CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Youth participate in the annual March for Life in Washington on Jan. 22.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Youth participate in the annual March for Life in Washington on Jan. 22.
Undaunted by frigid temperatures and the threat of blizzard conditions, about 3,000 people gathered at the D.C. Armory Jan. 22 for the Archdiocese of Washington's annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life.

The pro-lifers – mostly young people – came from as far away as Michigan and Illinois to pray, sing and attend Mass prior to the annual March for Life. The Archdiocese of Washington sponsored another Youth Rally and Mass for Life that morning at the Verizon Center.

Due to the threat of more than two feet of snow expected to fall on the Washington area, the 3,000-strong attendance was down from the 10,000 people originally expected for the Armory event.

"The snow is not important because we came to participate in the March for Life and to stand up for life," said Jair Martinez, who traveled with a group from Passaic, New Jersey.

Washington Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout welcomed the out-of-town pro-lifers and thanked them for braving the inclement weather in order to stand up for life.

"You guys are real troupers," the bishop said. "You have expressed and shown your beautiful, clear witness to life."

Bishop Knestout was a concelebrant of the Mass with principal celebrant Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the former chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Father Pawel Sass, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Washington, was homilist.

"We are coming here in the cold, and the snow is against us, but we are coming here to say 'yes' to life, to stand up for life," he said. "In the end, the one who will defend life is Jesus Christ ... We come in His name and we call on the Lord to save lives, protect lives."

Father Sass urged the pro-lifers to rely on their faith as they defend life.

"Brothers and sisters – courage! The conviction we have will save lives because Jesus Christ Himself is life. We have Jesus Christ, and once you have Him you have everything. Nothing is missing," he said.

Cardinal DiNardo urged the pro-lifers to go to the march "with hearts opened by the public prayers of the Church." He also invoked the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the marchers.

Many of the young people at the rally said their defense of life is part of their Catholic faith.

"My faith in God tells me that millions of babies dying is deeply wrong," said Anthony Pizana, who traveled to Washington with a youth group from Griffin, Indiana.

His fellow Hoosier, Autumn Zager, said, "I know I am here for a reason – God wants me to be here. He has led me to understand completely what it means to be pro-life."

Meghan Barron said she came from Florida to rally and march because "this is all for a bigger purpose, to stand up for life."

Sarah Schuller, who traveled with a group from Buffalo, New York, said she came to Washington because "I have a voice and I have a right to be heard. This (rally and march) affirms that I am not a lone voice."

Matt Cerillo, also from New York, said he came because "I was given the opportunity to have a wonderful life, and I want to defend other people's right to have the same experience of a wonderful life."