Abigail Craycraft and Amy Winkler are both finishing their second year serving at parishes in the Diocese of Camden through the University of Notre Dame’s Echo Faith Formation Leadership Program.
Abigail has a BA in philosophy and theology from Boston College, where she led the Pro-Life Club for two years. As part of Echo, she is serving at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Collingswood, NJ. She looks forward to her August wedding in her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, and moving to South Bend, Ind., to join her husband as he continues graduate studies at Notre Dame.
Having volunteered at Birthright of Memphis, Tenn., from the age of three, Amy has grown up with a heart for life issues. She studied at Saint Louis University for a degree in theology and was a dedicated member of Students for Life. As part of the Echo program, she serves at Christ the King Parish in Haddonfield, NJ, as an apprentice catechetical leader.
They both attended the March for Life in January and share their experiences with The Ampersand in this e-mail conversation.
Amy: Abigail, I had a great time traveling to the March for Life with you this year!
Abigail: Wasn’t it crazy that we have been at the same March and even the same Mass all these years and never ran into one another?
Amy: Yes, and it was definitely a blessing for me to have someone to march with and discuss issues of justice. Many of our conversations have stuck with me, especially the one about the March as a positive witness to life.
Abigail: I really felt the atmosphere was about hope and solidarity. The March for Life may have originated because hurt citizens were protesting an unjust law. But I think it has evolved into a space for those seeking to promote the culture of life to be reminded, in a powerful way, that they are not alone.
One of my dearest friends reminds me every year that his favorite part of the March is standing on the hill of Constitution Avenue and looking back at the thousands of people who are making this journey, this pilgrimage, for life.
Amy: With all these thousands of people, I think we have a great opportunity for dialogue, just like we’re doing. It’s an ideal time to stop and take account of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going in the culture of life. It’s a time to engage in conversation with those around us about how best to continue building a culture of life in our country.
Abigail: Amy, that is an excellent point and that reminds me of parts of the March that I don’t necessarily agree with, specifically the publicly displayed graphic images. I feel like it’s the wrong approach for a public demonstration. The March for Life has more young people every year and this tactic does more to create a culture of fear than one of life.
Amy: I completely agree with you, Abigail. I think that we, as those working for a culture of life, need to use strategies that mirror life rather than death. We will not convert hearts with fear, but with love.
Abigail: It was encouraging to see the solidarity among the people, especially with their joy. Even though the temperatures were frigid, everyone was smiling.
Amy: Yes, I felt that many at the March were celebrating life. And this celebration is exactly what needs to be taken back to our own local communities.
Abigail: If we are excited about life, we will be excited to hear of any new life. It is with this respect of life that we will be able to reach out to women who find themselves pregnant, whatever the case may be. From there we can find ways to support women.
Amy: And not only do we need to support women, but men too. There are many men who are hurt from abortion as well as women and children. The March for Life always reminds me that building the culture of life must include a respect for all of life. We have to be working towards promoting justice at every level. If we are able to create a culture in which men and women are supported, respected, and loved, then they will be given the space in which they can choose life.
Abigail: This is exactly something that I love about the March. It provides a space in which to energize and encourage people to promote the culture of life in their communities. I was really moved by the rally we attended with the Jesuits. The co-founder of Maggie’s place, Mary Peterson, was such a great witness to making a difference in the world. It’s incredible how she founded this organization at the age of 22 to serve and care for women in crisis pregnancies.
Amy: She truly has a great understanding and vision of what our culture can be. And I agree with you about the March being a place in which to energize and encourage people. The members of the Students for Life organization at Saint Louis University, that I was active with in college, always looked forward to the March for Life because it was such a great time for us to bond, gather new ideas, and be energized to come back to campus and implement new programs and services that would support men and women in being able to choose life.
Abigail: I experienced similar things at Boston College. I think what we can agree on from our conversation is that abortions will not end with the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, but when we are able to build a culture that respects all of life. The March for Life is by no means a perfect example of this, but it does provide solidarity, hope, energy, and dialogue that has the potential to convert hearts to living lives that promote life and love.