WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of people from around the country will converge on Washington for the annual March for Life on Friday, Jan. 25, two days after the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
But tens of thousands more who can’t travel to the nation’s capital have abundant opportunities to join in spirit as they attend companion coast-to-coast events.
Several of the national events are scheduled on the Saturdays preceding or following the Washington march or on the Jan. 22 anniversary date itself.
Texas and Florida
Beginning on Jan. 19, one of the nation’s largest events outside of Washington is the Dallas March for Life and Rally, which saw 10,000-plus marchers in attendance last year.
As in previous years, Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell and his fellow bishops, joined by priests of the Dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth, will celebrate the annual Roe Memorial Mass at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Preceding the Mass, people will pray the Roe Memorial Rosary outside an abortion facility.
"The theme of the 2013 Roe memorial events is ‘Exodus 20:13,’" Bishop Farrell wrote in his letter of invitation. "The Book of Exodus reminds us of the 40-year journey of God’s people through the desert to the Promised Land, and the verse Exodus 20:13 states none other than God’s Fifth Commandment, ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ — a most fitting reminder from almighty God in the year 2013, the 40th year of the legalized killing of the unborn, that life is sacred and must be protected and that the killing must end."
Bishop Farrell stressed that, since 1973, the United States has flouted the Fifth Commandment: There have been more than 53 million innocent lives lost by abortion alone, including 14,000 unborn children killed each year in the nine counties comprising the Diocese of Dallas.
He urged everyone in the diocese to attend the local events. "On Jan. 19, we will come together in large numbers to witness to the city of Dallas our unwavering devotion to continue these efforts, to leave behind us the desert of abortion, usher in its ‘exodus’ from our community and embrace the promise of life!"
Karen Garnett, executive director for the Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas, the respect-life ministry of the Dallas Diocese (ProLifeDallas.org), said that everyone is praying for this pro-life exodus and will witness with Exodus 20:13 t-shirts (Exodus2013.org).
"Anybody in our country can wear the t-shirt year-round," Garnett said. "It’s a reminder of that Bible verse. We have a reminder from almighty God that ‘thou shalt not kill.’ Life is sacred."
Last year, approximately 50% of the thousands who joined the ecumenical march after the Mass were young people. This year promises to draw even more, as marchers walk from the cathedral to the rally at the Earle Cabell Federal Courthouse, the district court where Roe v. Wade began.
"What started in Dallas must end in Dallas!" emphasized Bishop Farrell.
On the Atlantic coast of Florida, the March for Life St. Augustine also takes place on Jan. 19. More than 2,000 people attended last year.
May Oliver, the founder and coordinator of the St. Augustine March, said groups are coming by bus from various states. This year’s theme is "Be Courageous and Protect Life."
It’s especially aimed at men. "We’re really trying to bring men up to what they’re supposed to be as providers and protectors of the faith," Oliver explained.
Events begin with a Youth Night on Friday evening, Jan. 18, with everyone praying an illuminated Rosary at the Great Cross on the grounds of Mission Nombre de Dios in the city.
"It’s a good start under the blessing of Our Lady," Oliver said. The mission grounds are the site of the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche — "So appropriate because she is the nursing Madonna," said Oliver. The site is also the location of the first Mass celebrated on the North American continent.
Saturday’s March begins with Mass on the grounds of Prince of Peace Votive Church and then proceeds through the city to the Public Plaza downtown adjacent to St. Augustine’s cathedral-basilica, where people will hear Bishop Felipe Estévez and others speak.
On Florida’s Gulf coast, the Diocese of Venice will have its 15th annual Prayer Walk for Life in Sarasota on Jan. 22.
The day begins with Mass celebrated by Venice Bishop Frank Dewane at St. Martha Catholic Church. The church is half a mile from the largest Planned Parenthood in the state of Florida.
"Rather than just stand there to pray, we continually circle the block in prayer," said Jeanne Berdeaux, the diocesan respect-life director. "And this year we’re doing something we’ve never done before: It’s our new ‘Respect for Life’ umbrella project."
Many marchers will carry blue umbrellas. The color honors the Blessed Mother. Imprinted on the umbrella is the message "Respect for Life" in such a way that the "T" looks like a cross and each letter of the word "Life" forms a teardrop.
The teardrops represent "tears of sorrow for the 54 million children who have died and tears of joy for those who are saved," explained Berdeaux.
Denver and Atlanta
On Sunday, Jan. 20, in Denver, at noon, hundreds will join in the March for Life Denver (MFLDenver.org) at the Colorado State Capitol. The rally will follow the mid-morning annual Respect Life Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila will celebrate the Mass.
On Jan. 22, in the Atlanta Archdiocese, people will again overflow the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Church for the Mass for the Unborn. Mary Boyert, the archdiocese’s director of the Respect Life Ministry, believes this year’s turnout will be even larger because of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
"We’ve totally outgrown the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Church (which holds about 1,100), but it’s within walking distance of the state Capitol," she said, explaining why the rally still begins with Mass there. Archbishop Wilton Gregory will concelebrate Mass with other bishops and priests from many parishes following a Rosary for Life.
"Many of our parishes and Catholic schools will have Mass at the school or send students down to the church," she said, noting the scope of the participation.
Walk for Life West Coast
On Saturday, Jan. 26, the largest rally outside of Washington will take place in San Francisco. The ninth annual Walk for Life West Coast (WalkforLifeWC.com) drew approximately 40,000 walkers last year.
The same highly visible new route begun last year will be used, starting at Civic Center Plaza and proceeding down Market Street to Justin Herman Plaza by the waterfront.
The walk’s co-founder and co-chair, Eva Muntean, reported that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio to the United States, will be in attendance.
"We’re very pleased that the papal nuncio requested to come to our Walk for Life," Muntean said. "We are so excited — this is the next best thing to having the Holy Father himself with us."
According to Muntean, 10 bishops, headed by San Francisco’s newly appointed Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone — marking his fourth year at the walk — will also participate.
Speakers this year include Lacey Buchanan, whose YouTube video about her and her blind son has reached more than 11 million views.
"Actress Jennifer O’Neill is coming too," Muntean said. "She wanted to come to give her testimony at the Silent No More event before our rally."
Muntean said the hopes are to lay out concrete things people can do on this 40th anniversary year because it’s "even more important to stay active and engaged."
Joseph Pronechen is the
Register’s staff writer.