Bishop Boyea tells pro-life Catholics gathering in Lansing: While others 'fight like hell,' we'll fight like heaven for life
LANSING — From Marquette to Monroe, Traverse City to Trenton and St. Clair to St. Joseph, thousands of Michiganians gathered on the state capitol lawn Nov. 8 to give witness to the strength of the culture of life in the Great Lakes State.
The first-ever Michigan March for Life came on the one-year anniversary of the passage of Proposal 3, a constitutional amendment that prioritized abortion rights in the Michigan constitution, and just a day after Michigan's neighbor to the south, Ohio, passed a similar amendment.
Yet, the demonstration showed that the pro-life movement is far from defeated.
In the leadup to last fall's election, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer promised to “fight like hell” for the abortion measure after the federal Roe v. Wade decision was overturned in 2022. Conversely, during a Mass for Life celebrated at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Lansing on the morning of the march, Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea said it was everyone’s duty to “fight like heaven” for the dignity and protection of all life.
“There are those who would like to fight like hell; in fact, there is a real hellishness when any innocent life is taken,” Bishop Boyea said during the Mass, concelebrated with several of Michigan's bishops, including Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron. “There is a real hellishness when our state becomes a destination for such purposes.”
The cathedral was filled with Catholics from every corner of the state, with varsity jackets from various Catholic high schools dotting the congregation.
Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills brought 33 students to the March for Life. Mary Murray, a theology teacher at Marian, said it was especially important for the all-girls school to be represented and have their voices heard.
“I think it’s great to see girls and women speaking about the dignity of all life,” Murray told Detroit Catholic. “We learn that every abortion has two victims, the mother and the baby. As women, we are supporting women who are in crisis pregnancies, and testifying that pre-born life has value and dignity.”
Marian recently started a Life Club, Murray said, which raises funds and supplies for crisis pregnancy centers to help mothers facing unexpected pregnancies.
“We’ve been talking a lot in theology class about how we need to live out our faith and stand up for those who don’t have a voice, and this is a great chance to put that into action today,” Murray said. “I’m hoping they learn just by witnessing the courage and faith of a lot of these people at the march, how this issue is so important to get involved in and use their youth, their enthusiasm and love for other people to support life.”
Gabby Thomas, a sophomore at Marian, got up at 5:30 a.m. to make the 6:45 bus from the school to St. Mary’s Cathedral.
“I’m here today to speak for the babies who can’t speak for themselves,” Thomas said. “I haven’t been to something like this before, but I hope to go to more in the future. We learn in school that life begins at conception; that’s our belief, and we should protect that right.”
Attending an all-girls Catholic school, Thomas said it was particularly important for her classmates to be at the rally and march.
“We are all about womanhood,” Thomas said. “Being a mother is part of womanhood, and even if you’re not a biological mother, you are a mother in other ways. I hope I can change at least one person’s heart, because if they can change somebody’s else’s heart, they will go and affect more people.”
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit was the principal celebrant of the Mass, which was concelebrated by Bishop Boyea, Bishop David Walkowiak of Grand Rapids, Bishop Jeffrey Walsh of Gaylord, Bishop Edward Lohse of Kalamazoo, and Auxiliary Bishops Gerard Battersby and Robert Fisher of Detroit, a sign of the Catholic Church in Michigan’s united commitment to defending life.
“How blessed we are that the Holy Spirit has gathered us here today so we might celebrate the Paschal victory, Jesus’ victory over sin and death, to have the Eucharist to fuel us as we give witness to the Gospel of Life,” Archbishop Vigneron said at the beginning of Mass.
Students from University of Detroit Jesuit High School were also at the Mass, there to show their support for the pro-life cause.
“We are here to stand for the lives of the unborn; no life should be taken, regardless of size or level of development. Everyone has the same right to live, and we’re here to have a great time and protest for the lives of the unborn,” said U of D Jesuit student Frank Salzeider.
Andrew Hill, another U of D Jesuit student, said it's equally important that more young men step up in the pro-life movement.
“I think it’s very important to spread awareness to all the young men,” Hill said. “It’s just as much a men’s issue as it is a woman’s issue. It seems women face the effects of abortion more directly, but men need to be held accountable for their actions just as much as women do. So it’s very important that we spread awareness that men are in this fight, too.”
As the congregation emptied St. Mary’s Cathedral and crossed Ottawa Street to the Michigan State Capitol, former Channel 4 (WDIV-TV) news anchor and meteorologist Chuck Gaidica was on the steps of the capitol as the emcee for the Rally for Life.
Gaidica relayed that when and his wife, Susan, were having their fifth child, they experienced complications and the doctor gave the couple a brochure on abortion.
“They handed it to us and said, 'I’ll be back in five minutes,'” Gaidica said. “But we already made the decision before we walked in the office. Maybe you have stories like mine. But there is not much choice for the unborn in this process. So we are here today to march, to gather peacefully to show support. We will carry the light of the world in this march.”
St. Frances Cabrini High School and Academy in Allen Park brought 34 students to the Michigan March for Life as the pro-life cause shifts to a more state-centered battle amid the potential passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which would further increase access to abortion in the state.
“We started going to the March for Life in (Washington) D.C. last year, but this year we moved to Lansing,” said Arturo Medina, campus minister at St. Frances Cabrini High School and Academy. “The focus will be in Lansing, the state of Michigan, so we will want to start protecting life from where we are at.”
Debbie Bloomfield of Southern Downriver Right to Life said it is incumbent on Michigan pro-lifers to spend more time on state issues as the question about abortion rights is now being debated in the state legislature.
“Our fight is local; it’s right here,” Bloomfield said. “I know people like to go to Washington, D.C., but it is really important to be in touch with our local statewide legislature. We now have two Downriver pro-life legislators for the first time, but we need them to convince their colleagues to vote for life in these important bills coming up.
"It’s a struggle," she added. "It’s hard to learn to swim upstream when (pro-life lawmakers) have been in the majority for so long, but we need to do that.”
Jeanne Mancini, president of the national March for Life in Washington, D.C., and a former Michigan resident, also addressed the rally, saying the national movement is in solidarity with Michigan pro-lifers.
"As a Catholic, I have to tell you it was special to go to the cathedral this morning with all the bishops, celebrating Mass and hearing Bishop Boyea reminding us on a day like today that (although) you kind of want to fight like hell, we are called to fight like heaven," Mancini said.
"The pro-life movement is made up of Americans from every faith and background, every race, every faith tradition," Mancini added. "We are mothers, daughters, sons, Democrats, Republicans, independents, but despite these differences, we are united in the belief that the inherent dignity of the human person is in everyone, and most especially the poorest of the poor, the unborn."
After all the speeches had concluded, the demonstrators marched down Capitol Avenue, Allegan Street and Walnut Street, before turning left toward the Michigan Hall of Justice.
Along the procession, marchers prayed, sang and chanted for Michigan to build a culture of decency, a culture of humanity — a culture of life.
See more photos from the first-ever Michigan March for Life on Detroit Catholic's Facebook page.
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