WASHINGTON, D.C. — If you’ve never been to the March for Life, one of the most striking sights is the patchwork of banners.

Michigan, Illinois, Miami, every corner of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Boston, Mississippi, Baltimore — the groups came from all over.

Parishes, Scout troops, youth groups, high schools, college students, seminarians, groups of senior citizens, and women’s groups all marched.

Lutherans for Life, Anglicans for Life, Humanists for Life, Feminists for Life, and Knights of Columbus chapters from across the country all carried banners.

A handful of parishes from Central Michigan got together five busses to drive 12 hours. Melissa Shields, youth minister at St. Brigid Church in Midland organized her parish’s group, coordinating with officials in the Sagninaw Diocese.

A parish from Marshfield, Wis., rode 20 hours in a bus. “I’ve been bringing groups out here for 10 years,” said Dan Kitzhaber, the organizer. The Diocese of Lacrosse has been sending busses down for longer than that, spurred on by Sister Stephania, a Franciscan nun.

About 30 women, almost all Hispanic, stood across from the Supreme Court, singing prayers in Spanish. They were from a handful of parishes in Miami. Unlike the Wisconsinites and Michiganders, where the youth groups were the hub of organizing, this was a group of adults, originally organized by Rosa Zuleta, a parishioner at Mother of the Redeemer parish. The women had all met praying outside abortion clinics, and a few years back decided to begin an annual trip to the March for Life.

The best way to understand the March for Life is to realize it’s not tens of thousands of individuals — it’s hundreds and hundreds of groups. There wasn’t some national celebrity who went out and summoned these marchers. Almost nobody can name the president of the March for Life. Instead, hundreds and hundreds of little platoons, came together, sometimes in larger squadrons.

This obviously helps boost the numbers, especially for a movement that is mostly young people, and mostly not the very wealthy.

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But Kitzhaber said that traveling as a parish, and parishes traveling a diocese, for everyone to march as a movement is an instance of solidarity, an idea held in high esteem in Catholic teaching.

Shields, from Michigan, said that beyond the logistical reasons for traveling as a parish, the group nature brings in new people and a stronger message. “The more youth you bring together,” she told me a block from the Capitol, “the more impact you can have on them — and on the world.”

Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner’s senior political columnist, can be contacted at His column appears Tuesday and Thursday nights on

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