The Servant Sisters of The Home of the Mother located in Jacksonville, Florida recently took a group of youth on a pilgrimage to Washington D.C. for The 45th annual March for Life. The March for Life is the largest Pro-Life rally in the United States. The rally is held every year to protest the legality of abortion ever since 1973 when a landmark decision was issued by the United States Supreme Court decriminalizing abortion. The march’s stated mission is “to provide all Americans with a place to testify to the beauty of life and the dignity of each human person”. The pilgrimage was filled with many blessings, some indescribable. We left on Thursday morning, January 18th to head to D.C. it was about a 10 hour car ride and on the way up the girls got to stop and play in the snow. We arrived in the evening where we were welcomed by a loving family who so graciously opened their home to us to provide comfortable and warm lodging and also prepared generous meals for us throughout our stay.
Friday morning we were up early to meet another wonderful family who provided us with transportation to St. Peters for the Florida mass before the march. It was a beautiful mass being surrounded by other Florida youth there to defend the unborn. After mass we were blessed to have a public speaker, Andrew Guernsey, talk to our group about his job as a Legislative Assistant for the Government Affairs team and he educated us more on the topic of abortions, natural family planning, and how to help those in need and try to prevent them from making the mistake of killing an innocent live. After the talk we walked to the march a few miles away. As we arrived at the march we were surrounded by thousands of others including youth, adults, and religious life from all over. One group we saw even came from Germany! At the march there were several wonderful speakers and for the first time ever the President of the United States even spoke. It was absolutely incredible to see so many there all for the same cause. At the end of the march as we were headed back we took a wrong turn and wound up at the wrong Church. Instead of St. Peters, we wound up at St. Josephs. We thought Jesus would like for us to go inside and say hello since we were already there and the doors were open. As we walked inside, there he was! There was Jesus! Adoration was going on followed by the benediction so we of course decided to stay and spend some time with him. It was one of the highlights of our trip and I am sure no one will forget. It shows us that he always has a plan and we just have to trust in him. After we left Adoration we went to another nice family’s home where another beautiful dinner was made for us. Ms.Mary O'Keefe shared her history with the march for life and how she had been there for the very first march 45 years ago! It was such an honor to be in the home of one of the very first marchers and to hear her testimony.
On Saturday, we were up bright and early again where we headed off to the second part of our pilgrimage. We visited the Shrine of Saint John Paull II where his first class relics are located! Talk about special! We toured the shrine and were blessed to have mass inside the shrine. After mass we had lunch in the fields of the shrine catered by Sister Megan Murray’s family. It was such a joy they were able to spend some quality time with us. After lunch we headed back into the Shrine where we got to pray, touch, and kneel before the relics. It’s said that if you visit the relics, pray the apostle creed, and go to confession within 8 days of the visit, you will receive a plenary indulgence. After visiting Saint John Paul II’s shrine we walked over to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady which is designated as the principal patroness of the United States! I’m pretty sure upon walking in everyone was in awe over how beautiful it was. The shrine is the largest Catholic Church in the United States and the second largest in North America. There are 70 chapels that honor Our Lady. Each one reflected the origins of the immigrants and religious orders whose generosity erected them. That day was a special day as the lay members of Home of the Mother who were with us got to renew their commitments in the Our Lady of Guadalupe chapel! We also met a new friend who also got to become a member of our youth while we were there! It was a very special day and pilgrimage to say the least. We went home to another wonderful meal and packed to get ready to leave on Sunday morning. We woke up on Sunday to attend mass at the church of All Saints that Sr. Alison Vandevoorde´s family attends. They also cooked us a feast for breakfast following Mass. It was a very special breakfast and we were all read a letter from Saint John Paul II reminding us to trust in Our Lord in what he is asking of each of us because he has a plan for us and not to fear him. We all returned home as different people than who we left as.