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2005 March for Life: A Humbling Experience
By Pearl Homiak

On January 24, 2005, close to 200,000 people gathered in Washington DC for the annual March for Life. The event proclaims the sanctity of human life and will continue yearly until Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, is struck down.

Every year I have seen pictures of people marching down Constitution Avenue in Washington DC to proclaim the sanctity of life, and every year I have wanted to be there. So this year I decided to go, even though the trip almost didn't happen.

Snow began pummeling Chicago Friday evening, January 21st, the day before our departure, which caused some uncertainty. Nevertheless, all 22 participants arrived at O'Hare Airport in time for our planned flight. A gate change, the late arrival of our plane, and subsequent plane-wing deicing amid continually falling and blowing snow did not prevent our take-off, even though all other flights after ours that day were apparently canceled.

We arrived in Washington DC a few hours late and drove to the centrally located Hyatt hotel, which was the March for Life headquarters. To save money, we stayed three and four to a room at the crowded Hyatt, which was brimming with enthusiastic marchers.

That first evening some of our group attended the fun-filled Rock for Life Concert at another location, while the rest of us relaxed and/or visited the numerous pro-life information booths set up in the hotel. At the booths various people and religious groups, including a motorcycle club, Catholic nuns, and even children, shared information about their organizations and sold pro-life T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons, books, etc.

On Sunday morning we attended Divine Liturgy at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church. That evening we went to St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral (OCA), near St. Sophia, for Vespers. The route to both churches passed numerous foreign embassies, and it was fun to guess which countries (not always obvious) they represented. After Vespers we prepared the large posters we would carry in the March for Life the next day.

On Sunday afternoon several of us trekked to the Space Center and American History buildings at the Smithsonian Institution. We returned to the hotel in time for a pizza supper and enthusiastic discussions in one of our rooms.

Monday morning, the day of the March for Life, we arose early and, after breakfast, walked down Constitution Avenue to the Ellipse (the large open gathering area in front of the White House). Thousands of other marchers filled the street and the Ellipse. We eventually found the "Orthodox Christians for Life" banner and joined the many Orthodox marchers.

Following our banner through the tight press of very cordial people, we lined up on Constitution Avenue to await the beginning of the March. I followed an Orthodox lady with two children in tow and a third child in a large stroller and managed to get right up close to our banner.

The three-hour March for Life was truly a humbling experience. Closely packed marchers stretched from curb to curb on broad Constitution Avenue and far down the street. Metropolitan Herman and Archbishop Job steadfastly led the Orthodox marchers as we sang various hymns, such as "O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance..." The noble purpose driving the March was reflected in the numerous pro-life signs, flags, and the thoughtful faces of all participants. In spite of the unplowed and unsalted streets of Washington DC, and the snow storms that kept more marchers from attending, tens of thousands of people from all over the United States were there.

As we Orthodox marchers approached the Supreme Court building behind the Capital building, Metropolitan Herman stopped on a nearby sidewalk corner to hold a Molieben service for all the babies killed by abortion. Both Orthodox and non-Orthodox people gathered around him. As the Metropolitan chanted the service, snowflakes began to fall. Since each snowflake is unique, perhaps, as Fr. John Kowalczyk expressed, these snowflakes represented the 4 million unique lives ended by abortion since 1973.

After the March, we headed back to the hotel and then on to Reagan Airport for our flight back to Chicago. Will we go again next year? We're already planning it, and we hope more Orthodox Christians from Chicago will come with us to this very moving and profound statement of Orthodox faith in action.

Metropolitan Herman has stated: "As Orthodox Christians, our concern for proclaiming and protecting human life cannot be separated from our call to stewardship of all creation... And if the world is to understand that all life-that all creation, in fact-is a sacred gift, it will only do so if we, as wise and faithful stewards, share the Good News which has been entrusted to us."

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