At the Adult and Family Rally and Mass for Life on Jan. 27 preceding the 44th annual March for Life, participants were encouraged to be people of prayer and action, standing up for the dignity of all life, unborn and born, and supporting women facing crisis pregnancies.
“Our hearts cannot rest until there is not one more life lost to abortion,” said Mary Rice Hasson, the director of the Catholic Women’s Forum and a fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.
She spoke at the rally before the Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, joined by her husband, Kevin “Seamus” Hasson, the founder and president emeritus of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
The pro-life rally and Mass for adults and families, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Association of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, drew a large congregation that included local Catholics and people who had traveled from across the country to join the March for Life.
Mary Rice Hasson noted that six months ago during the hard-fought presidential campaign, people might not have anticipated that by the time of the March for Life, there would be a pro-life president in office who would support congressional efforts to end federal funding for abortion, and that the nation would be on the verge of having a pro-life justice nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, leaving the high court one vote shy of overturning the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
She said that people who support the pro-life cause should turn their hearts in gratitude, “to those who kept the faith,” like the people who have been steadfastly praying outside abortion clinics and those who have served women facing crisis pregnancies. But she added that most importantly, this is a time to turn to God, “for nothing is impossible with God.”
Hasson said the recent Women’s March on Washington – where many speakers emphasized abortion rights – shows that the opposition on that issue is hardened and undeterred. “Our job, our fight is not over,” she said, adding that the battle for promoting the sanctity of life continues.
She said many prominent feminists wrongly link that cause with abortion. “We have to call to task the big lie that women cannot be equal without abortion,” she said.
Mary Rice Hasson said pro-life advocates need to challenge the media to tell the good work being done on behalf of volunteers, by couples adopting children, by those helping unwed mothers and by teens volunteering to serve others.
Many women facing unplanned pregnancies feel frightened and alone, and Hasson emphasized the importance of helping them.
“Pro-lifers do not just care for the unborn, but for the born,” she said. “Women need to hear they are not alone, that we are with them and will help them. You are the hands and feet of Christ” today, she added.
In his talk at the rally, Seamus Hasson – who retired in 2011 due to Parkinson’s –pointed out how today both the pro-life and religious liberty causes are seen by many as being politically incorrect. The Becket Fund that he founded is noted for its Supreme Court victories in the Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters’ cases involving religious freedom, and its successful defense of “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
He noted how a story from our nation’s early history involving the Quakers and religious liberty offers a template for how pro-life advocates can succeed. At one point, the Quaker faith had been outlawed and even preaching it was regarded as a crime punishable by death. But he noted that the Quakers overcame their opponent’s anger through their resilience and “gentle stubbornness.”
He encouraged those who march and work for life to imitate that spirit. “That same gentle stubbornness that won the day for the Quakers will likewise win the day for us,” he said.
In an audio message before the rally, Cardinal Donald Wuerl thanked participants for their “public witness to the inherent dignity of every human life.”
“The ‘Gospel of Life’ is good news for our time, and we must proclaim it. We must not be silent,” Washington’s archbishop said.
Later as he welcomed people to the Mass, Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson, the cathedral’s rector, said, “We’re here to celebrate life” and the dignity and worth of human life from conception to natural death. “We are all children of God,” he said.
Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville, the main celebrant of the Mass, was joined by 10 priests who concelebrated the liturgy. The bishop said it was inspiring to see so many young faces in the congregation who came to Washington to join the March for Life. “We are going out,” he said, noting that is a key message of Pope Francis, to pray inside and then go outside to share the Gospel.
In his homily, Father Larry Swink – the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in La Plata – said, “Every life, no matter how it is conceived, is planned by God.” He told the story of a pregnant woman who was taking medicine to battle a serious illness, and her doctors advised her to have an abortion, but she chose life, giving birth to Tim Tebow, who became one of the greatest college football players of all time.
The priest noted the relevance of the message from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans in the second reading that day – “ do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
For today’s young people, Father Swink said that is a reminder of the importance of the virtue of chastity, at a time when the culture encourages premarital sexual activity and when most abortions are performed on unmarried women.
“Live holy purity. Wait until marriage,” he said, adding that God’s grace, along with prayer and the sacrament of Confession, can help young people remain steadfast in living chaste lives.
Father Swink also emphasized the importance of prayer in the pro-life cause. “This right to life movement would not happen without prayer and sacrifice… This battle will not be won yelling at people. It will be won on our knees,” he said.
He asked people to pray for women who’ve had abortions, and he noted the importance of God’s mercy that was emphasized in the Catholic Church’s recent Year of Mercy.
“We need to tell men and women who’ve been involved in abortion that they can be forgiven,” said the priest, who noted that he participates in the archdiocese’s Project Rachel ministry for post-abortion healing.
The priest said it’s important to remember that, more than being a political issue, the battle to end abortion “is a human rights issue.”
“We’re going to go out and pray and march, because someday, we won’t have to march. Everyone will have the chance to live,” he said.
Before the Mass, a group of 51 marchers from the right to life group in Darke County, Ohio, posed for photos on the steps of the cathedral. The teen-agers, who had ridden nine hours through the night on a bus together, wore matching gray and red caps knitted by a woman that were inspired by the colors of the Ohio State University Buckeyes.
Jake DeMange, the bus captain, said they had come “to stand up for what’s right.”
Jorja Pothast, a junior at Versailles High School in that Ohio community, said, “We feel strongly about this cause.”
The group’s adult leader praised the commitment of the young marchers. “That’s gonna be the generation that will flip this,” DeMange said, noting that he had brought his 13-year-old daughter to the march for the first time.
“I wanted her to see the young generation, and how this is going to change, and how we’re going to end abortion,” he said.