Young adults carry the Arizona for Life banner at the front of the Arizona for Life March along Washington Street Jan. 20. (Jesús Valencia/CATHOLIC SUN)
By Margaret Naczek
The Catholic Sun
A chilly overcast day did not deter the estimated 4,500 people gathered together Jan. 20 to celebrate life and raise awareness for the growing pro-life movement at the Arizona for Life March and Rally in downtown Phoenix.
Mary Fowler, a 15-year-old who attends St. Timothy Parish in Mesa, was excited to carry one of the banners at the start of the march, adding that she is proud to show what she believes in by fighting to end abortion.
“These babies are people too,” Fowler said. “I just wanted to fight for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.”
That was the message of the march and rally, organized by the Arizona Life Coalition — to be a voice for the voiceless.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who was one of the speakers at the rally, spoke of Catholics’ mission to be that voice and to lift up the dignity of human life.
“By God’s providence, you and I are living in 2018,” Bishop Olmsted said. “It’s God’s plan that we be His sons and daughters, that we be His voice on behalf of the voiceless in this time in history.”
The Arizona for Life march is part of a growing March for Life movement that started in response to the historic 1973 Roe v. Wade court decision legalizing abortion.
Jim Ward of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Scottsdale said ever since Roe v. Wade there has been an abortion war that pro-lifers are fighting. Rallies like this one are important because people can grow war-weary and tired from the constant battle, Ward said.
“I think we should show that we are celebrating life, and it’s joyful and beautiful and a blessed thing,” Ward said. “I think that is great as a witness to the whole community, and it’s great for the people here. Sometimes you get tired of working, but it’s nice to be inspired.
The event began at Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Phoenix. Thousands of people then made the roughly one-mile march to Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza where a series of speakers affirmed and energized the large crowd.
Marchers carried pink and blue balloons that read, “I am the voice.” Parishes from around the diocese carried banners, and individuals decorated signs with bible verses, Tolkien quotes and even Dr. Seuss verses.
Jamie Jeffries, who runs a non-denominational pro-life organization called Let Life Live, said she was most looking forward to the actual march because it was a way for her to show Arizona her goal of “having an abortion-free AZ.”
“There’s so many people here, and I’m excited to see how long we can stretch out on the actual march and see how many people here are moving as one,” Jeffries said. “That’s cool to me, moving as one, as a whole community, as a whole unit.”
The march and rally had a youthful atmosphere with participants dancing to the “Cupid Shuffle” or the crowd singing “Happy Birthday” to Bishop Olmsted.
Elliott Ayala of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral said the march is important to shake up today’s youth and teach them to stand up for life. Ayala said that he hopes the March for Life movement brings a concrete change — an end to abortion.
Teenagers such as 15-year-old Pierce Vittone of St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix had the opportunity to learn about different pro-life organizations and how they can act as voices for the voiceless.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new people who are with the organization, so I can know how to stand up for life and those who are defenseless,” Vittone said. “These babies don’t have anyone to protect them, and they need people to protect them.”
The rally which followed the one-mile march featured several well-known local and national pro-life speakers as well as several government leaders.
Marial Fecke-Stoudt of Ss. Simon and Jude was excited for the variety of speakers but especially Bishop Olmsted who began the event with a call to action and prayer.
“He’s such a strong leader in the pro-life community,” Fecke-Stoudt said. “We are so blessed to live in the Diocese of Phoenix because he is so strong, and he is an advocate for life.”
Speakers praised the state of Arizona for its constant push for pro-life legislature, something that Governor Doug Ducey spoke of when addressing the crowd.
Americans United for Life recently named Arizona the most pro-life state in the United States. Crowds loudly cheered as Ducey proclaimed Arizona’s support of human life and pro-love legislature.
Other speakers included international pro-life speaker Stephanie Gray who spoke about using the individual power of one to help many and Pam Tebow, who shared how the baby doctors told her to abort grew into Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Tebow.
From pregnant mothers to teenagers to husbands and wives to grandmas and grandpas, participants in the Arizona for Life March and Rally made their voices known for the voiceless.
“We love women and we love our unborn brothers and sisters,” emcee Elisa Medina said. “Today we march for both of them.”
As Fecke-Stoudt said as to why she is marching, “Everyone deserves to have a birthday.”