By Joanna Thurmann and Deacon Steve Herrera
On January 21, millions marched across the nation, including over 25,000 in San Jose, in an epic event that was both deeply personal and powerfully communal. Sister marches took place in all fifty states and in cities around the globe as far away as Antarctica. It was not a political protest as much as a social movement; though one day after the inauguration, it made a profound statement of solidarity across a wide range of social issues, from immigration to environmental protections. Women, men, and children were mobilized and inspired to stay engaged going forward.
For Catholics, the values of the march aligned particularly well with Catholic Social Teaching regarding respect for human rights, the common good, care for creation, and solidarity with the poor and vulnerable. It was an expression of deep faith in Christ and of active discipleship.
Mary Grunthaner of Transfiguration Parish said, “Christ taught us that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do for Him. Injustice must be resisted by those of us who have chosen to follow the Light of the World. Silence in the face of injustice is ignoring the call of Jesus.” Injustice in broad terms is anything that threatens human dignity, equality, and right to development, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, economic or immigration status.
Mimi Bini, of Holy Family Parish, decided to march for similar reasons and invited her Cursillo community. She said, “I walked for all those without a voice. Together, we are all family supporting each other in love, concern, and action.”
That deep commitment is precisely what march organizers had hoped for. The intent was to bridge, unify and empower a myriad of voices, recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of San Jose and of our country.
“Jesus and his disciples would have marched with us if they were here today in support of the people he named in the Beatitudes. Regardless of who they voted for, everyone should feel safe and comfortable in having joined us,” expressed Monica Rising of a newly-formed Gandhi Team which, along with other peace centers, delivered education and training on nonviolence. March participants learned about creative and active nonviolence as a powerful force of personal and social transformation, while Peace Ambassadors learned conflict de-escalation skills to ensure march safety.
The result was indeed peaceful, positive, and forward-looking. “It is not what we are against. It’s what we are for,” emphasized Jenny Bradanini, Co-Lead of Women’s March Bay Area San Jose. Many of the signs, smiles, songs, and hugs bore this out.
After marching cheerfully from City Hall to Plaza de Cesar Chavez, a variety of speakers affirmed the energy of the crowd and encouraged them to stay active in being the change they wish to see. Mayor Sam Liccardo, Cindy Chavez, Ken Yeager, Aileen Casanave, Maha Elgenaidi and others spoke about human rights, the common good and acceptance.
Father Jon Pedigo, Director of Projects for Peace and Justice for the Diocese of San Jose, drew particularly enthusiastic applause for his speech on Silicon Valley’s poverty and homelessness, as well as the rights of immigrants. He also highlighted the need to protect the rights of our Muslim and undocumented brothers and sisters and emphasized that there could be no peace without justice in our country and local community. Visibly moved by his passionate and prophetic words, the crowd chanted back “Si, Se Puede!” (Yes, we can) in response.
Perhaps most important was the emphasis on getting people involved post-march. Call-to-Action alley included booths from 38 non-profit organizations hoping to enlist volunteer support both locally and nationally.
The march was a powerful witness of God’s grace and love amidst fear and uncertainty. For Catholics especially, it was an opportunity to walk with the two feet of love in action, charitable works and social justice. We are the ones we have been waiting for.