With the national March for Life going virtual this year, the Diocese of Nashville’s youth office quickly planned a local event for high school students.
Even before March for Life organizers shifted the annual event to a virtual one for 2021, Libby Byrnes and her colleagues in the Diocese of Nashville’s youth office had decided that due to the fallout from the Jan. 6 violent riot and breach of the U.S. Capitol, paired with ongoing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, they needed to cancel the annual pilgrimage to Washington, D.C.
“Our primary motivation is always the safety of our participants,” said Byrnes, the coordinator of high school youth ministry for the Diocese of Nashville. So, “we pivoted to plan a new experience in Nashville.”
“We do not want to miss the opportunity to provide an experience for our young people to grow in faith and understanding of what our Church teaches when it comes to the God-given dignity of every human life,” the youth office posted on its website, www.soundscatholic.com.
“We have quickly pivoted and created a local experience here in Nashville! We will be staying at a hotel in downtown Nashville Jan. 29-31 for the first-ever ‘48 Hours for Life: Nashville.’ This event will have much of the same content that we provide when in D.C. and will explore the history of human dignity challenges in Nashville. We will be visiting several sites by foot and will have opportunities to pray for those who are marginalized.”
Byrnes had planned to chaperone about 80 high school students from local Catholic high schools and across the diocese to the “Pro-life and human dignity pilgrimage” in Washington and Baltimore the last weekend of January.
Instead, they are hosting “48 Hours for Life: Nashville,” which Byrnes said will be an opportunity for young people “to see the pro-life movement in action in their neighborhood.”
Events will center around the Catholic Church’s “teaching on the sanctity of life from womb to tomb,” said Byrnes, a lifelong Catholic originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, now a parishioner at Cathedral of the Incarnation.
The group will stay at a downtown hotel for the weekend, Friday evening, Jan. 29, through Sunday, Jan. 31. Some activities include: a Mass with Bishop J. Mark Spalding at the Cathedral on Friday evening; praying outside Planned Parenthood; a tour of Mulier Care’s mobile “Pregnancy Help Center”; a talk from Julie Bolles, Catholic Charities’ Supervisor of Adoptions and Pregnancy Counseling; an encounter with the Schachle family, whose son Mikey was miraculously cured in the womb from a fatal health condition; a talk from a representative of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty; a talk from a representative of Room In The Inn.
All activities and speakers are designed to promote the dignity of life at all stages, Byrnes said. Participating in a pilgrimage in Nashville will help participants see that “pro-life does not live in one weekend in D.C., it’s something we’re always fighting for,” she said.
Father Gervan Menezes, chaplain for University Catholic, the Diocese of Nashville’s college ministry, had planned to make the pilgrimage to the March for Life with about 35 students, but they are shifting their plans to participate in virtual and local events instead, including the Jan. 29 Mass at the Cathedral with Bishop Spalding.
“We are grateful for this opportunity to again lead this pilgrimage and hope you will consider joining us. We are aware of the continuing circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and the health and safety of our participants,” the youth office posted on its website. “We have been working diligently to ensure all precautions are taken to protect the spread of the coronavirus and have carefully selected vendors and experiences that are doing the same.”