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March for Life Continues to Grow in National Solidarity
BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN
Those who couldn’t get to Washington, D.C., for today’s March for Life made their presence and voices in cities, towns, parishes and dioceses throughout the country.
Rallies, Masses, prayer vigils and Holy Hours were held in unison with the main event in Washington, while others were held prior and others are slated afterward.
It was standing-room only at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, Colo., for today’s Mass for Reparation and Penance on the anniversary. Mimi Eckstein, the Respect Life director of the Denver Archdiocese, estimated the crowd at 900.
After the Mass, they marched the few blocks away to join several thousand at the Colorado Right to Life’s march and rally at the state Capitol, Eckstein said, adding that Archbishop Charles Chaput celebrated the Respect Life Mass Jan. 16 at the cathedral for the archdiocese’s first event commemorating this time.
Jeanne Berdeaux, Respect Life director for the Diocese of Venice, Fla., said the Knights of Columbus were busing people who attended the Respect Life Mass at St. Martha Church in Sarasota over for a continuous daylong prayer walk in front of that city’s Planned Parenthood center, one of the largest in the country. More than 300 people attended the previous year’s event.
Tonight, Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmstead will lead a march and prayer service at Arizona State University. It begins at the university with music and prayer, then Bishop Olmstead will lead a procession with the Blessed Sacrament up “A” mountain for prayer over the city, followed by all-night adoration in the Newman Center chapel.
In neighboring Diocese of Tucson, 2,200 people turned out Jan. 16 for the pro-life march. Organizer Kelly Copeland said, “It was our biggest one ever.” St. Augustine Cathedral, which holds about 1,400 was standing-room only for the opening Mass for Life celebrated by Bishop Gerald Kicanas that kicked off the proceedings.
At the same time, there was a Protestant service in the cathedral hall for those of other denominations. Copeland sent invitations to the diocese’s Protestant churches.
The main speaker was a women from the local Silent No More, and groups sang and prayed the Rosary on the four-mile march marched in reparation under the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe that went up main roads from the cathedral to the Catholic cemetery for the annual memorial remembrance service.
In Texas, Karen Garnett, executive director for the Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas, the Respect Life ministry of the Dallas Diocese (ProLifeDallas.org), finds recent Dallas March for Life numbers growing dramatically.
Last year’s 5,000 marchers doubled 2008’s turnout, and last Saturday’s rally drew upwards of 7,000. Overflow crowds even in the hundreds under a tent on the cathedral plaza attended the Mass celebrated at the cathedral by Bishop Kevin Farrell before the march.
“It was the biggest march we ever had,” said Garnett. “That shows how much momentum, energy and enthusiasm there is. I’ve never seen so many signs. The pro-life movement is growing. We are building a culture of life across the country.”
Today, Texans concluded a modified 40 Days for Life that began on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and drew 3,300 participants to pray for the closing of a new late-term abortion business.
In the Austin, Texas, Diocese, former pro-life director Ann Bierschenk looks forward to the full day of activities tomorrow, Jan. 23. They begin early in the morning with a prayer vigil at a local abortion business, then a Rosary for Life, followed by Mass at San Jose Catholic Church, which all priests of the diocese will concelebrate. At least 500 are expected for the Mass.
“It grows every year,” Bierschenk said. Then up to 5,000 are expected for the following Rally for Life on the Capitol steps organized by the Texas Alliance for Life.
The same numbers are expected in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, which holds its Mass and peaceful Rosary procession Jan. 23. Bishop Oscar Cantú will be chief celebrant for the Mass at St. Mary Magdalen Church before the Rosary procession proceeds to the local Planned Parenthood.
Rick Doucette, director of the archdiocesan pro-life office, expects as least as many as last year’s usual 300 people for the Rosary and more than 500 at the Mass. Hopefully more. The enthusiastic Doucette observed, “It’s grown tenfold over the last three years.”
In the Diocese of St. Augustine, Fla., according to Lorraine Allaire, Respect Life coordinator for the diocese, 600 people joined Bishop Victor Galeone for today’s march around the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Jacksonville, a short talk by the bishop, a prayer led by him, and four women from Silent No More gave their personal testimonies about how abortion had affected their lives and told of their conversion.
Jan. 16, the March for Life in St. Augustine drew more than 1,000 who marched from Price of Peace Votive Church to the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine square, then the courthouse, and heard their main speaker, Bobby Schindler, who attended the March for Life in Washington.
At last count, 74,450 virtual marchers unable to get to Washington have signed on to the first-ever Virtual March for Life sponsored by Americans United for Life Action. Sarah Palin is one leader who signed up.
“Those of us who can’t be there can still join them online at the Virtual March for Life,” Palin wrote on her Facebook page. “Together we can bear witness to the beauty and blessings of the culture of life.”
Other leaders joining Palin on the virtual march included former presidential candidate Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry and Tim Pawlenty, senators and congressmen, and James Dobson of Focus on the Family.
On the eve of the March for Life, the Knights of Columbus released results of its survey that showed 56% of all Americans and 58% of those 18-29 years old believe abortion to be “morally wrong.”
The Knights commissioned the survey, which was conducted by Marist Institute for Public Opinion.
“Americans of all ages — and younger people in even greater numbers than their parents — see abortion as something morally wrong,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “America has turned a corner and is embracing life — and in doing so is embracing a future they — and all of us — can be proud of.”
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.