PROVIDENCE - The March for Life in Washington was unforgettable, especially for the many young people who attended, said Carol Owens, diocesan Respect Life coordinator.
"It's like you're at a revival," she said of the prayer service for young people at the Verizon Center in Washington hours before the annual march. "The organizers really go out of their way to include the young people."
Owens and Kristin Caproni, a parish education specialist with the Respect Life office, each led a busload of pro-lifers Jan. 21 from Providence, traveling through the night to the Youth Rally and Mass at the Verizon Center and the march the next day. Arriving back in Rhode Island almost 28 hours after departing, Owens said the trip was tiring but deeply satisfying.
"There was some discomfort, but that was part of the sacrifice offered up by the people making the trip," Owens said.
Most of those people were young people - members of local youth groups and students from local high schools, Owens said. Of the 114 passengers on the two diocesan buses, 74 were under the age of 18.
"They were exuberant. They were excited," Owens said. "They kept repeating 'Save the babies. Save the babies.'"
The march itself seemed more disorganized this year than in previous years, she said. Even though her group was not far from where the speakers were, "it was hard to hear what they were saying."
There was also a long waiting period before the march began. "It's very difficult to expect everyone to stand in one place for a couple hours," she said.
There seemed to be a positive, new twist this year, however, Owens added. As the main body of marchers set off from the Mall, it was joined by another set of marchers a short distance later. Seeing the two groups coming together "was quite impressive," Owens said.
There was also that good feeling that came from hearing applause and a show of support by people standing on the sidewalks and viewing the march. Owens added that, unlike what she had experienced at marches involving other issues, the pro-life march, this year and in previous years, was always well-ordered, with no one pushing or shoving.
"There was never any concern that we might get run over or crushed," she said.
While it's only about eight blocks between the start of the march - the Washington Monument - and its conclusion at the U.S. Supreme Court building, many groups, including her own, peel away to preset points where they board the buses home. The diocesan group's meeting place was a few blocks north of the march, at Union Station.
All the passengers on both buses made it back successfully by the 4 p.m. deadline, and the buses departed on schedule, she said.
Owens said she was impressed by the large number of young people who came from St. Anthony Parish in West Warwick, and by a mother from SS. John and James Parish in West Warwick, who not only brought her 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, but also her 10-month-old daughter, riding on her lap.
"The entire group did a wonderful job," Owens said. "I was very, very pleased."
(This article originally appeared in The Providence Visitor)