Divine Child students visit Holocaust Museum, Arlington National Cemetery to add whole-life perspective to D.C. trip
WASHINGTON — Ever since Jan. 22, 1974, thousands of pro-life pilgrims have marched — and prayed — for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court case that permitted legalized abortion in the United States.
Those prayers were answered on June 24, 2022, with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that finally overturned Roe.
But still, despite the pro-life successes on a federal level, thousands of pro-lifers descended on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2023 — 50 years after Roe — for the March for Life, marching in solidarity with the unborn, the vulnerable and the lives society tends to disregard.
Students from Divine Child High School in Dearborn made the overnight trip to Washington for the march, part of a pilgrimage meant to teach students what it means to stand up for the dignity of all human life.
“In many ways, the overturning of Roe v. Wade brought into focus the increased need for local and state-level advocacy, because so much of the policy decisions are being made locally and statewide,” John Brahier, director of campus ministry at Divine Child, told Detroit Catholic.
Brahier is leading a group of 28 students, four staff members, two teachers and Fr. Bob McCabe of Divine Child Parish on a trip that will include the March for Life, the National Holocaust Museum and Arlington National Cemetery. The trip is meant to teach students the cost of every human life and what it means to cherish that God-given gift.
“The pilgrimage to D.C. is an important opportunity for young people to be reminded or to learn that they are not alone in their efforts to stand for life,” Brahier said.
Students attending the March for Life isn’t new — many schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit organize similar pilgrimages — but Divine Child's pilgrimage is also meant to encourage students to reflect on the failures of what happens when people neglect to care for others — the National Holocaust Museum — and the price that is paid for the liberty of protecting life — the Arlington National Cemetery.
“Life is inherently good and honorable, and we must respect it at all of its stages, from conception to natural death,” said Aidan Haas, a junior at Divine Child High School. “Arlington (National Cemetery) presents how lives no matter how short are honorable, and the Holocaust Museum and March for Life show how when life is not treated as such it presents an inherent threat to all of society.”
The Divine Child Falcons left their Dearborn campus early in the morning Thursday, braving an all-day bus ride to the D.C. metropolitan area where they could pray, discern and think about all the ways in which life needs to be protected.
“We crafted this pilgrimage experience with the pro-life ‘worldview’ in mind,” Brahier said. “By worldview, I mean that we are called as Catholics to a perspective that values the equal human dignity of every single human person. This should impact everything from issues like abortion to more micro-level ideas like how we treat each other, the words we use in conversation, and more.”
The march also comes at a precarious time in the pro-life movement.
While pro-lifers on a national level — rightly so — are celebrating the overturning of Roe v. Wade, advocates for the unborn in Michigan are licking their wounds after the passage of Proposal 3, which placed abortion rights into the Michigan constitution.
“I feel like this is a great opportunity to stand up with my classmates to show that we haven’t been silenced and still feel very strongly about our faith and beliefs,” said Grace Steffes, a senior at Divine Child. “I have not been to the March before; I’m expecting hopefully a safe environment where everyone can share in similar beliefs for one cause and to stand up for the creation of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
“Pro-life” is often a term derided by those who support abortion rights as just meaning “pro-birth,” which is all more the reason why the Divine Child pilgrimage includes trips to remember the victims of genocide and war and what it means to advocate for a whole-life ethic, Brahier said.
“We’ve designed our pilgrimage around four main events, with prayer, reflection, and the Mass built in to support the spiritual foundation of the trip,” Brahier said. “We hope these opportunities give students a variety of perspectives on the importance of valuing human dignity and being willing to rise up in defense of human dignity when it comes under attack.”
So it was on a dark, albeit mild January morning that students from Divine Child willingly woke up early to board a bus to Washington.
“We left at 5:30 a.m., but confident that the struggles of the early morning and long drive will be made up by the entire March for Life experience,” said Andrew Carl, a Divine Child senior. “My aim is to enjoy my time away from school and routine life, but to be mindful of why I’m traveling with a large group of classmates and coming together with people across the country: to fight for a cause much bigger than ourselves.”
“Building a culture of life requires trust,” Brahier said. “I hope that our students — all of them, not just the ones on this pilgrimage — continue to strive toward ‘truth in charity.’ Without that, we risk just shouting past each other like we, on a societal scale, so often do.”
Pro-life Catholic schools