Father Bob Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples, is seen here taking a selfie with youth from the parish at the Jan. 24 National March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Hundreds participate in local and national walks

Sarasota | Prayer warriors in Sarasota and Washington, D.C., stood as witnesses for life in late January marking the 47th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision which cleared the way for legalized abortion in the United States.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane was at the centerpiece of the two events, first Jan. 21, leading the 22nd annual Prayer Walk for Life at an abortion mill in downtown Sarasota, then Jan. 23 and 24, accompanying about 473 youth and young adults from the Diocese to Washington, D.C., for the National March for Life, the largest gathering of pro-life advocates in the nation.

Co-coordinated by the Diocese Respect Life Office and the Office of Evangelization, the group that traveled to the March for Life represented mostly youth groups from 10 different parishes, each of the Diocesan Catholic high schools, as well as several Diocesan priests. In addition, there were groups from Ave Maria University and the Ave Maria School of Law.

The pilgrims first participated in the Jan. 23 Vigil Mass for the March at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at which Bishop Dewane and the priests were concelebrants. The next morning the group took part in the Youth Rally and then the March for Life itself. The pilgrims wore distinctive blue, gold and white scarves to identify them as being from the Diocese of Venice.

Several of the pilgrims were first timers, experiencing firsthand the unity of hundreds of thousands of other young people who were standing shoulder-to-shoulder for the protection of life.

One teen participant from Naples said the experience was powerful beyond explanation. “It was incredible to be a part of something so huge. Many think my generation doesn’t care about anything. I saw people just like me from across this country who really do care. That is the message I hope everyone heard. We care about the unborn babies. We care about the mothers. We care about life!”

At a Mass at St. Martha Parish preceding the Sarasota Prayer Walk for Life, Bishop Dewane praised those who came out to participate in the walk noting that it is a continuation of the ongoing effort to seek an end to abortion in the United States. While the trend of public opinion has been in favor of ending abortion, the Bishop said much more work needs to be done. Participating in a prayer walk is an important component of this effort.

During the walk, held on a cold morning, hundreds took part in the vigil, praying and carrying signs that read “Pray to end abortion” in front of the regional headquarters for Planned Parenthood, the largest abortionist in the nation. The walk was on a Tuesday, the day abortions take place. So, the public witness of the large number of participants made a powerful statement.

Fran Butler of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish took part in the walk and has done so in Florida and near her full-time home in Ohio for more than 20 years. “I know we make a difference. The people in the cars passing by must notice our presence. If it makes them think about it, even for a moment, we are having an impact. We have to be out here, because we have to speak for the babies who never had a chance for life.”