Posted April 19, 2010 in MH Washington DC:
The March for Life

by Maureen Ray.

On January 22, I was among the estimated 300,000 people who gathered in Washington D.C. for the annual March for Life. This was probably the largest crowd since the march began in 1974, when 20,000 pro-life Americans rallied on behalf of the unborn to protest the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision to legalize abortion.

This year’s event began the evening before the march with the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life, which was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The basilica was filled to overflowing; people were in the aisles, the side chapels, the vestibule, and even the crypt church.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-life Activities, was the main celebrant, and he was joined by five other bishops and many priests from across the country.

Cardinal DiNardo urged the thousands present "to embrace life willingly and earnestly, as did the saints who span the centuries." Then he added, "The actions to influence lawmakers on abortion—lobbying, public marches, writing letters—are important, but so is prayer and embracing Jesus on the cross."

The Mass was followed by an all-night prayer vigil which included adoration, rosary, opportunity for confession, and silent prayer.

The next day, several events preceded the march. The largest was the Youth Rally and Mass for Life held at the Verizon Center. This rally, which began at 7:00 a.m., celebrated life with Christian music, testimonies, opportunity for individual confession, and rosary; and it culminated with the liturgy. Twenty-thousand youth and hundreds of religious and seminarians participated.

Archbishop Donald Wuerl, ordinary of the archdiocese, was the principal celebrant of the Mass. Several cardinals, more than 30 bishops, and 250 priests concelebrated.

Archbishop Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read a message from Pope Benedict XVI: "His Holiness is deeply grateful to all who take part in this outstanding annual witness to the Gospel of Life."

The pope then went on to encourage young people to "embrace a culture of life grounded in the unchanging truth of who we are as God’s children" and to "rise to this urgent moral challenge and witness to the sacredness of God’s gift of life."

Over the years, the march has grown to such proportions that the people coming can no longer be accommodated as they were in the past. So Masses were said in fifteen satellite churches, mostly in the downtown area., to accommodate the pilgrims who could not fit into the Verizon Center.

Of note was the first-ever Adult Rally and Mass for Life, organized by the Association of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities (of which, Madonna House Washington is a member). Over 1,000 people attended.

Before the bilingual liturgy celebrated by Bishop Gonzales, an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese and several priests, there were pro-life speakers, personal witness talks, music, and the rosary.

Bishop Gonzales told the congregation, "We are here today to celebrate life…. But it is still a sad day because 37 years ago, a group of people entrusted by our nation to impart justice, decided that a certain group of people will not have any rights. Over fifty million babies have been destroyed since then."

He also offered hope: "Where two or three are gathered in his name, God will grant your prayer… I think we can do that in about five minutes here."

After the Masses, the groups proceeded en masse to the National Mall where the official rally and march began. Here the tens of thousands of pilgrims assembled from all over the United States, plus some who had come all the way from Europe, to witness to the dignity of life.

At the rally, there were speeches and exhortations from Congressmen, prelates, and Nellie Gray, president of the March for Life. All encouraged those assembled to continue to support pro-life efforts.

Several of the speakers also spoke about the proposed Health Care Bill, stressing that abortion should never have been part of the health care reform legislation put before Congress, "as it fails to uphold the dignity of people and freedom of conscience."

Another speaker, Senator Brownback, referred to a recent Gallup poll which asked people if they consider themselves pro-life or pro-choice. 51% of Americans responded "pro-life" and 42% "pro-choice." This means that, "for the first time since Roe vs. Wade, we live in a country where the majority of people are pro-life."

After listening to almost two hours of speeches, the marchers headed up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court. Many carried banners proclaiming their pro-life stance, others, banners saying where they are from.

Among those carrying signs were men and women from the organization, Silent No More Awareness. The women’s read, "I regret my abortion," the men’s, "I regret lost fatherhood." They also handed out signs to some of the marchers. On one side were the words, "Women do regret abortions," and on the other, "Men regret lost fatherhood."

In front of the Supreme Court, the women from Silent No More Awareness gave their testimonies, sharing how their lives had been affected by their abortions and how, through grace, they came to a place of healing and peace.

Now they are sharing their stories where they can in the hope that people hearing them will be moved to choose life.

After the march, some people went to see their Congressmen to let them know where they stand on the life issue and to encourage them to uphold life from conception to natural death.

After the march, too, many of the parishes and parishioners in the area opened their doors to accommodate the pilgrims. They gave them shelter and provided water, hot drinks, snacks, and restroom facilities before they had to get back on their buses to head home.

We live on Capitol Hill not far from the site of the march, and we, too, offered hospitality to the marchers. Most who dropped in were friends who have been coming after the march for years to get warm, have a coffee, and catch up with one another, but sometimes someone stumbles upon our Blue Doors for the first time.

This year as we were just about to close things down, three young boys walked in and headed for the hot chocolate, then two more came in followed by their father. They had just gone to St. Joe’s, the parish next door, as the parish was closing, and someone told them they could get a hot drink at our house.

That’s how we made a new friend, Tom, the father of nine. Four of his sons and one of their friends were with him. The boys told us they had been marching for life since they were infants, and this was the second year for their friend.

We had a lovely visit with them, and we sent them off with a tin of cookies and some Madonna House literature.

It is hard to explain the atmosphere of the city on the day of the march. The hope and the sense of coming together in a united effort to pray, sing, and stand up to be counted on this very important life issue is truly incredible.

And, over the years, to see tens of thousands of people marching down Constitution Avenue in rain or shine, fair weather or foul, amidst some protesters, in a city that does not acknowledge the importance of such a day, cannot be captured on paper.

You need to experience it yourself. If you can, why don’t you come and join the March for Life next year?


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