Statewide March Includes Diocesan Pilgrims
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
April 6, 2023
SPRINGFIELD—Since 2013, the rally and March for Life Chicago was a gathering for the pro-life movement in the Midwest, but this year the Chicago march became the Illinois March for Life and took place on March 21 at the Capitol in Springfield.
 
Prolifers from the Diocese of Rockford took part. Diocesan pilgrims included 71 who boarded two buses charted by the diocesan Life and Family Evangelization Office. One picked up people in Rockford, Rochelle and Mendota, and a second bus picked up pilgrims in Huntley and in Elburn. Other groups — including from Marmion Academy, Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling, Sacred Heart Academy in Rockford and SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Cary — came, as did individual cars of people.
 
The diocesan buses headed first to Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois-Springfield campus where at 10 a.m. Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield and five other Illinois bishops celebrated Mass for the crowd.
 
An amusing moment came during the homily when a gray-brown bird flew down and sat upon an altar candle. After several seconds it flew up to a ledge by the spotlights, prompting Bishop Paprocki to quip that “I guess the Holy Spirit is with us too.” Somehow the candle remained lit.
 
The pro-life rally began at noon at the Capitol. Rally speakers included these scheduled ahead of time: Serena Dyksen, founder, She Found His Grace Ministries; Anna Kinskey, executive director, weDignify & the Illinois March for Life; Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, president, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; Bishop Paprocki; Mary Kate Zander, executive director, Illinois Right to life; the Honorable Dr. William Hauter, M.D., Illinois State Representative, District 87; Rev. Michael Mohr, president of the Central Illinois District, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; and Antonio Gonzalez, a weDignify student leader and a senior at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
 
Additional speakers included one young woman named Faith who provided a testimony. She defined her early life by saying, “Nobody ever really truly wanted me.” When she became pregnant and the father of the child left her, people from the Thrive ministry stepped up and “continued to pour life into my life,” she said, adding, “Thrive is not only about the baby, they’re about the moms, they’re about the dads.” Her son is eight years old now. “He’s already impacting people with his tiny life,” she said happily. “He has the opportunity to do that because of people like you and people like Thrive.”
Rev. Mohr spoke of the legislators’ “not giving warning about unintended consequences” of the legislation they subsequently passed to avoid “back-alley-abortions.”  “These ‘back-alley’ conditions are now the new standard of care codified in our laws,” he said. “The women of this State, the women who travel here from out of state and the children they carry in their wombs deserve better! And we can do better!”
 
Dr. Hauter’s wife is a past director of a pregnancy care center in Pekin, and he focused much of his talk on the current threat of a proposed law to “silence and intimidate” such centers.
 
“The pro-choice side always says to us ‘safe, legal and rare,’ but in Illinois the pro-abortion radicals are in control,” he said. “They make sure abortion is common and celebrated and unfortunately are now moving the laws to make it less safe than ever before.”
 
He called pregnancy resource centers “the true pro-choice pregnancy centers in Illinois,” adding that “the pro-choice side should be champions of” those centers, “but, look, we know their abortion centers give women one basic choice.” He then gave an extensive list of services provided by pregnancy care centers “without one dollar from taxpayers.” But the “millions of taxpayer support” for abortions “incentivizes (them) financially to give one basic option, which is the definition of no choice.” 
 
He described the “unconstitutional” proposed legislation as giving the State Attorney General power to shut down pregnancy care centers and fine them and added, “Where would the money go? You guessed it: to the attorney general!”
 
“Be not dismayed,” the medical doctor/representative said near the end of his talk. “Our response must be perseverance … and faithfulness. They will not defeat us, they will not shut us down!”
 
The March around the Capitol began at 1 p.m. and lasted until approximately 2 p.m. The crowd included all ages, many signs, cheers and chants.
 
After a brown bag lunch, those on diocesan buses enjoyed a time of adoration at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The buses headed north to home, with participants enjoying dinner on the way. 
 
The long day was a good one, according to Therese Stahl, director of the LiFE Office.
 
“I loved the energy and the rally speakers,” she said. She noted especially one witness talk, saying, “That was something lawmakers need to hear.”
 
She and Kathy Berkes of the LiFE Office remained in Springfield overnight to participate in the Catholic Conference of Illinois’ Life Advocacy Day on March 22. That event coaches and assists participants in contacting their State senators and representatives to encourage them to vote for life.
 
—Editor’s note: See Therese Stahl’s column “Witness for Life” 
 
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