By Tanya Connor
As the 40th anniversary of the nation’s legalization of abortion approaches, local Catholics reflected on what hasn’t changed much. On Jan. 22, 1973 the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton U.S. Supreme Court decisions legalized abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy in all states. In response, in 1974 pro-lifers started the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and have held it ever since on or around Jan. 22. This year it is being held Jan. 25 because of President Barack Obama’s inauguration Jan. 21. Transportation is planned for local people who want to go.
“More than 55 million lives have been lost to abortion since 1973, and countless women and men have been deeply wounded by abortion’s devastating aftermath,” Allison LeDoux, director of the diocesan Respect Life Office, said in a press release.
“The March for Life is a prayerful event attended by people from all over the country each year to petition the president, members of Congress, and the Supreme Court to stop this intentional destruction of human lives and to pray for a restoration of the protection of human life in all its stages from conception to natural death.”
“It gets discouraging after all these years that we still have to be here,” said Linda McManus, of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in West Boylston, who first went on the march with her mother and has brought her own children.
She said that after the 25th and 30th anniversaries of the Supreme Court decisions she asked, “How can we still be having to fight this? She wonders why others can’t see “what is so clear to us.”
“How destructive this whole thing is to women – and of course the babies – and the families,” she said. “But it is inspiring to go to the march;” it motivates people to continue working to end abortion, which is “just the worst thing going on in the country.”
Mrs. McManus said her mother, Mary Mulcahy, an Our Lady of Good Counsel parishioner who died 20 years ago, was one of the first people from this area to go.
“I started going with my mother,” years ago, she said. “At that time there was a huge group of tight-knit pro-life people from Shrewsbury, Worcester and the surrounding towns. I just remember venturing out in the middle of the night. It felt like it was a great thing to do,” leaving St. Paul Cathedral after an inspiring send-off Mass “to pick up the cause.” She said the ride to Washington was long but fun; there were families with children, and older folks, and she got to know many of the people.
Although she said she hasn’t been to the march in the past few years, her recollections reflect the activities over the years and the plans for this year.
When they arrived, they attended an “inspiring” Mass at the “awesome” National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, then went downstairs for breakfast, Mrs. McManus said.
In those days buses could park at the mall area, she said. She recalled seeing ones from around the country, and said it offered a sense of how many people were there and how far they had traveled.
“Of course Ruth Pakaluk was there,” she said of a well-known local Catholic, now deceased. “She always had children – her own and the big youth groups. We would go to the museums.
“I remember too going to visit the representatives. They weren’t usually there to greet us, but we would always leave notes that we were there on behalf of the unborn and ask them to do something to change the laws or change their positions.” On the march itself the marchers would chant when they passed legislators’ offices to make their voices heard, she said.
When her children were at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury and St. Peter-Marian Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Worcester, she went with them and their friends with their school groups, she said.
She said as the years went on, more and more young people participated in the march, and that continues, and now there are special events for youth.
Nina Tsantinis, who attends St. John Parish in Worcester, said she thinks the march is a good experience, especially for young people.
“I think there’s a sense of camaraderie,” she said. “They’re all about their peer groups. When they can identify with peers around the country on this very important subject, I think it inspires them to become active in the movement.”
“I remember the first time I went,” said Ms. Tsantinis, who hasn’t been for a few years. “Abortions were up. It was a very disturbing time.” But, she said, there was a broadcast from the White House with a message from the new president, George W. Bush.
“I remember feeling so jubilant and optimistic that things were going to change,” she said. “And they didn’t much. We still have Roe v. Wade.”
Anyone who wants to continue the efforts to change that is welcome to attend the Respect Life Mass at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at St. Paul Cathedral , whether or not they are going on the march.
Mrs. LeDoux said that after Mass two diocesan buses, a bus from St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury, and a bus from Oxford and Webster parishes, are to take marchers to Washington, arriving at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in time for Friday morning Mass. The buses are to leave after the march, which starts at noon at the National Mall at 4th Street and ends at Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court. The buses are to arrive back at St. Paul’s about 1 a.m. Jan. 26.
A first this year is a group from Assumption College going on one of the diocesan buses, Mrs. LeDoux said. And, she said, 36 students and four adults from Trivium School in Lancaster – the biggest contingent she’s ever had from there – are traveling on a diocesan bus.
The cost for the diocesan buses is $85 per person. For more information and registration forms, visit www.worcesterdiocese.org/respectlife or contact the Respect Life Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-929-4311.
The Shewsbury bus is full according to Dr. John Harding.
For more information about the Oxford/Webster bus contact Father Richard F. Reidy, pastor of St. Ann Parish in North Oxford, which is partnering with St. Roch Parish in Oxford and Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Webster.
Those arranging their own transportation include the College of the Holy Cross with Merrimack College and St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough.
January 22 is designated by the General Instruction on the Roman Missal to be observed by Catholics as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.
From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 22 a prayer vigil is to be held outside Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, 470 Pleasant St., Worcester, where abortions are performed, said Sandra Kucharski, communications coordinator for the local 40 Days for Life campaign to end abortion. She said all are welcome to come whenever they can during the day.
“Certainly we need to pray and do reparation for the sin of abortion, and a very good place to say those prayers is outside the facility where they perform abortions,” she said. “The sin is far greater than the inconvenience of being cold.”
St. Anna Parish in Leominster and the Leominster Knights of Columbus Council #406 are cosponsoring a talk in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the legalization of abortion at 7 p.m. Jan. 21 at the KofC council building on Lancaster Street/Rt. 117, Leominster. Roderick P. Murphy, a longtime pro-life activist who is director of Problem Pregnancy of Worcester, which offers women alternatives to abortion, is to talk about “Fighting Abortion in Worcester County.” A question and answer period is to follow. A goodwill offering to help Problem Pregnancy will be taken. For information, contact Linda Kinsey at 978-728-4460.
– See www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/january-roe-events/ for more information about events in Washington.