Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley addresses the crowd assembled on the National Mall in Washington D.C. for the rally preceding the March for Life. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
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WASHINGTON -- More than 500 Boston pilgrims on the Youth Pilgrimage for Life to Washington, D.C. joined a March for Life crowd of 500,000 marching to the steps of the Supreme Court in the cold and snow as witnesses to the Gospel of Life.
One pilgrim said he would have marched even if the weather had been worse.
"The march was amazing this year. I think the fact that we experienced it this year in the cold, in the snow, actually made it even more powerful, because it made us a much more powerful witness to the capital. It showed them how determined this cause really is, and how much we are willing to give," Eddie Goodwin, 20, with St. Francis Parish in Dracut's Young Adult Alliance, said.
"Not that we suffered, being from Massachusetts, I mean we are used to a little snow, but we are willing to go out there regardless. I mean, I would have gone out there if there were lava chunks, because this is truly a cause that I believe is worth fighting for," he said.
Whatever the weather, numbers attending the march have continued to grow in recent years.
Speaking in his capacity as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley told the crowd assembled for a rally on the National Mall before the march that the legacy of its founder Nellie Gray, and the pro-life movement are not going away.
"The march grows stronger every year," said the cardinal.
He also welcomed metropolitans who joined the March for Life on behalf of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Like last year, social media technology played a role in the online presence of the march, as the tag #marchforlife trended on Twitter and marchers uploaded photos to Facebook.
Cardinal O'Malley read a tweet to the crowd from Pope Benedict XVI.
"I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life," Pope Benedict XVI tweeted from his Twitter account @Pontifex.
The Boston pilgrims arrived near the Mall by bus in the early afternoon, and joined the march up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court from just outside the Federal Trade Commission building on Sixth Street.
Father Michael F. Sheehan, FPO, joined the march and led pilgrims as a priest for the first time since his ordination in 2012.
On the way up the hill, a sign carried by a pro-life supporter reminded him of a saint who laid down her life for her unborn child.
"Here at the March for life we are seeing a lot of positive examples of demonstrations, and one of them is a poster, framed, of St. Gianna, a saint from the 20th century, who she herself being in the medical profession when she was pregnant with one of her children, found out that she also had cancer. Rather than receiving the treatment that could have been detrimental to the development of her unborn child, she decided to forgo the treatment that would treat her cancer. That was a great example of being heroic and loving to her child," Father Sheehan said.
Her choice allowed her child to live, but cost her own life.
"It is an especially important example for us because it is a heroic act. We need to hear these heroic acts, to inspire us to do heroic things, but also to do the normal things of life with great life. The normal things of life are becoming heroic in people's lives," he said.
He called the simple acts -- working, providing for one's family, and standing as witnesses to the simplicity of goodness -- heroic acts.
Later, a group of Cape Verdean pilgrims from St. Patrick's Parish in Roxbury came in close contact with another group of young people carrying and playing instruments, testifying to the value of human life through music.
"I was actually proud of that. We were just making noise, having fun, and celebrating that we are pro-life," Samuel Rodrigues, a sophomore traveling with St. Patrick's Parish in Roxbury, said.
As students began dancing and singing the other pro-life supporters played their instruments in a kind of impromptu dance-party for life.
One group of pro-life marchers strummed guitars, another sang prayers to the Blessed Mother, and others chanted in support of life.
"I believe," one pilgrim shouted.
"I believe," the others shouted back.
"I believe that we love life. I believe that we love life," they all shouted together.
As the march progressed, the signs, crowds and voices speaking out to protect human life mingled as the marchers reached their destination.
Just before the pilgrims arrived at the Supreme Court, they saw pro-life supporters with yellow shirts, banners and balloons. All of the regalia bore black letters with one simple word. "Life," each read in block letters.
At the foot of the steps at the Supreme Court, the pilgrims heard testimony from women who had chosen abortion, and found themselves not only hurt by the process, but felt forced into the choice by others.
"For 13 years I kept my abortion a secret, telling only the father of the baby, and for 13 years I suffered silently," one speaker said.
Rodrigues said despite the pain it invoked in him, he also felt inspired by the messages of the women sharing about their abortions.
"These women were very strong. I saw what they did. They inspired me to fight against abortion continuously. I also felt anger. I saw what happened. I heard about what happened. That brought up some anger, but it also brought a feeling of forgiveness, how since God is in my life I should bring God to other people's lives and try to forgive," Rodrigues said.