January 30, 2009

Disciples for life: Hundreds from central and southern Indiana participate in March for Life in Washington

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein walks in the 36th annual March for Life on Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C., with Mary Schaffner, program coordinator of young adult ministry for the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education; Servants of the Gospel of Life Sister Diane Carollo, director of the archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry; and St. Malachy parishioner Donna Johnson of Brownsburg. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein walks in the 36th annual March for Life on Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C., with Mary Schaffner, program coordinator of young adult ministry for the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education; Servants of the Gospel of Life Sister Diane Carollo, director of the archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry; and St. Malachy parishioner Donna Johnson of Brownsburg. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

WASHINGTON, D.C.—God calls pro-life supporters to become pro-life disciples and renew their spiritual commitment to protect the sanctity and dignity of life from conception until natural death, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, told diocesan pro-life directors during an afternoon Mass on Jan. 21 at the Trinity College Chapel.

That night, as the principal celebrant and homilist for the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life, Cardinal Rigali challenged thousands of pro-life supporters crowded into the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to intensify their efforts to end abortion.

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein joined about 865 high school students, young adults and chaperones from throughout the archdiocese—including seven priests and 21 seminarians—on the pro-life pilgrimage to the nation’s capital for the Mass and 36th annual March for Life. (See a photo gallery from this event)

The solemn pro-life vigil Mass on the feast of St. Agnes commemorated the 36th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion during all nine months of pregnancy and has resulted in the deaths of more than 50 million unborn babies.

“We gather tonight to celebrate the gift of life,” the cardinal said, “and to dedicate ourselves anew to respect, protect, love and serve life—every human life.”

The cardinal urged national March for Life participants to “constantly proclaim the need for a new change, one that will complete this march toward human equality. Desperately needed is a culture of life in which all people from conception to natural death are valued and respected, regardless of their age, race, disability, stage of development or condition of dependency. This change we need. This change we believe in.”

Both the new administration and new Congress “need our encouragement and our prayers,” he said, “but they also need our voices united as a constant reminder of the rights of the poor, the sick, the elderly, those with disabilities, the imprisoned and, yes, especially the most innocent, vulnerable and weakest among us—the child in the womb.”

Cardinal Rigali said the U.S. bishops “intend to work with those in public office whenever we can and to raise our voices in respectful but impassioned protest when we must.”

He said “advocating for legal protection for the unborn, helping others to appreciate the dignity of human life, and serving the needs of the many mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings and other family members affected by abortion is difficult work. Even when we face those who do not share our vision, we can take courage in the promise of Christ, our hope, since in him the victory is already won even if it is still unfolding.

“God generously gives us what we need to accomplish his work,” Cardinal Rigali said, “and to defend his law that is so deeply written in each human heart: Thou shall not kill.”

Praising the Church’s post-abortion reconciliation ministries, the cardinal said every abortion is a personal tragedy.

“God, our loving Father, is eager … to bestow his healing mercy on all who have sorrow for their involvement in an abortion,” he said. “Tonight I invite all of you who may have been involved in an abortion to ask humbly for the Lord’s forgiveness. Open your heart to his grace. Let his love embrace you and restore peace to your troubled heart.”

Pro-life Americans must voice their opposition to abortion rights legislation, Cardinal Rigali said, which would pave the way for more “wholesale assaults on unborn children.”

He emphasized that direct attacks on innocent persons at any stage in life are radically wrong, unjust and evil.

Cardinal Rigali said a nationwide online survey in December 2008 commissioned by the bishops’ pro-life secretariat found that four of five people responding, or about 82 percent, think that abortion should be illegal or restricted in some way.

“When you march against Roe v. Wade tomorrow, know that 82 percent of Americans join you in disagreeing with its extreme policy on abortion,” the cardinal said. “We have great hope in the Lord’s power to heal our land of the painful wound of legalized abortion.”

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein participated in the vigil Mass with six cardinals, eight other archbishops, 28 bishops, and hundreds of priests and seminarians.

“It’s a wonderful symbol of the unity of our Church, especially gathered on a very serious and grave occasion because of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” Archbishop Buechlein told some of the pilgrims. “It’s also a sign of great hope to see so many of us together and to be united in prayer, but it was even greater to see the tremendous number of young adults and youths. What a tremendous gathering, especially of faith in the dignity of human life and the fact that we are created in God’s image.”

In his homily during Mass with the archdiocesan pilgrims on Jan. 22 in the crypt church of the basilica, Archbishop Buechlein thanked the youths and young adults, “who hold fast to your pro-life commitment in a culture that is drifting more and more away from the Creator of our human dignity, from God himself.”

The archbishop said “Americans continue to struggle to understand a mature definition of human freedom and individual rights. … Abortion is not permissible under any circumstance.”

Servants of the Gospel of Life Sister Diane Carollo, director of the archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry, said “the fight to protect human life will certainly intensify in the future” because the President signed executive orders that reverse restrictions on overseas abortion policies.

Cardinal Ritter High School junior Jake Henning, a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, wore his school letter jacket to the march. He plays basketball and is a member of the school’s state championship football team.

“I’m here to support the pro-life cause and try to get Roe v. Wade changed,” Jake said while he waited to march along Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues with a crowd that march organizers said totaled more than 100,000 people. “Just like football, it’s a battle. We’ve just got to keep going and hope we can accomplish our goal.”

St. Patrick parishioner Anne Dela Cruz of Terre Haute is a sophomore at John Paul II Catholic High in Vigo County.

“I want to support my faith and getting rid of this atrocity that is abortion,” she said. “I have been praying for a change of heart in the Congress. Some things are probably going to change for the worse, but I just pray that it won’t.”

Butler University freshman Christopher Jozwiak, a member of St. Jude Parish in Fort Wayne, Ind., is helping start a pro-life group at the Indianapolis college.

“This is my fourth march,” he said. “I think the most important thing is to stay focused on what’s going on in the pro-life movement. … We have to be patient and consistently active in what we’re doing to end abortion. … Men and women who have been affected by abortion need to get their message out so the truth can be revealed to those who are not understanding of the issue.”

Indiana University sophomore Katherine Lee, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis and St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington, wore a cap with “Ave Maria” written on it during the march to remind people that the Blessed Mother said “yes” to life.

“I want to march for the babies,” she said. “I want to fight for life. … The pro-life movement is still alive. It’s still growing strong. I want to be a witness to that, and to see people from all over the country come together and join as one body to support the dignity of life.”

Laura Elstro, a Marian College graduate who ministers as coordinator of religious education at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Cambridge City, traveled with parish teenagers on the bus trip to the march.

“It’s inspiring to see how many people here are saying abortion has got to stop,” she said. “Just to see all the seminarians and priests at the Mass gives you hope for the Church. Ninety percent of the young people here were born after the Roe v. Wade decision, and they’re all survivors. That just amazes me to think about it.”

Elstro said she feels sad because the President is “not wanting or willing to stand up for the Gospel of Life and values. What we need to do right now is to pray, to pray very hard, for our President, for his soul and for his conversion.” †


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