Sunday, January 25, 2009

Breaking News

Below you will find a copy of the article I wrote for Friday's Union Leader. I am told it ran on the front page. Since I can't get the hyperlink feature to work, I will cut and paste in below. Nice work to all those who went on the March!

NH youths in March for Life
Special to the Union Leader
Friday, Jan. 23, 2009

WASHINGTON – Fewer than 24 hours after the close of the final inaugural ball, Washington D.C. is once again abuzz with activity.

As the masses of humanity that witnessed the historic swearing in of America's first African-American President make their way home, another wave is just arriving.

They too come from every corner of the nation, are filled with an incredible sense of optimism and are emboldened by the audacity of hope. They invoke the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and are well-versed in the language of justice and equality for all.

The new wave arriving in the nation's capitol and filling its churches, gymnasiums, and streets, is young, energized, and passionate about defending the dignity of human life on the 36th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

- - - -

As the grand organ of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception boomed on Wednesday night, more than 16,000 people -- most of them under the age of 30 -- rose to their feet.

Pilgrims jostled for position as they occupied nearly every square inch of the Basilica. Nearly 1,000 priests and seminarians made their way forward in the opening procession of the National Vigil for Life Mass.

Among them was Manchester native Sara Boutin, a freshman attending with friends from Saint Joseph's College in Maine. Exhausted from a 12-hour drive, Sara sat slumped in her seat, which she arrived three hours early to secure. The best she could do was 10 rows from the back.

Taking part in a growing trend of youth activism, Sara and her friends spent the morning meeting with the Maine congressional delegation and even secured a meeting with Maine Sen. Susan Collins to discuss their opposition to the introduction of the Freedom of Choice Act.

The Freedom of Choice Act, which was the subject of much focus at the Vigil for Life Mass, would, undo any restrictions on abortion nationwide.

"We will need the help of all Catholic and pro-life organizations, as well as the participation of other Christian churches and all people of good will, in order to get the message to Congress that human life is sacred and must be protected," according to Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali.

Sara, for her part was pleased that Sen. Collins interrupted a busy morning for an unscheduled visit and hopes that she will decide to oppose the act should it be introduced.

- - - -

One of the busiest people at Vigil for Life Mass is Sister Miriam MacLean R.S.M. of Hudson, who serves as the Shrine's director of visitor services.

Sister Miriam oversees a massive organization of volunteers and coordinates logistics for 600 overnight guests who camp out in the basement of the Basilica.

Although this reporter spotted Sister Miriam in action, any hope of a sit-down interview was lost when the first busloads arrived.

- - - -

Partway through the 35-minute opening procession -- a virtual who's who of the American Catholic church-- six young seminarians from the Granite State filled with an "overwhelming sense of awe at the witness of the people and the reverence of their prayer" could be seen.

Jeff Paveglio, a 23-year-old seminarian and graduate of the University of New Hampshire described the evening's Mass "as a profoundly solemn occasion where the faithful are united in prayer for the cause of life."

His exuberance and that of the other seminarians was palpable as they eagerly prepared to serve in the evening's Mass. When asked if his mother would be watching for him on television as he took part in the opening procession, he laughed and responded: "Watching it? She will be taping it."

- - - -

Wednesday's Vigil is held each year in conjunction with the March for Life, which marks its 36th year standing in opposition to the Supreme Court's controversial Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Wednesday evening's enormous crowd seemed dwarfed when placed against the estimated 150,000 who took part in the March for Life yesterday.

Among them were six busloads of Granite Staters who made the long journey to take part in the national movement.

Greg Denis, 16, from Manchester, joined more than 120 of his friends and classmates from Trinity High School at the March.

He made the journey for much different reason than most. Sixteen years ago, Greg was placed up for adoption. Greg is marching to thank his birth mother for choosing life. He declared with a smile, "if I ever meet her, the first thing I will do is thank her for having me."

Greg admitted that this issue hits close to home, especially considering "my mom likely was in a bad situation and considered abortion as an option."

- - - -

Poignantly noting "the legalization of abortion almost cost me my life before it ever began," Liz, a 19-year-old from New Hampshire, knows all too well what it means to be in a difficult situation, scared and afraid of what to do.

She shared her story of how she became pregnant as a high school student last year.

"Suddenly, I felt as if I was alone in the world and that all my hopes and dreams came crashing down. I was scared. I did not know who to turn to. It was not until I was at the clinic scheduling my abortion that I knew what I needed to do. I started to get sick and realized I could not do it; I could not destroy my own child. I left the clinic, went home and waited a week before summoning the courage to tell my mom. When I did, I could no longer fight back tears. My mom responded with a loving embrace and open arms."

Liz fought back tears as she shared a picture of her beautiful daughter. "I just want other girls to know that within them is a great treasure and a beautiful life. I want them to know it is okay to be scared and to ask for help."

Liz shared how her life is different now, how her plans have changed, and how "listening to her heart saved not only her daughter's life, but her own."

As my interview with Liz ended, with sincerest conviction she said, "We will march until the world realizes that the greatest gift we have is not found in our bank accounts but in our human dignity."

Andrew Nelson is a Diocese of Manchester seminarian attending St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. He served as Trinity High's campus minister. He has reported for the New Hampshire Union Leader on Pope Benedict XVI's visit to America and Pope John Paul II's funeral in Rome.

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