By JOEY REISTROFFER
SPARTANBURG — A busload of believers in the sanctity of life will gather before dawn Monday for a journey they hope will open some eyes, change some hearts and uncover the evil that is abortion.
These 46 pilgrims from parishes across the Upstate are on a mission to participate in next Tuesday’s 29th Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. They will meet at Jesus, Our Risen Savior long before the sun has cast its morning sky, then pile into a tour bus for a 10-hour ride to the nation’s capital.
That is a long time in a bus. It, however, is a short time to pray for an end to the atrocities that have beset this nation ever since the Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973.
Gary Towery, a parishioner at Jesus, Our Risen Savior, organized this Upstate journey of hope. He said he was inspired by last year’s rally.
Towery said he was attending President Bush’s inauguration last year, and he decided to stick around to see the March for Life. What he saw stunned him: 400,000 people from all across the country united in prayer for an end to abortion.
“The movement has been portrayed in the media as a bunch of right-wing nuts,” Towery said. “That isn’t so,” he said after talking to some of them and forming his own opinion. “They’re just ordinary folks from all walks of life like you and I.”
They believe that a baby is a gift from God and has the right to life. So they converge every January in the capital and pray that the justices who sit on the Supreme Court bench will open their eyes, see the truth and amend this evil that has destroyed millions of unborn babies.
Towery had no problem filling up the bus.
Joe Schachner wanted to be a part of the march. “It’s my first excursion (to Washington),” he said. “I don’t know quite what to expect.”
He, however, does know where he stands on abortion. “Killing babies, we need to stop all that. And the way to do it is to show solidarity. I hope that a show of hundreds of thousands of people makes an impression on the United States and on the court.”
Andy Falatok, another pilgrim going on the trip, agrees. “I hope and pray that some day it will end,” he said.
So does Gary D’Entremont. He is taking his two sons, Michael and Daniel, as well as his daughter, Teresa, to the march for life.
They will be joined by Susan Lawson and her 18-year-old daughter, Johanna.
Lawson, who has four children and has been very active in the pro-life movement for years, said this is her first journey to Washington for the march. And she is excited about going with a bus full of Catholics “who feel the way you do and are so caring and compassionate.”
“If I could take all of my children, I would,” Lawson said, adding that the money for their trip is coming out of her Christmas fund. “I want my kids to grow up with respect for all human life. I want them to grow up as leaders.”
Lawson believes that the rallies and the prayers do make an impact and can affect changes. Standing behind your beliefs does make a difference, she said.
This mother of four believes in right and wrong, and only evil can result in such a wrong decision as Roe vs. Wade.
“These women (who have had abortions) are hurting,” Lawson said. “We are hurting women by telling them it’s OK to kill their children.”
Lawson believes that many of the women who support Roe vs. Wade have had abortions, and the only way they can live with themselves is by trying to justify it and rationalize it.
“I really feel some of those people had abortions, and it killed something inside of them. If you kill or hurt, you have to be hardened somehow, and they need to be healed,” Lawson said.
That is why she is going to Washington with her daughter: to help heal those with hardened hearts. Changing those hearts, she said, takes prayer, forgiveness and education.
That child is not a fetus. That child is a warm, vibrant baby, Lawson said. Once people understand that, healing can begin.
So Lawson is joining this bus full of Catholics to pray for the healing of a nation that has aborted one in three of Johanna’s generation.
When they get to the capital, Towery said, they will check into their hotel, then attend the solemn Mass and thanksgiving for life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Towery also said the Upstate group will attend a youth rally at Constitution Hall that will feature Tony Melendez, the well-known Christian singer.
Tuesday at noon, the group will gather with people from all over the country at the Washington Monument for a prayer rally. They then will march down Constitution Avenue to the Capitol and right up to the steps of the Supreme Court.
Towery said U.S. Rep. Jim DeMint of South Carolina might march with them if he is in Washington.
Some of the marchers are even holding out hope that they will get to see President Bush.
“I’ve seen him talk from his heart, and I believe he loves God,” Lawson said. “I think he’s a good, moral man. …”
This march, Towery said, is very important. A lot is at stake in changing the heart of America, getting this country to embrace God’s tiniest gifts and helping to heal the women who have aborted those gifts.
“I’ve seen too many sad faces of people who have had abortions,” Lawson said. “They can’t get over the pain.”
Perhaps some day with prayers and forgiveness they can.