By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald
Approximately 500 individuals on 10 buses from the Archdiocese of New Orleans will participate in the 45th annual March for Life 2018 trip to Washington, D.C., Jan. 16-21. This year’s theme is “Love Saves Lives.”
Joey Pistorius, outgoing director of the CYO/Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office, and Timmy McCaffery Jr., who will take over as CYO director March 1, will lead the trip. Pistorius will become director of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Catholic Counseling Service, also on March 1.
Pistorius said New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond and Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri will join the group in D.C. Archbishop Aymond will celebrate Mass the day of the March for Life – Jan. 19 – at Blessed Sacrament Church in Arlington, Virginia.
The group also will participate in the Louisiana Right to Life’s Geaux Forth event where Louisiana pro-life delegations will present educational information on the pro-life movement, and visit other sites around the nation’s capital.
“Our schedule is jam-packed all the way through,” Pistorius said, as it always is, with a new highlight added every year to the trip. In 2017, the group went to the St. Pope John Paul II shrine in D.C. This year, it’s the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“We wanted to make sure we gave everybody the opportunity to go,” Pistorius added, which was no small feat considering he had to procure 500 free admission tickets on the same day. “It’s breathtaking, eye-opening and shocking. It definitely will change your perspective about being pro-life. So, we are taking the kids there.”
At one of the youth nights during the trip, nationally recognized Nashville musician P.J. Anderson will play music and lead worship, and Mary Queen of Peace’s youth director Elise Bennett will be keynote speaker in the hotel ballroom where the archdiocese’s congregation is staying.
More than 10 years
John Smestad Jr., former CYO director and now head of the archdiocese’s Pastoral Planning and Ministries Office, started the archdiocesan March for Life pilgrimage more than a decade ago, said Pistorius, who has taken the trip seven times. Pistorius said the march offers an opportunity for faith formation by combining a pilgrimage for life with opportunities for Mass, confession and adoration, and an educational component that opens each participant’s eyes on the importance of voting and speaking out for life as well as being with thousands of others who have the same commitment.
“There’s always the educational piece – you get to learn about legislation and the effects that each individual vote has,” Pistorius said. “We vote for our senators and congressmen, and they are the ones that are enacting these laws, and kids get to see this.
“And, on the second level, there is the pilgrimage piece,” he said. “You have this long journey – almost 24 hours on the bus, so it’s a time commitment. With that comes, sacrifice. Kids are learning it is OK to be uncomfortable and going and doing something you may not do every day of the week. It’s a different side of evangelization – that advocacy of giving voice to those who have no voice.
“In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, we are committed to making this journey,” he said.
Pistorius said the Archdiocese of New Orleans is always blessed to have many religious on the trip. There is a chaplain on each bus, and seminarians and religious sisters are spread throughout the buses. On the way to the march, a curriculum is used that offers life topics such as human trafficking and what it fundamentally means to be pro-life. It’s a pre-evangelization process, Pistorius said, designed to break open the meaning of the pro-life march.
“The core of it is to learn something, to be formed in our faith and an opportunity to see how beautiful, diverse and big the church really is,” Pistorius said of the march.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.