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Standing up for life, in all ages and stages: ‘When you do pro-life work, you are doing prophetic work’

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A car drives past a pro-life billboard in the Staten Island borough of New York Sept. 14, 2020. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

The Compass
Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin

This year’s 48th annual March for Life in Washington was canceled due to safety concerns stemming from the pandemic, as well as the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. A live broadcast of a scaled-down march will, however, take place on Friday, Jan. 29, at 10 a.m. (EST) It also will include talks and a performance by Christian singer Matthew West. The event can be viewed at marchforlife.org/2021-virtual-events.

March for Life
Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, speaks Jan. 18, 2019, during the annual March for Life rally in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

While the March for Life, which marks the Jan. 22 anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, won’t feature thousands upon thousands of marchers from around the country, Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Defense and Education Fund, said a small group of pro-life advocates, clergy and lawmakers will walk from the National Mall to the Supreme Court Jan. 29.

Here in the Diocese of Green Bay, Respect Life Masses would usually be held for parish groups on their way to the March for Life. Instead, this year Bishop David L. Ricken joined pro-life leaders and young adults for the Disciples for Life Conference Jan. 23 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. The day concluded with a Respect Life Mass.

The event, which had limited attendance due to the pandemic, attracted about 125 people. Another 60 to 70 guests participated via livestream.

Standing up for life, in all ages and stages, has been a challenge in the past year. We’ve seen many incidents of racism that have led to violence and even death. We’ve seen people on federal death row executed despite objections from church leaders. We’ve even seen members of our own faith, gathered to celebrate the Eucharist and pray for the unborn, subjected to taunts and protests.

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., uses sacred chrism oil to trace a cross on the forehead of Alma Karina Ruiz, 16, during the sacrament of confirmation at St. Joseph Church in Wautoma, Wis., Aug. 26. (CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass)

This most recent occurrence took place Jan. 22 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Columbus, Ohio. According to Catholic News Service, “The protesters, which a video posted by The Columbus Dispatch showed to number about seven, stormed into St. Joseph Cathedral during the liturgy Jan. 22 and marched through the sanctuary. They shouted that abortion was under attack and carried cardboard signs with messages supporting abortion.”

After police arrived and removed the protesters, Columbus Bishop Robert J. Brennan, who was celebrating the Mass, asked that the community pray for the group.

“I ask all to continue to pray for the unborn who have died, for all those who have experienced the pain of abortion and for those who cannot understand our divine and steadfast calling to champion this cause,” the bishop said.

Bishop Brennan’s message of conciliation is the exact message the pro-life movement needs.

Bishop Ricken offered a similar message at the Disciples for Life Conference. “When you do pro-life work, you are doing prophetic work,” he said. “It’s out of love, not condemnation.” The event’s keynote speaker, Sister Magnificat Rose, a member of the Sisters of Life, told attendees that they must “fall in love with God and with everyone else whom God created.”

“We can change the culture one person at a time,” she said. “It is a matter of seeing Jesus in every person.”

Anger and hostility are not the answer for converting hearts and minds to a respect for life. Personal witness, dialogue and a joyful disposition will make the march to uphold the dignity of life one that attracts and is inviting to others.