More than 100 people gathered at St. Jane de Chantal Parish in Bethesda on Dec. 10 for a Witness to Life Mass and Procession from the parish to the newly opened abortion clinic that is just a mile away.

“I was bothered that it is right in our community,” said Anne Marie Cardoni, who passed her neighborhood as she processed with her young son. “There is no place for it here.”

Cardoni, who is a parishioner of St. Jane de Chantal, said her daughter graduated from Walter Johnson High School, which is nearly across the street from the clinic. Students from Walter Johnson and other nearby schools frequently gather at the Wildwood shopping center right next to the clinic to get lunch at Balducci’s or coffee from Starbucks, she said.

Dr. LeRoy Carhart opened the clinic at the Wildwood Medical Center Building in mid-October, after closing his Germantown, Maryland facility. Carhart performs abortions through all nine months of pregnancy.

Washington Auxiliary Bishop Roy Campbell Jr. was the principal celebrant of the Mass at St. Jane de Chantal before the procession, and in his homily he spoke about the importance of making straight the way of the Lord during Advent. To do this, he said, Christians must first “repent of our own sinfulness” and then “call others to turn away from sin.”

“The path He wants straight is the path into our hearts so He can change it,” said Bishop Campbell. “By standing up for life…We can help others to open their hearts and give the Lord a straight path into it.”

Bishop Campbell said changing social and moral norms, such as the legalization of abortion, can “cause us to live the opposite of how Christ taught us to.” In the particular case of abortion, civil law says that unborn babies are not fully human, just as black enslaved people were once not considered fully human, he said.

As an example of the humanity of babies in the womb, Bishop Campbell noted the Advent story when Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus, visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. Upon Mary’s arrival, the baby leapt in Elizabeth’s womb.

“That was not a zygote or a fetus that caused John the Baptist to leap in his mother’s womb,” said Bishop Campbell. “That was a human baby who was God Himself.”

Following the Mass, procession participants walked along Old Georgetown Road holding signs that read “civil rights begin with the right to life” and “#iStand4Life,” gathering thumbs up and supportive honks from people who passed by on the road. As they walked, they prayed the rosary, which was led by Bishop Campbell; Father Bill Byrne, the pastor of Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac; and Father Samuel Giese, the pastor of St. Jane de Chantal.

Among these participants were two sisters, Joanne Katis and Chris Slingerman, who both spoke about personal experiences that led them to that procession. For Katis, it was seeing her twin children who were born prematurely at 33 weeks old and her friends’ children who were born at 24 weeks old survive outside the womb at an age where they could have been aborted at Dr. Carhart’s clinic. For Slingerman, it was adopting her now 30-year-old daughter as a baby, and seeing the beauty of that option for women.

“I am participating today because I was horrified (to find out about the new abortion clinic),” said Katis.

Both women noted the importance of promoting adoption as another option for women considering abortion, and Katis called it “a wonderful gift of love to give a child to another woman.”

Annabella Gaspar, a freshman at American University, heard about the procession while attending St. Ann Church in Washington, and decided to attend.

“Human life is so important. It is priceless,” she said. “Everyone deserves the right to life, no matter who you are or what you’ve done or if you are considered human by society.”

When the group arrived in front of the abortion clinic, they gathered together on the sidewalk to pray for God’s mercy upon the babies who are killed, the mothers who make the decision, the people who work in the clinic, and for themselves for anything they had failed to do to prevent it. They concluded by singing “Salve Regina” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

“We have walked to stand for what we believe in,” said Bishop Campbell to conclude the procession. “Let us never be afraid to profess the faith in our hearts.”