By Mary Jo Sullivan-Worley
My decision to march in the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., was predicated on concerns for those who will be impacted by new federal priorities in the coming months and years. It was an opportunity to “walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”
As was taught to me by my parents and religious sisters (BVM and SNND), I teach my children, grandchildren, and students, that every person is made in the Image and Likeness of God and is to be treated with dignity and respect. Respect for life applies to the child in the womb as well as throughout his/her lifetime. These teachings of my faith lead me to action.
Catholic Social Teaching compels me to contribute time, effort, and treasure to safeguard human rights that include: affordable health care, educational opportunity, responsible environmental stewardship, a living wage, the ability to organize, equal pay for equal work, a safe workplace free of bullying and sexual harassment, affordable housing, children living lives free of poverty and violence, funding for programs to empower the disabled, mental health care, religious freedom, ethnic, gender, and cultural equality, the protection of voting rights, and humane treatment of illegal immigrants.
The aforementioned issues were on my mind upon arrival at RFK Stadium, on one of nearly 2,000-chartered buses, with five women of my family (from California, Illinois, and Maryland). We immediately were greeted by friendly organizers, helpful D.C. police officers, and members of the Army, who lined the two-mile walk to the corner of Independence and 3rd.
The majority of signs carried were FOR a group of people, program, or policy. There were some negative signs, but they were in the minority. Marchers included many families with disabled children, women of varying ages in wheelchairs, multigenerational families, women wearing Muslim headscarves, African Americans, Native Americans, white women, and women in many shades of brown. I saw other Pro-Lifers, as well as, those who identified themselves as for abortion.
The spirit of EVERYONE I met was upbeat and positive. I carried a California flag and a sign that read “Pro-Life Feminist 4 Social Justice.” I didn’t experience even one negative reaction from other marchers. We walked in peace and solidarity for human rights, even though having differing opinions on some issues.
There weren’t any incidents of violence or arrests made. One little girl’s sign touched my heart. It said “Make America Kind Again.”
Kindness was in abundance, shown by numerous businesses, residents, and a welcoming Lutheran church. They opened their restrooms, distributed free coffee, water, hot chocolate, and doughnuts to tired marchers.
The Lutheran ministers invited us into their church and hall to ensure nonjudgmental hospitality ruled the day. This March on Washington, D.C., gave me the opportunity to stand in solidarity for social justice as a Catholic woman. Energized by what I experienced, I’m even more committed to personally advocating for the marginalized in my local and greater communities, confident that so many others are eager to work for dignity and respect for all.
Mary Jo Sullivan-Worley was a founding member of the Fremont Society Crisis Pregnancy Center, taught a combined 27 years at Saint Justin and Saint Simon schools, and currently is a volunteer teacher at the Learning and Loving Education Center, in Morgan Hill (a ministry of the Sisters of the Presentation to immigrant women and their preschool children).