Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Jan
  • 23

‘No sacrifice too great’

Posted By January 23, 2014 | 12:55 pm | Lead Story #3

By Carol Zimmermann and Katie Talalas

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The polar vortex couldn’t chill the ardor of thousands of participants who demonstrated their determination to continue speaking out against abortion at the annual March for Life and rally Jan. 22 in Washington.
Temperatures went briefly into double digits but hovered around 8 degrees.
At the rally, speakers highlighted the tenacious determination of the crowd – dressed in coats, scarves, hats and gloves – huddled together on the snow-covered National Mall. They likened the crowd’s bravery to the firm resolve they have shown in their efforts to change abortion laws and promote a culture of life in the United States.
The rally began at noon, prior to the crowd’s march to the U.S. Supreme Court to protest the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, and it had a different feel this year, not simply because of the cold but in the variety of speakers.
Only three members of Congress addressed the crowd, although a handful stood on the mall’s stage. No Catholic leaders addressed the crowd either, but Catholic bishops joined Orthodox leaders for the rally’s opening prayer given by Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios.
Under a blue and sunny sky, Christian singer and songwriter Matt Maher attempted to warm up the crowd while playing a guitar with fingerless gloves. “We’re all really cold,” he acknowledged, adding that the reason they had gathered was to “demonstrate to the world how much we need God.”
Patrick Kelly, chairman of the March for Life, told the crowd filled with young people that they were “freezing for the best cause in the world.” Jeanne Monahan, March for Life president, thanked the crowd for “braving the extreme elements today.”
“No sacrifice is too great for this cause,” she added.
A few times during the hourlong rally, she also advised participants suffering in the cold to visit one of the first-aid warming tents.
Kelly and Monahan stressed a new aspect of this year’s march: tweeting about it with the hashtag #marchforlife or #whywemarch. Marchers cheered as Monahan read a tweet from Pope Francis: “I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers. May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable.” She urged the crowd to retweet his message.
The theme of this year’s march was “Adoption: A Noble Decision.”
“When a woman makes a choice to be a birth mother, she embraces motherhood in its most heroic sense,” said Monahan, who also offered support for women who have not chosen life in the past. “For any woman who has had an abortion, you have to know there is hope and healing.”
In his remarks, Kelly noted that the March for Life has a new staff, logo and website and also aims to have a vital social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The goal, he said, is not just for participants to be here once a year but to be in touch with one another “365 days a year to build culture of life in America.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said the marchers’ endurance not only gives “voice to the cause of protecting life” but also shows that they are the “strongest weapon” of the pro-life movement. He said he was confident pro-lifers would win the culture war, because the right to life “is a moral truth written at the hands of our Creator.”
Last year, the House passed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and Cantor cited it as an example of changing public opinion on abortion. He exhorted the rally-goers to continue the battle. “We cannot allow the opponents of life to weaken the moral fabric of this country.”
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., criticized President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act “for its insurance plans that include abortion,” but he also stressed that “the pro-life movement is alive and well and making serious, significant and sustained progress.”
“In the last three years alone, a record 200 pro-life laws have been enacted in the states,” he noted. “By the grace of God – and because of you, your prayers and hard work – we are winning.”
He also echoed a theme of the day, telling youths in the crowd: “Never quit or grow discouraged, your generation will end abortion.”
The Rev. James Dobson, an evangelical Christian leader and founder of Focus on the Family, said, “Young people, you are the future of the pro-life movement. We will win this fight.”
Rep. Vicki Hartzler, R-Mo., encouraged leaders to support alternatives to abortion. “Or society must stop upholding abortion and start encouraging adoption.”
That message resonated with Nicole Peck, president of Silent No More.
Speaking about her abortion, Peck said, “They took my money, my baby, and my self-respect.” She even lost her opportunity to experience childbirth: “I would never conceive another child.”
Nicole and her husband later adopted two children. “Their mothers are our heroes.”
Many of the freezing marchers had traveled for days to get to Washington.
Jennifer Camilleri, a freshman at Franciscan University at Steubenville, Ohio, came with hundreds of students from her university. She said that she believed that the Holy Spirit was working through people to encourage them to support life.
Monica Stephens, a 17-year-old student from Kansas, came with her parish ministry group. When asked why she came, Stephens told Catholic News Service: “You have to stand up to help the babies. Apparently, it won’t happen by itself.”
Youths must help world see God has plan for ‘each life,’ priest says

By Richard Szczepanowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Braving near-record low temperatures and Arctic-type wind chills, thousands of young people from across the Archdiocese of Washington and the United States gathered in Washington for a rally and Mass prior to the annual Jan. 22 March for Life.
“We can help the world understand that no one is an accident, all have a purpose and are loved because each person has the face of Jesus Christ,” Father Michael Paris, a parochial vicar at St. Patrick Parish in Rockville, Md., told more than 10,000 youth who gathered for the Archdiocese of Washington’s Youth Rally and Mass for Life at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington.
The priest was the homilist at the Mass, which was celebrated by Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington. Concelebrants included several bishops, including Washington Auxiliary Bishop Martin D. Holley, and more than 160 priests.
“I believe God wants to use us to end abortion. …  By helping the world see that God has a plan for each life, that everyone is loved by God,” Father Paris said.  “If people believed that, they would never think that killing a child could be an option. … Abortion cannot stand if each person believes this.”
The Mass and Rally for Life is traditionally held on the morning of the annual March for Life, which this year marks the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion on demand in the United States.
The same day the archdiocese also sponsored an additional Youth Rally and Mass for Life that drew thousands of mostly out-of-town marchers to the Stadium Armory in Washington. Washington Auxiliary Bishop Barry C. Knestout was the main celebrant of that Mass.
Cardinal Wuerl, in speaking with young people at the Verizon Center before the Mass, remarked: “Considering its freezing outside, the thousands of youth here (at the rally and Mass) shows how much value they place on human life.”
“The basis of all respect is recognizing the right to life,” he said. “The young people here are the voices of life. They are the future.”
Among the “voices of life” at the rally and Mass was William Bolin, a member of St. Andrew Apostle Parish in Silver Spring, Md. He said the frigid temperatures would not deter young people who defend life.
“Snow or no snow, no matter what, we are pro-life, and it is crucial to show the world that youth are pro-life,” he said. “Despite all the obstacles, we will be here.”
The inclement weather did not keep a group of young pro-lifers from St. Martin of Tours Parish in Gaithersburg, Md., from attending the event.
“Because of the weather, our buses were canceled and we had to be creative to get here,” said Theresa Mondoa, a youth leader from the parish. “We carpooled because the kids are very committed to this and look forward to this day when they stand up for life.”
During his homily, Father Paris encouraged young people to be proud to “protect life (and) … stand up for our unborn brothers and sisters.”
“He (God) loves each unborn child and has a plan for their life, no matter how hard a situation they might come from.,” the priest said. “But before we can help anyone else believe this, we have to know this ourselves.”
Father Paris told youth not to be discouraged in sharing the pro-life message with others.
“How can we help the world around us understand? We are so young, so weak, the culture of death is so strong,” he said. “Say not, ‘I am too young.’ … The Holy Spirit will give us everything we need to make this happen.”
Cardinal Wuerl said the rally and Mass and participation in the March for Life offer ways “to renew our commitment to recognize and value the dignity of each human life. We recognize the warmth of your commitment in contrast  to what is going on outside.”
Also during the Mass, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read a message of support to the pro-lifers from Pope Francis. He said the pope was “most grateful to all those who take part in this outstanding public witness to the right to life.” Participants at the Verizon Center rally offered Pope Francis a thunderous standing ovation.
Father William Byrne, pastor of St. Peter Parish on Capitol Hill and the Archdiocese of Washington’ secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns, opened the rally with a prayer.
“We come here to praise and worship God and to defend life,” he said. “Today is dedicated to the dignity of the human person.”
Young people in attendance said they were committed to seeing an end to abortion.
“I am motivated to see this terrible thing called abortion stopped,” said Kaycie Willard, a junior at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Md., and a member of St. Joseph Parish in Beltsville, Md.
Susan Lea, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Derwood, Md.,  said that young people have an important role to play in defending life.
“This is the generation that is going to change the culture of death,” she told the Catholic Standard, Washington’s archdiocesan newspaper. “The message that everybody has a right to life is a message that young people will pass on to their peers.”
More than 400 people from the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., made a 24-hour bus journey through snow and ice to attend the youth rally, Mass and March for Life.
“Despite the chill, we have pledged to stand for life,” said Cheryl Greer, a member of the group. “This is our pilgrimage, and we offer it as penance, a prayer to end abortion.”
Cleopatre Thelus and Amande Cholodewitsch, college students from Cleveland, traveled to Washington by themselves. “I just wanted to be with my fellow Catholics and stand for life,” Thelus said.
Cholodewitsch noted that this was her fourth year attending the rally and Mass.
“I’m glad that it’s cold and there is snow – that is more suffering we can offer up to end abortion,” she said. “I keep coming back because I’m not going until Roe vs. Wade is gone.”

– – –
Szczepanowski is a staff writer at the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese.