Hundreds Gather to Support a Culture of Life
January 19, 2022 • Diocese of St. Augustine

By Fran Ruchalski

Bishop Felipe Estévez (photo by St. Augustine/Fran Ruchalski)

Nearly 2,000 people marched through the historic streets of St. Augustine for the annual March for Life on Jan. 15, calling attention to protecting the unborn and other life issues.

The day began with an outdoor Mass celebrated by Bishop Felipe Estévez on the grounds of Mission Nombre de Dios. The Diocese of St. Augustine sponsors the annual event through its Human Life & Dignity ministry.

During his homily, Bishop Estévez spoke about a recent experience at a local high school. “I told the students that I hoped one-day abortion would be unthinkable. And a young girl interrupted me and said, ‘We are the generation that will make that possible.’” I told them, “It is that same conviction that animates you in this march.”

That determination could be seen in many students, especially those from the University of South Florida. They carried a huge banner proclaiming, “We Are the Pro-life Generation.”

University of South Florida students march with a bold sign proclaiming “We are the Pro-Life Generation.” (photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Fran Ruchalski)

The bishop remarked, “Love needs to protect human life in all of its stages of development.”

“We must peacefully advocate, persuade, and support a culture of life in a truly consistent and integral way – Until Roe v. Wade is overturned,” said the bishop.

Andrew Shervill, founder of Florida Voice for the Unborn. (photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Fran Ruchalski)

After Mass, the first speaker was Andrew Shervill, founder of Florida Voice for the Unborn, a pro-life grassroots lobbying group. He talked about promoting and advancing pro-life legislation in Tallahassee. He explained the workings of the legislative process and how more people are needed to make the necessary changes to support life.

“With a pro-life governor and pro-life legislative majority, we need to encourage, pressure, and advocate constantly, putting the unborn and their mothers in the forefront of politicians’ priorities in Tallahassee.”

‘Our agenda is simple,” Shervill continued, “We are here to build the Kingdom of God, build a culture of life in our home state, and make Florida one of the leading pro-life states in the country. We want to fully protect our unborn brothers and sisters and help their mothers.”

Sara DeJulio, an advocate for the abortion pill reversal process. (photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Fran Ruchalski)

Sara DeJulio followed Shervill sharing her abortion story. She explained that she had a chemical abortion in 2014. Once her pregnancy was confirmed, she said she was given a pill to end her pregnancy and a prescription for a second pill to complete the process. DeJulio said she had a change of heart.

The young woman knew she’d made a mistake and wanted to stop the abortion process. A friend texted that the abortion might be reversible before the second pill. Contacting a California pro-life pregnancy center, DeJulio found there was still a possibility her baby could be saved. She knew she had to try to do the right thing, but there were no guarantees her baby could be saved. She contacted a pro-life doctor nearby and underwent an experimental treatment regimen of progesterone injections.

A subsequent ultrasound revealed a strong heartbeat – proof that her baby was still very much alive.

Nine months later, DeJulio’s daughter was born perfectly healthy. Emmie is now six years old, a straight-A student, and an American Ninja Warrior competitor.

Finally, more than a thousand men, women and children marched down San Marco Avenue to St. George Street, ending at the Plaza de la Constitucion in downtown St. Augustine. The marchers came from near and far, representing parishes of the Diocese of St. Augustine and Atlanta, Savannah, Tampa, Orlando, Miami, and more.

More than 100 students came from St. John Bosco Academy in Cumming, Ga. On Thursday evening, they met outside an abortion clinic in Jacksonville and peacefully protested through prayer.

Wyatt Grimes, a student at SJBA, joined the peaceful protest, saying, “I’m excited to be here to fight for the lives of children in the womb and to help the mothers who are conflicted with their choices. And to help them all find God.”

Seventeen-year-old Lilly Brookshire of SJBA added, “We come to March for Life St. Augustine because we love standing up for what we believe in. And the environment here is so positive, uplifting, and supportive.”

Lilly Brookshire and her classmate proudly represent St. John Bosco Academy in Cumming, Ga. (photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Fran Ruchalski)

Pam Stenzel, director of the Community Pregnancy Center in Gainesville and a well-known speaker nationally, shared her story while gathered in the plaza.

At 15, her mother became pregnant by rape. But she chose to give her child life and placed her daughter with an adoptive family.

“My biological father is a rapist,” Stenzel stated, “But I am still a human being. And I still have value. And I don’t believe my life is worth less than yours just because of the way I was conceived. And I don’t believe I deserve the death penalty for my biological father’s actions.”

She believes strongly, “Every child is wanted by someone.” And God, in his mercy, had a plan for her life. Just as he has for every child conceived.

Stenzel encouraged all the students attending to be the messengers of their generation – “Be the pro-life generation that puts an end to abortion,” she exclaimed. And many of those students echo that determination.

“The first way to be a witness to life is to be a witness with your life,” Stenzel said.

Pam Stenzel, international chastity speaker and director of Community Pregnancy Center in Gainesville. (photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Fran Ruchalski)

She told them there are so many ways to make a real difference for life in their own communities by getting involved and reaching out to those in need of their love and care, using the gifts that God has given them to be the voice of God’s truth in their lives.

“If we can all do this, healing and hope will come to our land, and we’ll see the end of this atrocity brought on by Roe v. Wade.”

May Oliver, director of the Human Life and Dignity office, concluded the event with an invitation and challenge to all those present to meet again next year with more friends and participants until we can accomplish just that.

Pro-life advocates of all ages ended the March for Life St. Augustine in the Plaza de la Constitucion in the heart of historic St. Augustine. (photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Fran Ruchalski)