effort is worth the inconvenience. Now in its 40th year, the March for Life draws hundreds of thousands of people from all over the United States for a peaceful rally and walk on the National Mall that ends at the steps of the Supreme Court. People brave the cold January temperatures to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in all fifty states, and to call for greater protection and help for unborn children and their mothers.
In the last few years, the Seminary's contingent has increased, as more students and friends of SVOTS have journeyed to D.C. to join with other Orthodox Christians in the March, including most of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and seminarians from St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, PA. Orthodox marchers sing as they walk, and participating clergy and hierarchs also offer a short panikhida for the unborn as a part of the day's commemorations.
This year, the St. Ambrose Society, the Seminary's student–run Pro Life advocacy group, planned the day's activities, with assistance from Chancellor/CEO The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, who also rode the bus with the students. Enroute, the riders viewed a video about the work of Good Counsel Homes, a local ministry for women and children supported by the Society.
Third–year Seminarian Dn. Andre Paez, a Society member and one of the trip's planners, created a YouTube diary of the day. "The faculty, clergy, seminarians, students, and friends who take the time to go to the March do it because they wish to demonstrate their love for Jesus Christ and their love for the unborn children He has created," explained Dn. Andre. "We march in order to remember the 56 million aborted children that have died because of Roe v. Wade over the last 40 years."
In a gesture appreciated by the crowd, His Beatitude The Most Blessed Tikhon, primate of the OCA, along with the bishops of the Holy Synod, sang the hymn "Grant Rest and Eternal Repose, O Lord" from the platform, rather than from the sidelines as was their practice in previous years, enabling all of the crowd to hear the prayer. People responded to this rendering of the hymn with absolute silence and respect, rather than offering applause as they had been doing for other speakers and musicians.
"Overall, it was a great trip" said Dn. Andre. "People of all ages and backgrounds were walking together, singing songs, praying, and speaking out for the unborn children and women who are victimized by abortion."