By Tony DeGol
Frigid temperatures, gusty winds, snow, and ice did not deter pro-life forces from the 37th annual Respect Life March at Saint Matthew Parish in Tyrone.
It was held on January 14, sponsored, as always, by the Knights of Columbus Saint Gregory Council at Saint Matthew Parish.
“My brother Knights are thankful that through the support from our pastors and Saint Matthew since 1987, and through the combined efforts of our parish family, our annual Respect Life March has continued until the present day,” noted Knight Bill Lambert.
The Respect Life March began after the remains of an unidentified newborn child were found in the Bellwood area of Blair County in February of 1987.
When authorities completed their investigation, the Knights adopted the baby and gave her the name Baby Agnes Doe in honor of Saint Agnes, the patron of young girls.
A funeral Mass was celebrated on June 20, 1987, at Saint Matthew, and the Knights provided a proper burial at Oak Grove Cemetery in Tyrone.
Pro-life individuals have gathered every year since then, first at Saint Matthew and then for a 1.25 mile walk to her grave for a brief prayer service.
“Baby Agnes’ life was very short and ended tragically, however her life was precious and significant and was a spark for the respect for life that lives in the Saint Matthew Parish family,” Lambert added. “Her life has inspired great numbers of us to choose to love life and to respect life at all stages. The Saint Matthew family prays for Baby Agnes and prays that our respect for life will strengthen and continue in future years.”
Father Michael Pleva, Administrator of Saint Matthew Parish, offered a reflection at the parish, joined in the walk, and led the prayer service at the cemetery.
“We’re here to honor the sanctity of human life,” Father Pleva reminded the crowd. “Life is good. Life is never an inconvenience. Life remains good even if the quality of life diminishes. Today, we honor all life from conception until natural death.”
Besides Saint Matthew parishioners, the Respect Life March draws faithful from throughout the diocese, including pro-life lawmakers.
Representative John Joyce of the 13th U.S. Congressional District stressed the need for everyone to continually work together to defend life in all stages.
“Last year was a pivotal year,” he commented. “We saw that Roe v. Wade was overturned, but our work is not done. Our work will never be done until every human life and the sanctity of every human life is guaranteed.”
[Photos: (Top) Joining Father Michael Pleva at the Respect Life March were (back row, left to right) Lauri and Michael McAndrew, members of Holy Rosary Parish in Altoona, and their son, Michael McAndrew. Alongside Father Pleva are Michael McAndrew’s sons Killian, left, age 7, and Kyden, right, age 4. (Inset photos) Images from the walk to the cemetery and the prayer service at the cemetery.]