Missouri Girl Comes to Washington to March, Visit Lawmakers on Hill

Posted on January 24, 2015 08:34 am CST

Catholic News Service
Kurt Jensen

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Being the youngest member of the Missouri Life Caravan at age 10 brings certain advantages, Meghan Meehan learned.

For starters, lots of people wanted to take her picture. U.S. Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri high-fived her. Fellow Missourian and Republican Congressman Billy Long gave her one of his official medallions. And she got a free T-shirt.

She responded with a quiet smile and by handing out prayer cards from her parish, St. Dominic Savio in Affton, Missouri.

Pretty nice way to end a nearly sleepless 22-hour bus ride from her home outside St. Louis with mother Jennifer to the March for Life on the National Mall.

Missouri Right to Life paid for the Meehans' trip after a member saw an article in the St. Louis Review, newspaper of the St. Louis Archdiocese, about Meghan's pro-life club for children in fifth through eighth grades.

Before the march, about 1,500 caravan riders stopped by a conference room at the Dirksen Senate Office Building to hear encouraging words from Republican members of the state's congressional delegation.

"Every life is sacred, every life matters, and what you're doing here today matters, as it matters to us," said U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.

After the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, "we began to devalue life, we began to devalue our culture, and from that, we began to devalue our country," said Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer. "Quite frankly, I think I think we're winning the battle. But how do we get our message out? Each church has to be willing to stand up and push back."

Long said he was a high school senior in 1973 when the Supreme Court decision came down. At the time, he said, he didn't know what abortion was until someone explained it to him. "I couldn't understand it. You mean they kill a living human being? Yes, that's what they do. We don't ever need to apologize for protecting the innocent unborn."

Although all the politicians were Republicans, the meeting had a nonpartisan cast until Connie Eller, president of Missouri Blacks for Life, announced that she understood that first lady Michelle Obama may eventually run for president. The crowd let out a collective groan.

Maggie Bick, caravan organizer for the past 10 years, said it was slightly smaller this year because last year's sub-freezing temperatures discouraged participation. She was cheered, however, to see how the demographics skewed -- slightly more than half of this year's group were younger than 25.

Jennifer Meehan, who runs the Affton Christian Food Pantry, was somewhat surprised by Meghan's interest in the issue. She told the St. Louis Review it had "definitely made me want to be a better mom and a better Catholic," and thought Meghan is "God's hand drawing me in."

Two caravan buses pulled into a damp and chilly Washington at 7:30 a.m. for a Mass at Holy Rosary Church celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Rice of St. Louis. After that, it was time to hike a few blocks to Capitol Hill, and for that, Terry Ostlund, who teaches middle-schoolers at Our Lady Queen of Peace School in Home Springs, Missouri, took good-natured charge.

"Everybody stay in line!" she shouted. "Don't block the sidewalk! People have to go to work!"

"My greatest concern is that everyone is safe, and my greatest hope is that their lives are changed forever," she told Catholic News Service while navigating intersections. "Everybody comes away a different person than the way they started out."

Came the inevitable question before Meghan and mom headed to the Mall. "So -- what have you liked best so far?"

Meghan pondered the question over a sandwich. "Um -- the speeches, I guess."

Jennifer smiled while simultaneously giving a masterful demonstration of maternal sideways glance. They hoped to catch up on their sleep on the trip home.


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