CHICAGO (ChurchMilitant) - March for Life Chicago leaders are showing how to take the energy of the march beyond the day and into the fight for life.
The March for Life Chicago is billed as the largest pro-life event in the Midwest. This year's march is January 14, 2018, beginning at Federal Plaza, 50 W. Adams Street, at 2 p.m. CST. Church Militant spoke with Dawn Fitzpatrick, president of the March for Life Chicago, about the importance of the pro-life mission and coming to the march. She said this wasn't the time to protest Gov. Bruce Rauner's betrayal of the pro-life movement for signing the bill allowing taxpayer funding of abortion that he had promised to veto, but it is the time "to show our support for life from conception to natural death."
Church Militant also spoke with the keynote speaker for the Rally and Rose Dinner, Ramona Treviño, a former Planned Parenthood worker and author of Reformed by Grace. She said she is an example of this year's theme — "Love Saves Lives." Treviño said, "I absolutely believe that I am an example because it saved my eternal life." She explained, "I was loved out of the abortion industry," adding, "I was loved first by God and secondly by the Church."
Fitzpatrick noted the importance of attending the rally because "we are growing in numbers and the more things like what Governor Rauner did happen, the more people want to come together." She explained pro-lifers need to come together in solidarity to "show the world what it means to be pro-life, which is a positive thing."
"A march is a very easy way to stand up for what you believe in because there are so many positive people there," Fitzpatrick said, adding, "It's just a fun thing to do." Treviño agreed, saying, "Public witness is one of the ways we get people's attention."
Fitzpatrick told Church Militant that there is a whole weekend of pro-life events planned for the city of Chicago. She said Gary Schleppenbach, associate director of pro-life activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be providing an update on national legislation at the Rose Dinner on Saturday. There will be a Youth Rally and Mass at the Frances Xavier Warde Catholic School just before the Mass at Holy Name Cathedral where Cdl. Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, will be presiding.
There is also an Aid for Women Mass and Brunch and numerous special Masses at Catholic churches throughout the city. Fitzpatrick said that she has never seen so much support for the march, explaining, "The chatter is huge!" She noted the trend has been that the march grows by 1,000 people each year. She is estimating the crowd to be around 6,000, though she admitted she would love to see 10,000 people attend.
Fitzpatrick sees a correlation between abortion and the problem with violence in the city. "If you look at the trend of the violence and how it's grown astronomically, so has the number of abortions since 1973 when it became legal." She noted, "People that don't respect the most innocent life, don't necessarily respect the life that's in front of them."
Treviño said the theme of Love Saves Lives also references our immortal life. "When we think about life, oftentimes, we think about our mortal life; we're not thinking about our eternal life," Treviño said, adding, "If I had still been at Planned Parenthood, I don't know where I would end up at the end of my life."
I am grateful because it has allowed us to continue our dependence on God. If we didn't have these hardships, I don't know that we would have grown in our faith the way that we had, and we would have lost sight of what was really important which is our faith and our relationship with God.
"It was hard to take that leap of faith," Treviño explained. She said they did not have the benefit of support from And Then There Were None, a nonprofit that offers free financial, legal and employment help along with spiritual and emotional support to abortion industry workers looking to leave the business of death. "The workers that leave the industry, they're wounded," she said.
"When I think about love, I think about mercy. When we show love to people, that is really an act of mercy." Treviño noted. She reminded pro-life advocates to not focus on the immediate "save." She explained that sidewalk counselors and other advocates can often be short-sighted when they are working, saying, "We don't see that this has a long-term ripple effect on people's lives."
"We forget, and we lose sight that we are dealing with not just the baby's life, the human mortal life, but we also have to consider the eternal life of the mother and the eternal life of the father." She told the story of a woman going into an abortion mill who was stopped by a sidewalk advocate who said, "I love you, and I'm praying for you." She said that one little prayer was the spark of conversion for that woman many years later. "It was a little flicker of light in a very dark world," she said.
Treviño explained that to take the march's message of "Love Saves Lives" beyond the march, pro-life advocates need to "find something that they can get involved in, whether it be in front of an abortion facility or just praying every day." She said even "lovingly expressing your opinion on abortion on social media" can be the action and urged everyone "not be afraid."
Fitzpatrick also gave a way to continue the march's message. She said prayer is of "huge importance," because it has brought the pro-life movement to where it is today. She also said that it is also important to "take your prayer into action," noting through prayer, "God will tell you, you need to go and take action." Fitzpatrick also explained that "It's helpful to be a public witness with prayer," explaining there will be many opportunities to do so this weekend in Chicago.
Fitzpatrick urged "Standing up, in a loving way, for life."
More information about the march can be found here.